November 2016

Joseph: Freedom

Freedom Sermon Notes

Freedom

Genesis 41

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Sunday, November 27th, 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.

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last chapters of the book of Genesis, with the theme of living differently. We have had the opportunity to choose to challenge ourselves, and this morning we have new and unique opportunities. 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. Over the last several weeks, we have painfully walked with Joseph through his roller coaster life: his father’s favorite son, betrayed by10 half-brothers, sold into slavery. But because the LORD was with him, he became the ruler of the entire house—until he was unfairly accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. That is where we left Joseph, in prison faithfully serving and again making himself useful, but forgotten by the cupbearer. Two years go by and Pharaoh has a troubling dream, in which he was standing by the Nile. Genesis 41:2[1].

2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.

 

Usually when something like this happened, Pharaoh’s wise men would suggest what a dream meant. In ancient Egypt, dreams were important. Egyptian archeologists have found a book from Joseph’s time period called “The Dream Book.”[2] In it, 108 dreams are listed with their meanings; it also interpreted 72 actions that might happen in a dream and whether they were good or bad. Nothing in Pharaoh’s dream showed up in any of the books, and Pharaoh’s wise men were stumped. That is when the cupbearer remembered how Joseph had interpreted the dream he had while in prison with the baker. So he spoke to Pharaoh.

12 “A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”

 

So Joseph is shaved, cleaned up, and brought before Pharaoh. Standing in front of the most powerful man in the world at the time, Joseph is asked if he can interpret dreams, to which he answers, “No!” Verse 16: “It is not in me;” Joseph says, “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

 

Application: This answer is one of the reasons Joseph’s life is worth studying. The humility here is convicting. Joseph knew God had revealed dreams to him, and he could have very easily answered this question, “Yes! And if you let me out of prison, I’ll interpret yours too.” A self-filled Joseph would have used this as an opportunity to shine and make a deal—but instead he gives God the glory and exalts God in Pharaoh’s eyes, even to the point of downplaying his role. It is like Joseph knew what Jesus would say 1500 years later in Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “ Then Joseph said to Pharaoh,

25 “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.

 

God showed Pharaoh what he was going to do: God “fixed” the thing, God will shortly bring it about. Over and over Joseph communicates God’s plan and power to accomplish it. I’m not sure we appreciate the fearlessness here. Joseph was brave almost to the point of foolishness. As supreme ruler of the people, the pharaoh was considered a god on earth; he was the intercessor between the gods of heaven and people on earth, and when he died, he was thought to become Osirus, the god of the dead.[3] Joseph is bravely declaring to a man who thinks he is a god that only YHWH is sovereign over the earth. Around this time, a man named Job was writing this (Job 23:13 NIV): [God] stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. Joseph isn’t done with just an interpretation, because he has a plan.

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”

 

This plan is well beyond God’s interpretation of the dream; this is Joseph using his gifts to solve the obvious problems presented in the dream.

37This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.”

 

This is the highpoint in Joseph’s life. Looking back, we can clearly see how a chain of painful but divinely planned events have brought him to this point. Had Joseph not said “no” to Potiphar’s wife and been thrown into prison with the cupbearer, he would never have met Pharaoh. Had Joseph not been betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, he would never have been in Potiphar’s house. We are beginning to see more clearly how Joseph’s life paints a picture of Romans 8:28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Joseph has both of the disclaimers on this verse: 1. He loves God 2. He is being called to use his gifts for an incredible purpose.

 

We need to grab two key truths from this passage or we could read this story and walk away with some really bad theology—theology, like that video at the beginning, that is selfish.

 1. Joseph’s rise was more about usefulness than it was blessing. It is important that we don’t use this story to make an inappropriate theological leap. Some have read this story and taken this away: Bad things happen, but because God is good, God turns bad things into blessings. That’s karma not Christianity, and it is not the message of this story. Sometimes bad things happen and then something worse happens.

Last year, Al-Qaeda forces moved into a village in Southern Syria. The people were “Druze,” a religious community that is a strange mixture of Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism. They are unbelievers who need the gospel. On June 15, Muslim soldiers began forcing everyone in the village to convert or die. While hundreds forcibly converted to Islam, 20 villagers were shot and killed point blank for refusing. Where is the good news in this bad news story? Bad things happened and then at least 20 people were sent into a Christ-less eternity.

Our only hope in situations like that is Gen 18:25 Will not the judge of all the Earth do right? The answer is “Yes.” He will do right, by those and all the Earth. Joseph’s rise was not about God bringing some “good karma” into Joseph’s life because he experienced “bad karma.” YHWH is a neither a Buddhist nor a Hindu. Joseph to this point has shown himself faithful to God in good times and bad times, with much and with little. Because of this, God entrusted Joseph with the responsibility of rescuing his entire family from famine. If you want to be like Joseph, pray for faithfulness. Jesus said it this way in Luke 16:10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. The Bible does not teach “good karma,” what the Bible teaches is that when we are faithful (like Joseph) with smaller responsibilities, it places us in the position for God to entrust us with much more. Joseph rose because he was faithful and useful for the kingdom.

 

2. Joseph’s rise was more about others than it was about Joseph. Joseph’s life isn’t just about him. Sometimes we can get self focused and fall into a black hole of thinking our lives are just about us. Joseph’s rise was a result of God keeping his promises to Abraham and his plan to preserve the lineage of Christ and two entire nations. Joseph was not the sole object of God’s attention and activity. Joseph’s position of power and prosperity enabled him to become the “savior” of his brethren. God does care for us as individuals, but he always has broader purposes for the gifts and blessings he brings into our lives. God blessed Abraham and he very specifically told him why he was chosen for blessings. Gen 2:2-3 “I will bless you (God said)…so that you will be a blessing.”

What about us?  Each of us has been given spiritual gifts—each of us a special way that the Holy Spirit works through us. But those gifts are not meant to be spent on ourselves; they are meant for the body of Christ! We have been blessed for the same reason Abraham was: to be a blessing. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:7 NIV) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:10 NIV). Watch how Joseph uses his position, blessings, and skills to bless the whole world.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured. 50 Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh (He who makes someone forget). “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim (God has made me fruitful), “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

 

These two boys’ names summed up what God was doing through the faithfulness of Joseph’s life: causing him to forget the pain that it took to get him here and bringing fruitfulness to his present service. His fruitfulness blessed the whole world.

56 So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Blessed to be a blessing.

 

Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are again 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 41 and have everyone else try to tell the story from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we watched him rise. Pastor Paul made a big deal about this not being “good karma.” If it wasn’t karma, what was it?

3.          This is the third time Joseph has risen to a place of prominence. Discuss Luke 16:10 and the role that this may have played in Joseph’s life.

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

5.          Discuss some ways that God has blessed you and how you can use those blessings to bless others.

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] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] See Figure #1 The Dream Book (www.Ancient-Origions.net)

[3] Ancient History Encyclopedia “Pharaoh” by Joshua J. Mark published on 02 September 2009.

Joseph: A Long Wait

A Long Wait Sermon Notes

A Long Wait

Genesis 39:21-40:22

Sunday, November 13th, 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.

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last chapters of the book of Genesis, with the theme of living differently. Each week you have had the opportunity to choose to challenge yourself. This morning you will have new and unique opportunities. 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. Over the last two weeks, we painfully watched Joseph’s roller coaster life: his father’s favorite son, betrayed by 10 half-brothers, sold into slavery to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Because the LORD was with him, he became the ruler of the entire house until he was unfairly accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. That is where we find Joseph—in prison. There are many of us this morning living in painful circumstances over which we have no control, and these circumstances are not going to end soon. In the midst of these circumstances, it is easy to become bitter and angry at God. What I love most about the Bible is that it is straightforward about our pain. Suffering is going to happen and II Timothy 3:12 warns that it is going to happen to people of faith. But instead of running from it, the Bible teaches us ways to use our suffering. James 1:2-4 tells us that suffering grows our faith and produces spiritual endurance. So instead of being surprised by difficulty and suffering (I Peter 4:12), we should prepare ourselves and look for God’s good hand in it. Genesis 40 may be the greatest chapter in the Bible on how to suffer well. Let’s see if we can spot some life lessons.

We will start where we left off last week, in Genesis 39:20. 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. The Hebrew word translated prison means “round house.” Don’t imagine this as a big modern prison with lots of cells; it was most likely a round underground room large enough for a few men, with its entrance in the ceiling. Watch how God shows up in verse 21. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. YHWH was with Joseph and he showed him “steadfast love.” The Hebrew word is “hesed,” that is God’s persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy. It is at the core of his relationship with man in that he seeks after us with love and forgiveness. It is one of the key descriptors of God in the Old Testament.

 

Turn with me quickly to Exodus 34:6-7. The context is Mount Sinai. The Children of Israel are at the base of the mountain, and this is just after the Golden Calf incident where Moses in anger threw down the two tablets of the Lord’s commands. Moses has gone back up the mountain to meet with God a second time. In the midst of all the sin and rejection of God, the Lord comes down and meets with Moses. As he passes before him, God describes himself. The Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love (hesed) for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. These two verses are one of the clearest descriptions of God that we have in the entire Bible; the best part is that it is God describing himself. These verses answer the question, “God, how would you describe you?” God says, “The best way to describe me is: merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in hesed[1]—persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy. The only descriptor that appears twice in these verses is hesed. God wants us to be clear that he is a persistently loving God. This aspect of God is everywhere in the Old Testament. Because of God’s steadfast love:

He is committed and faithful to us. Ho 2:19

He is drawn close to us. Jer. 31:3

He comforts us when we struggle. Ps 119:76

We can look to God for mercy. Ps 51:1

Our prayers are heard. Ps 119:149

We are preserved in times of trouble. Ps 40:11

We receive mercy. Isa 54:8

Believers can expect to know this love during affliction. Ps 42:7, 8

 

The most powerful aspect of Genesis 39:21 is that this is the first time God reveals himself as a God who is lovingly at work in our suffering—preserving us, comforting us, and faithfully hearing our prayers. God loved Joseph …and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. Just like in Potiphar’s house, Joseph’s life was different. He was trusted and rose in authority.

 

Genesis 40:1–4

1 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense (literally - sinned) against their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard (Potiphar), in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

 

There is something going on here that is tough to spot in English. We have three people in this story: the captain of the guard, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. In the Hebrew, each of these men is described with the same word (captain/chief = “sar”[2]). In other words, these men were equals in Pharaoh’s court. All of them would have been important advisors with Pharaoh’s ear.

 

Genesis 40:5–8

5 And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8 They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

 

Notice Joseph’s question. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” This is consistent with Joseph’s witness and another opportunity to teach an Egyptian about YHWH. Think about the incredible closeness and confidence Joseph must have had in his relationship with YHWH to say to these powerful men, “Tell me your dreams and God will interpret them.”

 

Genesis 40:9–22  

9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

 

Without hesitation, Joseph gives an interpretation.

12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness (the Hebrew is “hesed” he is asking for faithful kindness) to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

 

Joseph specifically asks the cupbearer for one thing—hesed—the kindness of sharing his story with Pharaoh. Joseph was not asking for a favor, he was calling the cupbearer to be lovingly-faithful to a person who helped him in a time of need. This is the same call that Jesus gives us: love others because we have been loved; forgive others because we have been forgiven!

 

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

 

This is not Joseph’s interpretation, it is God’s—and mercifully, Joseph gives it to him straight.

 

 20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday (probably a celebration of Ra’s rebirth –which was celebrated by giving gifts and releasing prisoners)[3], he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

 

Verse 23 is one of the most painful verses in our journey so far. Yes, brothers throwing one of their own in a pit is painful. Being falsely accused and convicted is painful. But being forgotten in your time of despair? That is uniquely painful. The first four words of Genesis 41 drive home the pain, because the story will not pick up again until after two whole years.

 

Life Lesson #1: God’s hesed (persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy) is how and why we persevere through suffering. We see in this passage and others that it is in times of affliction that God hears our prayers, fulfills his promises, and draws close to us.[4] As we get toward the end of Joseph’s life, we will see clearly how God was committed and faithful to Joseph. His lowest points will be the vehicles God uses to move Joseph to new opportunities and seasons of ministry.

 

Life Lesson #2: Those who suffer well understand that God is with them. When we studied chapter 39 last week, no one was surprised to hear that God was “with Joseph” on his successful rise in Potiphar’s house (39:2-3). But we are told just as emphatically that God was with Joseph while he was in the pit (39:21-23). In chapter 40, no one could have had the confidence Joseph did that God was able to interpret dreams through him apart from an intimate walk with God in that dungeon. God is not far off. The God of the Bible is not aloof. He is close and he hears our prayers. Isaiah 41:17 says When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

 

Life Lesson #3: “Remembering” someone who is suffering is a key role of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, I think we can all relate to the cupbearer forgetting Joseph. At some point all of us have seen suffering, thought we should do something, and then forgotten. Our God never forgets us. Isaiah 49:15 asks a powerful question: Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? (The obvious answer is no.) Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Because our God is a God who remembers, we must remember too. The orphan, the widow, those in prison—we have been remembered, so we must remember!

 

Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are again 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 40 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story of Genesis 40 from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we saw him hit bottom by being forgotten. How does a deep faith in God help one through the extreme ups and downs in life?

3.          This is the third time Joseph has been hurt by people he was living with and serving. Why do you think Joseph did not grow bitter or angry?

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

5.          Look up the following verses about God “remembering” people. Since you know God cannot forget, what is the Bible telling us that God was doing? (Genesis 8:1; 9:15, 16; 19:29; 30:22; 42:9)

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] R. Laird Harris, “698 חסד,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 305.

[2] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[3] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 751–752.

[4] See these passages for details…Ho 2:19; Jer. 31:3; Ps 40:11; Ps 119:76; Ps 51:1; Isa 54:8; Ps 119:149; Ps 42:7,

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