Joseph: A Successful Man

A Successful Man Sermon Notes

A Successful Man

Genesis 39:1-20

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis


Key Goals: (Know) Glimpse the sovereignty of God. (Feel) Feel content that God is in control. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves in areas of integrity. 

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last 25 chapters of the book of Genesis, with an open challenge to live differently. Turn to Genesis 39. As you are turning there, let me place us in time. The basic outline of the book of Genesis is easy to remember, we only have to keep in mind four major events and four key people. Genesis 1-11 depicts four great events: Creation, Fall, Flood, Tower of Babel. Genesis 12-50 describes four men of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.[1] In all of this, the story of Joseph is by far the largest section in the entire book. In fact, Joseph’s story dwarfs any other event or person in the entire book of Genesis. There are clearly things in this man’s life that God wants us to know. Last week, we witnessed a painful scene as Joseph’s half-brothers betrayed and sold him as a slave to Ishmaelite traders. We begin this morning with those traders selling Joseph to an Egyptian named Potiphar.


Genesis 39:1–23

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain (or prince) of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. Potiphar, as the captain of the guard, would have been a part of the Egyptian social elite. He would have been educated, wealthy, and could have had as many as 1,000 slaves handling his business. Joseph, on the other hand, is still17 years old. He is uneducated and is over 300 miles away from his family and anything he knows. And, by the way, there is almost zero chance he spoke Egyptian.


2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. Who was with Joseph? Your Bible says, “the LORD.” Whenever you see the word LORD, it is always translating the word YHWH, the personal name for the God of the Bible. Genesis is very clear as to who was with Joseph. YHWH was with him. The same YHWH who spoke to Abraham (Gen 12), blessed Isaac, and gave 12 sons to Jacob. Verse 3 tell us that Potiphar “saw” that YHWH was with Joseph. This is fascinating, because how would Potiphar know about YHWH? Potiphar’s name means “gift of Ra.” You would think that if Joseph was good worker, Potiphar would have thought that “Ra” was with Joseph or that Joseph was a gift from Ra, but he doesn’t. Potiphar saw Joseph and his success and attributed it to YHWH being with him. This means two things:


1. Joseph proclaimed YHWH with his life. Even though Joseph was a slave, he took his work seriously and did it to the best of his ability. Was he property to be bought and sold? Yes. But he worked and served to bless even those that would abuse him. He lived above his circumstances and served YHWH, and people knew it. He is living out what the apostle Paul taught in the New Testament: Ephesians 6:5–7 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…


2. Joseph proclaimed YHWH with his lips. There was only one way for Potiphar to know about YHWH—Joseph must have told him the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For a man like Potiphar to make a causative statement like he did at the end of verse 3, the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands,  Potiphar must have been convinced that Joseph’s God was alive and active in his life.


 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.  6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.


The trust communicated here is astounding. For an Egyptian to entrust this much to a Hebrew slave’s charge, Joseph must have had astonishing integrity, people skills, business sense, and mastery of the Egyptian language. Notice in verse 5 that the LORD’s blessing was on Potiphar’s house because of Joseph’s sake. This is worth noting. We often talk about the “faithfulness” of the Lord. This blessing was God being faithful to a promise made to Abraham in Gen 12:3, where God says, “I will bless those who bless you.” As Joseph pursued the Lord, the Lord blessed him and those around him. When we pursue the Lord and begin letting the gospel transform us, it would be a mistake to think that the blessings that follow will only be for us. When we pursue Christ, our bosses will be blessed, our spouses, our children, our neighbors. God’s blessings are known for their ability to burst out and overflow![2]


Look at the end of verse 6. …Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Wow! More blessings, right? Who doesn’t want to be handsome? The Hebrew here is very visual (photographic). It literally says Joseph was beautiful in “his shape and appearance.” These words together describe a man who was the total package. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph (literally “lifted her eyes”) and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused (Hebrew—he defied authority—he was unwilling to obey) and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”


Joseph declined her advances for three reasons: (1) This sin would violate his personal integrity. (2) This sin would directly hurt Potiphar. (3) This sin was downright against God.


(1) Joseph was a man “above reproach.” Joseph lived a life of personal integrity. He knew that integrity matters; it was the foundation of Potiphar’s trust in Joseph. Responsibility and opportunities flow to people of integrity. Luke 16:10 says Whoever can be trusted with little can be trusted with much.

 (2) Joseph was protective of his relationship with and witness to Potiphar. Joseph had spent incredible effort building his witness to and relationship with his master; he was not going to devastate it for a few moments of pleasure.

(3) Joseph was committed to YHWH. The end of verse 9 really speaks to Joseph’s commitment to YHWH. He was unwilling to break fellowship with God. Joseph knew that a relationship with a holy God is deeply affected by sin. YHWH was too close and too important to Joseph for him to sin like this.


We would do well to remember that every time we sin, we violate our personal integrity, we gamble with devastating key relationships, and we break fellowship with God. Every sin we commit affects us, the people around us, and God. Do not be fooled, Galatians 6:7 warns us, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.


10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day (Hebrew—“yom, yom”—every day over and over), he would not listen (Hebrew—obey) to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment (The Hebrew word “caught” in this passage has the idea of rape. See Deut. 22:28), saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. This was a violent act. She was done asking; she “seized him,” “caught him” and ripped his garment off. This is serious.


We are not told whether or not Joseph was tempted to give in. She was the one who looked at him, she grabbed him. There is not one bit of evidence that Joseph was tempted and the Bible is honest enough that if he was, it would be mentioned (think David & Amnon). He was looking at instant death if he slept with Potiphar’s wife. Remember, to Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was property to be used and cast off when she was done. From what we have in this story, Joseph was probably not running from a tempting situation, he was running for his life!


13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh (The Hebrew here is a sexual euphemism) at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” 19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.


Potiphar throws Joseph in prison. A huge red flag should go up in your mind here. Because Joseph could have been—and if he did it, should have been—put to death. But he is not. Most Bible scholars think that, at some level, Potiphar understood what was going on. So he throws him in jail instead of killing him. At this point, if I were Joseph, I would be tempted to think that every time my life starts going well, something happens and it falls apart. God is out to get me. Joseph is probably 27 years old, and in his short life has been betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown into prison—every time by people who were close to him. Joseph had to be asking himself, Why me? Over the next few weeks, the “why” question will come better into focus, but for this morning let me wrap up with several random thoughts and life lessons from Joseph so far.


Evil people do evil things, but God is in control: Ever since sin entered this world, evil people have been doing evil things. If this story teaches the believer anything, it is that God is so good and his sovereignty so complete that even the evil in this world is worked into God’s good plans. Selling Joseph as a slave was evil, but think about this: Joseph spent the next ten years of his life learning the integrity, people skills, business sense and mastery of the Egyptian language that he would later use to rule Egypt. God’s ways are far more powerful than the evil schemes of 10 brothers. As we get further and further into Joseph’s life, we will see this more clearly.


Run from sin regardless of the consequences: Here is a theological truth we must get our head around: sometimes in this world, when we obey God and do right, we experience extreme hardship. The Scripture teaches us it happened to Jesus and it will happen to us. Joseph ran from sin, he did the absolute right thing, and he paid for it by being sent to jail. It was “not fair,” but because his personal integrity, witness to Potiphar and his relationship with God were intact, God will bless him in very unique ways despite his circumstances.


When we live for the Lord, people around us are blessed: This will be a recurring theme in Joseph’s life. The blessings of God overflowed from Joseph’s life and they spilled all over Potiphar. When you and I put God first, when we follow him regardless of the consequences, people around us will be blessed. It is in the very nature of God’s blessings to burst out, overflow, and spill onto others!


Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are offering you the opportunity to be challenged. There are cards with one of six different challenges on them; these are specific applications from this morning’s message. By choosing a card, you will be like Joseph: you won’t know what you will get—it may something difficult, it may be something easy.  Like Joseph, you will not know until you get there, but each of the challenges will help you live differently.



Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 39 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story of Genesis 39 from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we saw him go from being the favored servant to a prisoner. How does a deep faith in God help one through the extreme ups and downs in life?

3.          This is the second huge event in Joseph’s life that “was not fair.” How would you counsel Joseph through this if he were a friend of yours?

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          How does 2 Timothy 2:22 tie into this Bible story?

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.


© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.


[1] This very basic outline largely comes from the “Walk Thru The Bible” Old Testament material.

[2] C.f. Exodus 23:25; Ps 1:1; 31:19;Prov 3:10, 16:20; Deut. 28:1