Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.
As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).
Intro… Why does it seem to be within our human nature to want things either totally good or bad as opposed to in-between? Why does the glass need to be completely full or none at all…or we think…none at all, when in all reality, it is more than we imagined? Perhaps perfect is never perfect enough? Perhaps our hearts long for heaven? For bliss? How does one ask this of kids or students, I am not quite sure. Perhaps, some of them can either embrace the question abstractly or you can set up a scenario…such as…think of the perfect event, more or time…what you really love. Why do you love it so? Now mess it up a bit. Throw in a wrench. Has anyone experienced this lately? The fly in the ointment? How did or would you react to the distraction? How do you feel about the proposition that God is with us through our difficulties? That God uses others’ sins or imperfections to do a Spiritual work within our lives? If this is true, why would God work in such a manner?
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
• The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Joshua…) Gen. 26ff.
And Now Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brothers seize an opportunity to sell or traffic their younger brother into slavery, then lead their grieving father to believe that Joseph was killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
39:1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there.
Makes you wonder how much Joseph was sold for and what must have been running through his mind as he was perhaps auctioned off on the trading block? Was he frightful? Afraid? How had his Ishmaelite traders treated him? Was his confidence still in God no matter what?
2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.
So apparently, God is blessing Joseph and all he does. Joseph has an advantage…a secret weapon…God.
3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.
Sounds much like when his grandfather Laban had perceived the same thing with his father Jacob many years earlier?
4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.
A foreshadow of Joseph’s blessing both in prison and in the house of Pharaoh?
5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.
6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.
Potiphar’s proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs…So everything is good…everything is great…a great moment for a plot change or development…
7 It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.
9 There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
It’s been awhile since we have had a clear reference to this idea of sin…the people at the time of Noah, before the Flood…Sodom and Gomorrah…and now here…this would be a GREAT SIN…or Spiritual misfire…an offense against God and man…injustice.
10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.
Relentless…what a test!
11 Now it happened one day that he went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the household was there inside.
Reni, Guido – Joseph and Potiphar\’s wife, 1631
12 She caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” And he left his garment in her hand and fled, and went outside.
Doesn’t the NT have something about “fleeing or running from sin or temptation,” I mean flat out run…don’t think, just run? Get away!
13 When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside,
14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought in a Hebrew to us to make sport of us; he came in to me to lie with me, and I screamed.
An opportunity…sin’s great evil…great con… great deception. Sin knows no boundaries.
15 When he heard that I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled and went outside.”
16 So she left his garment beside her until his master came home.
17 Then she spoke to him with these words, “The Hebrew slave, whom you brought to us, came in to me to make sport of me;
18 and as I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment beside me and fled outside.”
19 Now when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying, “This is what your slave did to me,” his anger burned.
Potiphar, in his rage, anger and rush to judgment, fails to do something so so critical…Proverbs 18:17… The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him….Always, always, always, get the other side. Gather the facts first before rushing to judgment…but God has other plans. Did Joseph put up a defense? Was he allowed to with the servants or with his master?
20 So Joseph’s master took him and put him into the jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; and he was there in the jail.
So from, bought and sold as a slave, to being wrongly accused, condemned, without a trial and now thrown in jail or prison. Things seem to be going from bad to worse. Ever been there before? And yet, God is still in charge?
21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.
So Joseph has had favor with his father, Potiphar and now the chief jailer…
22 The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s charge all the prisoners who were in the jail; so that whatever was done there, he was responsible for it.
Makes you wonder what was Joseph doing that so endeared him to his authorities? Or how was God blessing him…that made it so obvious to those in charge over him?
23 The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made to prosper.
A repeat of his life with Potiphar…
Who? Joseph, Potiphar, the Ishmaelites, the LORD, the master’s wife, no one greater, the men of the household, the king’ prisoners, chief jailer, all the prisoners…
• Joseph is sold to a very influential officer within Pharaoh’s court named Potiphar.
• Because God blesses Joseph, Potiphar’s household is also blessed. Eventually Joseph is made overseer of Potiphar’s entire estate.
• Now because Joseph was handsome, Potiphar’s wife attempts to have sexual relations with Joseph which Joseph, knowing the great honor his master has bestowed upon him, rebuffs again and again.
• Finally, one day, when it happens that Joseph is left entirely alone with master’s wife, she makes a play for him, which once again he rebuffs. Only this time, she is able to obtain an article of his clothing as he leaves.
• With the article of clothing in her hands, she very deviously turns the situation into her favor and calls the rest of the servants in, accusing Joseph of having attempted to take advantage of her.
• Convincingly, later she tells her husband, who seemingly armed with evidence and witnesses, has Joseph thrown into prison.
• But for a third time, God’s grace is with Joseph and ultimately he is placed in charge of the all things having to do with the prisoners.
Summary: God’s grace still accompanies and blesses Joseph as he is first wrongly trafficked as a slave and then later wrongly thrown into prison.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• Paradoxically, as is very clear and apparent with Joseph, God blesses and graces his children or servants, even his mistreated children and servants, in the midst of their seemingly unfair, cruel and unjust circumstances.
• People seek competence, and when it is recognized, those recognizing it may entrust much to the competent…which does make one think…just how competent and efficient was Joseph? What made him special? On a human level? How did God supercharge everything he was doing to such a degree that both the Potiphar and the prison warden entirely trust Joseph to oversee their entire responsibilities? I mean was he super-wise? Incredibly efficient? Never complaining? Did he have a way or working with people? Was he an excellent persuader? Was he just super-competent and gifted? A prodigy?
• All that is good may not be rewarded as such, or at least, immediately within this life. Since Potiphar’s wife couldn’t sexually have her way with or possess Joseph, she turned his righteousness and loyalty against him by falsely accusing him. I think we have to understand that we are in a war with evil, and evil, using its greatest weapon, lies and deceit, will launch its, even sometimes, pre-emptive strikes. And we as believers need not be naïve to the world’s very probable response to our righteousness. In fact, Jesus warned his disciples of this…
Matt. 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
• Finally, I think we all need to face the very real prospects that God can, is able and does somehow use, employ, Spiritually manipulate man’s evil for his greater, more divine and beneficial purposes. Don’t let anyone be fooled—despite man’s evil, including Joseph’s brothers trafficking Joseph as a slave, Potiphar’s wife false accusations or Potiphar’s rush to judgment by having his best servant thrown into prison, God is absolutely in charge. We may not like pain, heartache, sorrow, injustice, lies, deceit, unfair play, but God is still in charge and can and will use man’s injustice for both his children and his greater purposes.
Praise… Despite a brutally cold winter and financially-thin winter, God still provides, whether it be a surprise load of firewood, a new computer, a phone call from someone I have not heard from for quite some period of time and was Spiritually concerned for or his grace through a very important special event which seemingly came close to NOT happening, but did.
Lam. 3:21 This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
ot the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently
for the salvation of the Lord.
Struggle… These are difficult financial times in the Ozarks. On top of what has been a rotten almost six year economy, we have experienced an unusually cold and brutal winter. This is led to reduction in tourist, income and people getting out, as well as, abnormally high heating bills and quite a few fires in which people have lost homes and businesses. And now the Southeast and East coasts are being hammered. Tough times on top of tough times. It would be easy for people to panic. But you can’t. If its not meant to be, it won’t be. But in the midst of the driving storm and rain, you duck your head, but keep moving forward. Watching, knowing and feeling for my flock as the storm passes it over, especially when there seemingly is NOT a lot I can do financially to ease their burden is painful to watch. My greatest mission: to keep them inspired, heads up, trusting God and therefore NOT compounding their already difficult situations with discouraged, hopeless hearts. Steady as she goes…Spring will come, business will return; the cold winter storms and high utility bills will abate. Steady as she goes.
Truth… I think what is absolutely paradoxical to me and leaps right up out of the pages of Scripture is this idea that God can be and is right there beside his faithful children in the midst of their travail, and that right along side of pain, challenge and injustices is God’s favor. I mean how can this be? Don’t we want it one way or the other, but NOT both. Favor…because God is blessing us, or pain, so that we can rationalize or justify that God has abandoned us or forgotten us…that for some reason…our own sin, the sins of our fathers, but for some reason, life is not fair and that God is dealing with us unjustly. But to combine both pain and grace or man’s evil with God’s grace seems to be so confusing…so paradoxically perplexing, complex and untidy. And yet it is real.
Application… As my buddy Richard would say, “Embrace the complex.” I can readily confess that within my own life and existence, there is complexity. Challenge and yet grace. At the moment, I have a strange peace. I am not sure exactly why. This past week seems like an apt metaphor for my life in general right now. The events of our big special event went perfect except for one thing—one thing that almost completely put the kibosh to it. And yet we survived. The event occurred. Were things strained? Yes, and yet the event itself went off without a hitch. It accomplished its objective and everyone enjoyed it. In other words, there was a hitch, which required perseverance, patience and acceptance that it would not be perfect or that it might not even happen at all, but then it did and execution-wise, perfect. So what’s the lesson. Can one preserve despite the flaw or the fly in ointment? Not be the victim? Can God bless me in Potiphar’s house? Can Potiphar’s wife lie? Yes. Can God still bless me while wrongfully imprisoned? Of course, and not only that, but my wrongful imprisonment can be God’s plan. Why? Because I have a human, limited, flawed view of life. I see pain and injustice within in a shorter time frame and think it bad. But if I could see the longer-term, bigger picture, as well as, my Spiritual growth, not only in life skills and truth, but God’s intimacy, I dare say, I might see difficulty in a whole other light. For the moment, I embrace the complex and look forward to seeing perhaps not only my own growth, but others, as well as, God’s ultimate deliverance.
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing took; in there looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).