Summary: Joseph, Pt. 2
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME (GENESIS 39)
A biographer of Michelangelo told about the famous artist’s nagging problem with his work on a statue and his unconventional way of arriving at a solution to the problem. As he was working on a sculptor, the brilliant artist found that his own shadow on the statue was in the way of his usually reliable better judgment. The candles in the room caught the reflection of his body, cast a shade on the statue and interfered with the objectivity of the sculptor, the lighting of the room and the integrity of the statue. So he thought long and hard of a way to keep his shadow off the statue.
After repositioning himself numerous times, switching to different candles, and adjusting his approach, surroundings, and angle in vain, a thought hit him like a ton of bricks, an idea flashed into his head, and a smile came to his lips. Why not try putting the candlelight over the head? But how was he to balance a candle on his head? Ding! He remembered the miners who balanced their lamps on their head at work in the caves. So he devised a candleholder, placed a candle on it, tied it to his head, and completed his work to his satisfaction (Telling the Old, Old Story 227, David Larsen, Wheaton, Crossway Books, 1995).
Joseph’s father and brothers were not the only stumbling blocks to the youngster’s maturity, greatness and destiny. When he was young, Joseph’s ego, personality and childishness cast the biggest shadow on his future. He talked much of his dreams but nothing of God. He had sweet dreams, but he had yet to understand God’s purpose, experience His power or practice His presence. The dreamer turned slave experienced God in the most unlikely place - Egypt, and His presence meant success in all the work of his hand (Gen 39:2, 3, 23) and favor in the eyes of others (Gen 39:4, 21).
What kind of triumph awaits those who trust in God’s power, presence and providence? How is God actively helping those who are going through suffering, struggles and setbacks?
God Helps Us to Triumph over Misery
39:1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. (Gen 39:1-5)
Once, Lucy, the wannabe psychiatrist from the Peanuts gang, set up a table to offer consultation services to neighborhood kids. Lo and behold, her first patient was Charlie Brown, the eternal pessimist, who came with a heavy heart over a fire that destroyed the house of Snoopy his dog.
Charlie Brown took a seat, barely said anything but stared at the ground. Seeing his silence, Lucy raised her right hand, gestured passionately and offered advice to the dejected Charlie Brown: “There was a real lesson to be learned from seeing Snoopy’s house burned down. Adversity builds character. Without adversity, a person could never mature and face up to all of the things in life!”
Immediately Charlie Brown perked up with hope at the wisdom of the statement. He lifted his gaze from the ground, turned to Lucy and asked, “What things?” Lucy turned away from Charlie Brown, thumbed her nose in the air and smugly said, “More adversity!”
Someone once said, “A Christian is one who is completely fearless, continually cheerful, and constantly in trouble.”
Joseph did not just survive exile, slavery and anonymity - he thrived under it. The road to Egypt was heartrending, torturous and lonely, and he was unprepared, outnumbered and immobilized. The Ishmaelite merchants, buyers and travelers put his feet in shackles, jammed his neck with irons (Ps 105:18) and tied his hands with cords as they dragged him on a long, wretched and dangerous journey across the Sinai wilderness to Egypt. In Egypt Joseph heard an unknown language (Ps 81:5), saw strange customs and faced an alien civilization.
But yet, in Genesis 39:2, 3, 23, the recurring word “prosper,” translated as “success” in the NIV, accompanied Joseph. Tragedy daunted him, but it did not doom him because the Lord was with him. Joseph had every reason to be miserable, depressed and resentful; after all, his own brothers had tricked, betrayed and sold him. Instead of wanting to die, he wanted to live, to persevere and to hope. He did not merely survive; he thrived under oppression, stress and anguish. Someone once said, “Pain and suffering are inevitable, but misery is optional.”