Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth around his waist, and mourned for his son many days. (Genesis 37:34)
Last time we ended with Joseph in chains headed for Egypt where he was sold as a slave to Potiphar. His brothers lied to Israel telling him that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. We know that in the end of this story that Joseph will be the number 2 man in Egypt saving a million people from starvation. We are asking the question, how does God do it? How does he work all things together for good in Joseph’s life and what part does Joseph play in this?
The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master. (Genesis 39:2)
In this one sentence there is a world of things unsaid that matter so much. Can you imagine the first night in Egypt? Do you think Joseph shed a few tears that night? I imagine that Joseph probably wondered what would happen to him. The anxiety could have been suffocating. If you asked Joseph “Is God with you Joseph?” My guess is that he would have said that God had abandoned him. This 17 year old tattle tale spoiled rich brat was about to learn what is means to be the lowest of the low.
Joseph had a choice to make. Most of his choices were made for him as a slave. When to get up, what to eat, where to go and what to do were all decided for him. The one choice that was still in his hands was his attitude. We don’t know what his attitude was exactly but I imagine that Joseph learned how to work, how to be humble and how to trust God for the outcome.
Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart. Serve with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that whatever good each one does, slave or free, he will receive this back from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:5-8)
When we are under pressure (remember thilipsis?) our attitude can become sour. We can turn into the kind of person who does just enough to get by. Just enough to not be beaten (or fired). Joseph didn’t have the book of Ephesians to turn to but I believe his attitude was exactly what Paul described. This kind of attitude is an act of faith. Joseph was trusting that he would receive back from the Lord. This kind of attitude is hard to beat and it was noticed.
When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor in his master’s sight and became his personal attendant. Potiphar also put him in charge of his household and placed all that he owned under his authority. (Genesis 39:3-4)
If we could have asked Joseph how things were going he might have said something like “Finally things are going my way. I had some rough times there but God is with me and it’s going great now.” Just when he thought his life was on track…
After some time his master’s wife looked longingly at Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.” But he refused. “Look,” he said to his master’s wife, “with me here my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-9)
If you want to learn what a man is made of just tempt him with sexual lust. There is no question that this is the one area that most men struggle in and fail most often. Joseph had thought this through probably more than once. And what is his attitude? The fear of the Lord.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7)
The man who does not fear the Lord simply thinks of the chances of getting caught. Could Joseph have slept with Potiphar’s wife and gotten away with it? Probably; at least for a while. You can see that Joseph isn’t thinking like this because he calls the act of adultery a “great evil and sin against God.”
Why, my son, would you be infatuated with a forbidden woman or embrace the breast of a stranger? For a man’s ways are before the LORD’s eyes, and He considers all his paths. A wicked man’s iniquities entrap him; he is entangled in the ropes of his own sin. He will die because there is no discipline, and be lost because of his great stupidity. (Proverbs 5:20-23)
Again, Joseph didn’t have the book of Proverbs, but he understood that the Lord is watching everything he does and considering his path. Joseph rightly saw a fling with Potiphar’s wife as a trap and a really stupid thing to do. Day after day he resists her and does the right thing only to be rewarded with a false accusation. Can God use a false accusation for good? You bet he can.
When his master heard the story his wife told him–“These are the things your slave did to me”–he was furious and had him thrown into prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison. (Genesis 39:19-20)
Once again Joseph is faced with an awful night that first night in prison. Did he pray? Did he cry out to God? Just when things were looking up and he did the right thing and this is how he is rewarded? Joseph had so little control over his life. Really there was just one thing that he could choose, his attitude. Joseph was not some super saint. He had some help. The same kind of help that is available to you and to me.
But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. (Genesis 39:21)
That first night, if you asked Joseph “Is the Lord with you?” He might have said no. But somewhere along the way Joseph made the decision to honor God by serving well in the place he found himself. This kind of faithfulness is hard to find and it goes a long way even with people who don’t know or care about God.
Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)
God allowed Joseph to face hardship to teach him about endurance, to make him mature and complete. This is so contrary to what some people are teaching saying that God wants to give us victory in all things, just one success after another with health and wealth ours to command by our faith filled words.
If Joseph had the power to command his own destiny he would never have chosen this path. This is why God doesn’t leave it up to us. We need the strength that comes from trials. God knows this and give us hardship because it is the most effective way to train us. My old boss said
“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” Bill Gates
If Joseph is going to save a million people as the number 2 man in Egypt God is going to have to work a miracle to get him into the right place. He is getting much closer now because he is in prison with the king’s prisoners. As we once again leave Joseph he is serving again as the number 2 man. He was Potiphar’s number 2 man and now he is the Warden’s number 2 man. Joseph is in the school of affliction and it’s going to take some time but don’t ever doubt God is working. Through false accusations and suffering God is building Joseph into the man who will save a million people.