Summary: Second in a series on the life of Joseph; emphasis here is that God uses circumstances to build and test our character. The character trait of Faithfulness is observable in Joseph’s experience here.
Trinity Baptist Church June 18, 2006
Character on Display:
This is a test...
This US media reported to us this week that our government doled out as much as 1.4 billion dollars in bogus assistance to “victims” of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA was hoodwinked into paying for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and even a divorce lawyer, investigators have discovered.
Among the folks able to wrongly get taxpayer help, the evidence pointed to prison inmates, to one “victim” who used a New Orleans cemetery as a home address, and to a person who spent 70 days at a Hawaiian hotel on the money provided.
Former Congressman and fellow believer, J.C. Watts said, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.”
That’s where our culture has come. What’s missing in the equation is bedrock integrity and character -- the kind that go much deeper than what we are when people are watching.
We’re thinking about character this summer. We’re doing that by examining the OT character, Joseph. Last time we looked at Joseph’s home life; from that, we determined that God’s very likely began Joseph’s character-building curriculum by separating him from a father who doted on him -- a father who’d been a schemer and deceiver for most of his life.
Chapter 37 told us how Jacob favored his young son over the rest -- and how his brothers despised Joseph as a result. So much did they hate him, they plotted his murder. But we ended chapter 37 last time with them relenting -- and instead deciding to make money off their brother by selling him to traders headed to Egypt. We left Joseph in that caravan headed down to Egypt. But we also saw how again and again, Genesis tells us, God was in this. His fingerprints are all over this unfolding drama.
Genesis 39 opens with Joseph’s [new] circumstance: slavery.
We read in verse 1 of 39, Joseph was purchased by Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard. One historian names Potiphar as the “chief of the executioners“! Whatever his exact job description, he was a powerful man, someone who worked directly under the Pharaoh, and therefore he held the power of life and death over just about anyone. Certainly, over a lowly slave.
Joseph comes into his house. Genesis doesn’t tell us how long he was there. We know it was 13 years from the time Joseph lands in prison until he comes to Pharaohs’ court. But he may have served Potiphar for a few months or a few years before the events of chapter 39.
But the text tells us he served Potiphar well. We previewed verses 2 and 3 last time. Look again at 39:2 and 3. And the Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master in Egypt. Now his master saw that the Lord was with him, and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. God’s presence and grace in Joseph’s life both motivated him to serve well and the result of was he succeeded.
Verse 4 records that Potiphar liked this new slave. And because of his faithfulness, he elevated him: first he became his personal assistant, and his final assignment was being steward over the whole of Potiphar’s estate. Everything the man owned and controlled, he placed in Joseph’s hand to manage.
As we’ve seen, God was building someone he would use in powerful ways. And when God plans to use a person, God begins by building into the person -- most often through hardship.
Because of the character God had already built into him, Joseph responded to the authority and privilege given him.
He consistently demonstrated faithfulness. (39:1-6)
Verse 6: Potiphar did not concern himself with anything with Joseph around. Look back at the wording in verse 2. Joseph became a successful man. Here’s a slave, termed a successful man.
Why? Because of God’s presence and God’s hand were on him. And Joseph demonstrates biblical faithfulness: simply doing what he knew to be right under God. The NT tells workers, work wholeheartedly, because it is Christ Whom you serve.
And this Hebrew slave did that every day and he became trusted and respected. He apparently didn’t do the bare minimum, he didn‘t just punch the clock -- put in his time and then retreat to his quarters -- he did what would be right and good and beneficial for Potiphar.
Jesus said, he who is faithful in small things will also be faithful in great things. Joseph obviously was faithful in the small things -- so over time, Potiphar turned everything over to him. And then, as the manager, he was a good steward. The NT says, it is required of a steward that he be found faithful.