Genesis 39: Joseph in Egypt
In the last chapter we saw what happened to Judah when he was not in fellowship with the Lord. Recognizing that fellowship with the True and Living God is the secret and source to power over sin and temptation we see that Judah was finally forced to see how far he had wandered from the True and Living God. Refusing to confess his sin , Judah had adopted the worlds way of dealing with sin- by rationalizing his actions, excuses and blaming others, until like David confronted by Nathan, realized he was at fault., he was that man. But one of the themes of Genesis and the Bible is how to make new beginnings after you fail.
In contrast, we see the story of Joseph who evidently walked in the light as the Lord is in the light and experienced fellowship with the Lord. Over and over we will read the phrase and the Lord was with Joseph.. It was this fellowship with the True and Living God that was the secret and source of power over sin and temptation in the life of Joseph.
When Joseph arrived in Egypt at the age of 17 it must have been a source of amazement in spite of his fears and not knowing what would become of his life.
Egypt was mostly a country of small villages and peasants who worked the land and raised the grain and vegetables. The Egyptians were in many ways an advanced civilization using a system of irrigation from the Nile River and its annual flooding to provide an ample supply of water for both the crops and cattle. There were major cities, two of the most prominent were Hieropolis and Memphis. Hieropolis was where the sun god, Ra was worshiped and Memphis was devoted to Apis the sacred bull.
There was a caste system in which shepherds were at the bottom of this system and considered despicable by most Egyptians. A perfect place for the small family of Israel to be left alone and develop into a nation of two million in the land of Goshen. Religious superstition flourished with over 2000 gods and goddesses including the Pharaoh himself. There was great interest in the life after death where they believed the god Osiris would judge their deeds. The pyramids and embalming were all a part of Egypts fascination with life after death.
The Egyptians were great builders. They built many great buildings and the pyramids of which some are still here today. Some of the pyramids contained stones weighing as much as 15 tons. When Josephs great-grandfather, Abraham, went down to Egypt the Great Pyramid was already 1000 years old. The Egyptians had horses and chariots, understood and practiced the art of war; developed medicines, embalming and developed a sophisticated calendar with 365 and 1/4th days.
As the story of Genesis continues our focus will now be on Joseph. A young man who had a dream that must now wonder if his dream was a nightmare. Verse36 of Genesis 37 tells us Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of the Pharoahs officials, the captain of the guard.
Verse 1 of Chapter 39 tells us Potiphar has taken Joseph down to Egypt.
Verse 2 tells us the Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and lived in the house of his master.
In verse 3 we see the results of the fellowship of Joseph with the True and Living God.- his master saw that the Lord was with Joseph and Potiphar recognized it was Josephs God that gave him success in everything he did. Matthew 6:33 comes to mind as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount tells us the secret to successful living. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything you need will be added. There it is again- this principle of fellowship with the True and Living God.
God tells us in the book of Jeremiah of His plans for us. Plans to prosper us and not harm us, plans to give you hope and a future. But this promise is conditional. First you must call on the Lord and come and pray to Him. You must seek Him with all your heart- no half-hearted efforts will work. These are all a description of fellowship with the True and Living God.
So there are actions to be taken on our part. We are to pursue holiness. We must choose to walk in the light as He is in the light. There are two ways- the narrow way, which few enter and the broad way which many enter. The narrow way leads to eternal life and the abundant life, the broad way leads to destruction.
One can figure out some things about Joseph- everywhere he went, he did his very best. Finding himself a slave in foreign land, Joseph decided he would be the best slave Potiphar ever had. Potiphar noticed because you do not get to be the captain of the palace guard without being a shrewd judge of men.
Consider the following that the traits of Joseph and you will see the traits of a good employee and even a good manager.
Joseph was loyal. Very important and very noticeable trait.
Joseph could be trusted.
Joseph worked well with other people.
Joseph was creative; always looking for a better way to do things (Potiphar, prison &pharoah).
He was always willing to do more than asked, willing to take on more responsibility.
Because of his loyalty, he was always looking for ways to advance his masters cause.
He evidently educated himself and was always learning and improving.
Consider how Joseph faced these adverse circumstances, how long they lasted and seemingly how unfair the whole situation was and we marvel at his ability to have a positive attitude. How did he do this? There is only one answer the Lord was with him.
Potiphar recognizing what a resource he has in Joseph and quickly turns over everything he has to Joseph.
Verse 6 gives us a description of this young Jewish man: he was well-built and handsome. I have always maintained, Joseph got his mothers good looks and his daddys work habits and head for business.
Mrs. Potiphar has noticed this young handsome man and once again we see the enemy uses the power and lure of sexual sin to tempt another man. Mrs. Potiphar propositions Joseph and he refuses. He is a young virile man in a strange country, a slave who is in a position that depends on the favor of his master. She continues to pursue and Joseph continues to resist, refuses her advances and runs when all else fails.
Joseph refuses on two grounds.
One is his loyalty to his master, Captain Potiphar.
The other is his loyalty to his God. How can I do such and wicked thing against God.?
Our sin can be against others and affect others- but our sins are first and foremost against God.
Lets consider Josephs precarious situation. Mrs. Potiphar was his mistress. A person of authority to whom Joseph was to obey. If he gave into her requests- his situation would more than likely improve. However to refuse her request would put him in a peril, as we will see.
Joseph seems to have made his mind up beforehand how he would handle this situation and what he would say based on who he was. We must consider what situations we will face and how we will respond to them beforehand, rather than in the heat of the moment. Young people will all face the same temptations at some time in their life.They must either decide beforehand I will not do certain things before the situation arises or else face making a decision when the pressure is greatest. These situations include; drinking alcohol, smoking, sex before marriage, drugs, cheating on a test, stealing and lying. Convenience often replaces conviction in the moment of decision unless the decisions have been made beforehand.
If you walk in the light in the presence of His power- there is no gray area. Everything is black and white. You see we have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. When you walk in the light in the fellowship of the God the Father- He is the Father of Light in whom there is no shadow or turning.
Listen to Pauls instructions: ( Ephesians 5) For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth and find out what pleases the Lord.( Joseph knew what pleased the Lord and what did not please Him, didnt he?) Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything is exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: Wake O Sleeper, rise from the dead and Christ will shine on you.
When Gods Spirit came and restored life in our spirit- He also reestablished the standards of absolute values and made moral judgments possible. This is exactly why Joseph was able to have power over sin and temptation. I was powerless over sin and could not stay sober when I walked in the darkness. But the Light of the World came into my life in September of 1977 and He began to direct my path. His word became a light upon my path and a lamp unto my feet.
The compromised, conformed- by the- world, carnal Christian walks in the gray areas.
The Christian who walks in the light as He is in the light enjoys the fellowship and presence and power of Almighty God. There are no gray areas when you walk in fellowship with God.
God wants to teach each of us- just like He did Joseph how to respond to these situations. The Bible is our textbook, the Holy Spirit our teacher and life our classroom. We will have pop tests, and major exams. We will pass some, fail others and have to repeat the lessons until we learn.
When you and I became Christians we needed to know what to do next.
What are the steps we take?
Where do we find the instruction?
What actions should we be taking?
We need this at every phase of our Christian Life.
This is why God has given us spiritual gifts and made us interdependent on one another and dependent on God.
This is why God has given us teachers and pastors that we might grow up and be mature Christians. Every parent wants their child to grow up
and so does our Heavenly Father.
In Josephs situation, he kept refusing and Mrs. Potiphar kept on pursuing. This went on day after day we are told- is this not the way sin is? The enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Our Lord Jesus told us we must watch and pray lest we fall into temptation.
On this fateful day, the mistress of the house caught Joseph by his garment and said come lie with me. Joseph took off once again- but this time Mrs. Potiphar held onto his garment. All of a sudden a plot, a diabolic plot was hatched. She screamed and the household servants came running to see what was the matterholding his garment the woman lies to the servants that Joseph has attacked her.
I think probably the servants knew what was going on- but they would not dispute their mistress.
When Captain Potiphar comes home she tells her lie again and Joseph falsely accused is placed immediately in the prison where the kings enemies were kept. This was probably the most secure prison-more than likely a dungeon filled with all types of vile men and ruthless jailers.
But once again, God in telling this story of Joseph reassures usHe is with Joseph. Joseph and Almighty God are walking in fellowship. And God lets Joseph know He is with him as Joseph finds favor with the jailer. Soon Joseph is running the prison.
Joseph seemed to have developed the philosophy and attitude of learn to bloom where you are planted.
But what is different about Joseph is his relationship with God affects his relationship with others. We would call it visible Christianity in todays terminology.
When we walk in the light- this is the picture of fellowship with God the Father and the Lord Jesus and with one another.
It is what Jesus described in John 15 as the abiding life.
We know that God is love.
We know that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and to love your neighbor as your self.
Do you see in the book of Genesis that Adam broke the first commandment when he took the forbidden fruit that Eve gave him? He was placing his love and concern for Eve before his love for God. And then one chapter later Cain kills his brother Abel and breaks the second commandment.
You cannot hate your brother and walk in the light- that is enjoy fellowship with the Lord.
Joseph would not lie with Mrs. Potiphar for two reasons:
He loved his God with all his heart, mind soul and strength.
And Joseph loved his master, Captain Potiphar and would not do this thing against His God and his employer/owner.
Jesus came to show us how to love this way
and He told us to love one another as I have loved you. He was our example; He was and is our light who reveals, who measures and who energizes.
Joseph found favor with men because his love for God and others was visible in his actions, deeds, attitude and words.
Remember what John wrote in I John.. These things we write to you that your joy might be full.
Walking in the light is the picture of fellowship with God and others.
This fellowship is the source and secret to resisting sin and temptation.
Sin breaks this fellowship.
You see Joseph exhibited a visible kind of Christianity that truly was from his fellowship with the True and Living God.
It was joy which is often described in this way. J O Y
Jesus first others second and yourself last.
JOY that is full.