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.