GOD WAS WITH JOSEPH
Key Verse 39:2
"The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master."
In the previous chapter, Jacob repented of his lingering sinful life and returned to Bethel to worship God and began the second part of the pilgrim*s life as a source of blessing. Now, the focus of Genesis shifts to Joseph who is called as the fruit of Genesis. As a young man, he was a man of vision and dream. He was sold as a slave due to his dreams. He was falsely accused because he lived before God. He knew that God was with him--even when circumstances seemed to say that God had forgotten him. He never doubted the love of God. So God used him in a nation-building project by sending him to Egypt ahead of his family. God redeemed his sinful brothers through his redemptive love. God made him to become a source of blessing in the cursed world. Today, Joseph is a role model for all young people to follow in this corrupted world. From the spiritual perspective, Joseph*s life of redemptive love points to Jesus and reflects his image. I pray that we may meet the God who was with Joseph in all circumstances. May God bless us to dream big and become men and women of God*s vision in our generation.
PART I. JOSEPH*S DREAMS (37:1-36)
Verse 2a says, "This is the account of Jacob." But the author introduced Joseph as the main actor in the account of Jacob. Who was Joseph? Joseph was a young man of seventeen like Sam Chang. Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob. He grew up in a home that was full of jealousy and human conflict. Jacob poured out his love to Joseph because he was the first son of Rachel who was a woman of his heart. Plus, his mother died early while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. We understand Jacob*s pure intention to love Joseph.. Somehow, Joseph was not crooked and spoiled; he received his father's love well, and grew up until he was a teenager of 17 without lacking anything. He loved his father and was obedient to him. But favoritism brought about serious problems with his brothers. Favoritism towards Joseph brought the jealousy and hatred of his brothers. Jacob*s household became a battle ground to gain Jacob*s favor. As parents, we need God*s wisdom how to express our love for all children without any favoritism. Joseph did not know his brothers' jealousy and had no idea of the intensity of their hatred for him. Once, when he was tending the flocks with some of his brothers--the concubines' sons, he brought his father a bad report about them. "Dad, Dan and Naphtali fought in the field today." I am sure they called him a tattletale. Joseph did not compromise with sin and reported everything to his father. This didn't improve their relations. Later on, Jacob made a special robe as a Joseph*s birthday gift. It was richly ornamented--it looked like a prince's robe. Every time he innocently wore it, his brothers burned with jealousy. When Joseph said "good morning, Asher," he turned around and would not ever say "good morning" to him. Rather, he said, "You prince, get out of here."
Look at verses 5-7. From his youth Joseph was different. He dreamed dreams. He knew that his dreams were not ordinary dreams. They were God's revelation to him. They were prophetic vision from God. God revealed his plan to use Joseph as a ruler to save lives. They were like his Bible, for there was no written Bible at that time. Joseph believed his dreams and lived with those dreams. He innocently shared his dreams with his brothers. Would you share it with others or keep silent if you have God*s revelation? Of course, we want to share it with others. But his brothers could not comprehend his inner spiritual life because they were worldly men. How did they react to his dream? They hated him all the more. Can*t you imagine how they sneered? I am sure they were cynical. They really did not believe that he would rule over them. He had another dream. Look at verse 9. This time his dream included his father and mother including his eleven brothers. Look at verse 10. Even his father Jacob rebuked him because of his dream. But Jacob kept this matter in mind because he himself met God through dreams. These two dreams would later be like a guiding light for Joseph in his times of personal crisis. Even though he was hated, sold as a slave, accused falsely, and suffered endlessly, the dreams were what kept him alive, made him move forward. Dreams were something he could hold on to in all difficult human situation.
Acts 2:17 says, "In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old man will dream dreams." What a great promise it is! Through the Holy Spirit young men can see visions and old man can dream dreams. Before studying the Bible, we had only human dreams. But after the Bible study we began to see vision from God and dream dreams in doing God*s work. Dreams in God make men truly great. When I visited the missionaries at YUST, all men young and old have God*s dreams to raise up next generation leaders for China and North Korea. People who have dreams in God prosper and people without dreams perish. John Winthrop had a God*s dream that America might become "A city on a hill" based on Matthew 5:14. With this dream he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and persevered to build a new nation under God. Abraham Lincoln loved God and had a dream in God to have a unified nation where all men were equal before God and was willing to pay the cost of the Civil War sacrificing so many young lives. His dream was the seed of today*s United States of America. Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream." This dream came from God through the Holy Spirit. Today, his dream became reality because God broke the walls of racial hatred and brought all men together under God. Dr. Lee had a world mission dream given by God for young college students. God blessed his dream to raise up many Bible teachers for the world campus mission. Once S. Bruce had a worldly dream to become a marathon champion but God gave him a vision to be a pioneer of GMU. S. David once had a dream to be one of the finest soldiers as a green beret. Now he dreams to become an excellent Bible messenger through the word of God. Once I had a human ambition to be rich and powerful but God gave me a dream to be a Bible teacher and missionary through the word of God. Do you dream dreams in God today or do you live day to day? I pray that you may dream dreams with God*s vision.
One day, Joseph's dream-filled, prince-like life came to an abrupt end. He was 17 years old, and his father sent him on an errand to find his brothers who were taking care of their father's flocks near Shechem. Their father was concerned about his sons and flocks because Shechem was still dangerous as we studied in chapter 34. When he came to the place where they were supposed to be, they were gone. He didn't give up and go back home and report, "They were not there", but instead he asked around and found out that they had gone further north to a place called Dothan. So he went there. Joseph fulfilled his duty to the end. He demonstrated obedience, faithfulness, and loyalty in fulfilling his mission. God used his faithfulness and made him successful in whatever he did later throughout his life.
Joseph was so happy to find his brothers and said, "Brothers! Hi!" When they saw him coming, wearing his beautiful coat, they said, "Here come that dreamer!." Their anger and hatred flared high above the sky. They remembered his audacious dreams and decided to kill him. The oldest son, Reuben, was too weak to exercise any leadership among his brothers, but he secretly planned to rescue Joseph. They followed Reuben's suggestion and stripped him of his beautiful robe and threw him in an empty cistern. Reuben intended to come back and pull him out. Due to his own sins, Reuben was not influential among the brothers. He was ineffective. Before he could do so, something happened.
Judah was the 4th son, but he was the real leader. He saw a caravan of Midianite traders on their way to Egypt, and had a brilliant idea. "Let's not kill him. What would we gain by that? Let's sell him to the Midianites." Judah was cool and practical. The brothers agreed. Reuben was not around, so they pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites (Midianites) who took him to Egypt, and sold him to a man named Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard. The brothers were ruthless and cruel. They closed their ears for Joseph*s plea for life while eating food Joseph brought from home. (Gen. 42:21) Here we learn that hatred and jealousy can bring revenge and murder if we do not heal them. When we hate our brothers with jealousy, we become miserable. When we love our brothers with courage, we become happy.
How did they explain to their father, and how did this affect his life? Look at verses 31 and 32. Judah and his brothers dipped Joseph*s beautiful coat in the blood of a goat and took it to their father. After they committed sin, they tried to cover up their sins. They deceived Jacob as if Joseph was killed by the ferocious animal. They were cruel to their father. In the past Jacob deceived Isaac to get his blessings. Now he was deceived by his sons and did not know their deception until he met Joseph. There is a saying goes around like this, "As you sow the seed, so you will reap harvest." When we sow corn, we reap corn. When we sow tares, we reap tares. Look at verses 33-35. Jacob concluded that a wild animal had killed Joseph. Jacob*s heart sank deep in the dark ocean and he refused to be comforted. Jacob suffered for a long time and Joseph*s brothers suffered with guilt for the rest of their lives because they sold their brother as a slave to Egypt. But God was fulfilling his plan of salvation through this event. God sent Joseph to Egypt to preserve lives from starvation and to redeem his sinful brothers from darkness of sin. God*s sovereign will prevailed in the midst of family tragedy.
PART II. JUDAH AND TAMAR (38)
After we read this chapter, we wish that it had been left out of the Bible. It reveals sin and shame of Judah. Chapter 38 did not seem to make sense spiritually. It seems to unfit to be in the Bible. But Bible is very honest about man*s sinfulness and God*s redeeming grace. It gives us some background on the tribe of Judah, out of which the Lord Jesus came from. Before picking up Joseph's story in Egypt, the writer tells us about Judah, the brother who proposed and carried out the terrible plot to sell his younger brother into slavery. Judah couldn't deal with his father's inconsolable grief or with his own guilt. So, he left home.
Chapter 38 begins with the words, "At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah." He met and married a Canaanite woman, and had three sons by her. He raised his sons there among the Canaanites. When his elder son was old enough,he got a wife for him. Her name was Tamar, and she was a faithful woman. Judah's son Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. The second son, Onan, was told to take his brother's widow as his wife, according to the levirate law. He, too, was wicked and the Lord put him to death also. In a sinful and disobedient environment his sons became wicked and sinful. Judah had nothing to teach his children when he himself was disobedient and sinful. His life style shows the unrepentant sinner*s life. His son*s wickedness was the bitter harvest of his own wickedness. Now Judah didn't want to give Tamar to his third son, so he sent her to her father's house with a promise which he did not intend to keep. In the meantime, Judah's wife died.
Tamar realized that Judah was not going to keep his promise, so she took matters into her own hands. She disguised herself as a prostitute and slept with Judah, her father-in-law, and conceived. She was determined not to die a sorrowful, fruitless widow in her father's house. She was called to bear an heir for the covenant family, and she was determined to do so. She was faithful to her husband's family. When Judah found out what she had done he said, "She is more righteous than I..." (26) After she gave birth to twin boys, Judah took his family and returned to his father's house. One woman's faithfulness touched his heart, and he came home to become a faithful son, and again become a leader among his brothers. As much as chapter 38 reveals the sinful and corrupt nature of God*s people, it also demonstrates God*s providence and grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. The genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:1-2 specifically mentions Tamar and Judah. Salvation does not belong to moral people but to those who repent their sins and accept the grace of forgiveness of their sins through the blood of Jesus.
PART III. JOSEPH IN POTIPHAR'S HOUSE (39:1-23)
This chapter is a stark contrast with chapter 38. What a difference between a man with God Joseph and a man without God Judah! In this part we see Joseph*s suffering and glory and temptation and accusation and glory again. Joseph was suddenly thrust into the cruel reality of slave life in a strange land. He lived at the bottom of Egyptian society. To be in a foreign land and sold into slavery is a very dreary prospect for a seventeen-year-old boy. The Bible does not tell us about his early years as a slave boy in Egypt, but we can imagine how many blows he must have received as a slave boy and how many tears he must have shed in the night as he thought about his father. We can imagine how lonely and frightened he must have been. We are not told how he mastered the language of Egypt, but he did, for later he spoke like a native. He was a hard worker, and he overcame himself and his environment. Look at verse 2. The writer of Genesis only tells us, "The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered..." (39:2) In what respect was the Lord with Joseph? The providence of God is manifest in every detail of his life. The hand of God is upon him and the leading of the Lord is evident. Joseph found God*s purpose in every step of his life. He maintained his relationship with God in all situation remembering his dreams from God. Because God was with him, he prospered. Wherever he went, he became a source of blessing to others. Potiphar recognized that Joseph brought many blessings to his family. Because of the way Joseph serves, he is elevated to the position of handling all the material substance. Potiphar trusted him everything because he was a busy man. Potiphar trusted this young man who did not need any supervisor. Joseph worked as if he were working before God when Potiphar was not present. What do you do when there is no supervisor around? I found many workers surfing the Internet when their supervisor went vacation and productivity went down. But Potiphar did not have to worry about Joseph. He knew Joseph would be a good steward taking care of his households.
The life of faith must be undergirded by a deep and humble acceptance of God's sovereignty. This means that one can't become fatalistic. One's life is not determined by an impersonal fate or by accidents or by chance. The loving Sovereign God is the Ruler and Lord of life. He created each of us for a purpose and he is working out that good purpose in each person's life--if we trust him. Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." That*s right. In all things God worked for the good of Joseph. Joseph was not bitter about his brothers and did not complain about his situations but worked hard in Potiphar*s house. Because God was in his heart, hardship and mistreatment did not make him bitter; and success did not make him proud. Instead, these experiences--the good and the bad--made him grow in character in his inner man. God trained Joseph to become a good prime minister later. God trained him to understand all kinds of people in the bottom. Joseph learned about life. Finally, Joseph rose in power in Potiphar*s house. He was promoted to the next position to the captain of the guard. The captain entrusted everything under Joseph*s care. Look at verses 5-6. Ten years of hard work and faithfulness paid off and Joseph was now in charge as the house manager. Sometimes we complain that our situation is bad and then we become sorrowful and fatalistic about our future. But Joseph*s story encourages us to trust God and find God*s purpose in our life. M. James Park graduated with a computer degree. But he worked in a warehouse for a year and it was a humbling experience. In spite of his terrible situation, he had hope in God and he found a purpose in God. He believed that God was with him. Later, God found a good job at Rocky Martin. Though I was fatalistic and sorrowful man, I found God*s purpose in my life and I am happy to live for the glory of God. But temptation came to him as temptation comes to all Christians when they live by faith. Men of God must overcome three temptations to have a victorious spiritual life. What are they? They are money, power, and women. Jesus defeated Satan*s temptation by the word of God. As a handsome young man Joseph had to overcome woman*s temptation.
Joseph's time of testing came at the height of his power and success as a steward and practical master of Potiphar's household. Look at verses 6b-7. "Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master*s wife took notice of Joseph and said, *Come to bed with me*." Maybe Mrs Potiphar was a former Miss Egypt and a pretty middle-aged woman. Potiphar's wife was very much attracted to the young, handsome and very able Joseph. She tried to seduce him, not just once, but day after day. Look at verses 8-10. From Joseph we learn three secret of overcoming temptations. First, we must live in the sight of God. Joseph said in verse 9, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" Joseph feared God more than Potiphar*s wife. Joseph lived in the sight of God not the sight of man. People commit sin when they think nobody sees what they are doing in secret. Moses killed an Egyptian when he thought nobody was around. (Ex. 2:11-12) King David committed adultery when he lived in the sight of men. When we live in the sight of God, we cannot commit sin because God sees everything we do. We can avoid men*s eyes but cannot avoid God*s eyes. Joseph was clear and unwavering because God was with him always. Joseph lived before God. Second, we must have a clear attitude towards sin. Joseph reminded her of her husband's complete trust in him. But more than this, he told her that what she was asking him to do was wicked in the sight of God. It was a sin. Sin is sin no matter what age we live in. Sin is sin no matter what the Supreme court says. Sin is sin no matter what others say. We must have a clear conscience of sin. Third, we must avoid sinful place. So Joseph refused to sleep with her, and he did his best to avoid her. If Joseph had allowed passion, pride or ambition to get even a small foothold in his heart, he would have surely fallen. Joseph could have enjoyed her and took advantage of her for his success. But God was in his heart. In a critical moment, he ran away from her. He would lose everything if he refused to sleep with her. But he refused her request. These days many people are attracted to the porn site in the Internet. They enjoy their sinful pleasures and are flamed with sexual desires. But we must avoid such a sinful place. If we go to drinking party, we will be tempted to drink. The best way to overcome temptations is to avoid the place of temptations because we are weak.
Potiphar's wife was proud and full of desire. She waited for an opportunity and one day, found it. She was at home alone, and Joseph came into the house to attend to some duty. She said, "Come to bed with me." And she took hold of his cloak. Joseph fled, leaving his cloak behind. She was furious. Look at verses 13-18. When she failed to tempt Joseph and to satisfy her physical desires, she found ways to destroy Joseph. She turned the story around and lied to her husband, and she accused Joseph of trying to violate her. Potiphar did not investigate this incident but sided with his wife automatically.
So, Joseph was thrown in jail. Joseph had to suffer unjustly after doing what is right in the sight of God. What kind of prison was Joseph confined to? Look at verses 21-23. The place was the king*s prison. The Lord was with Joseph. He became a practical steward in the prison. Though man treated him unjustly, God was doing his work to send Joseph to the king Pharaoh. Joseph rose in power in prison. Prison did not deter his faith in God. Suffering did not crush his faith in God. God was preparing him for a great task, and this was one necessary step toward that task. He received favor from people and he was successful in whatever he did. Prison became his working place to feed his sheep. Let*s follow Joseph*s example of faith and live in the sight of God. Let*s read the key verse 2.