Genesis 39-45 records the story of Joseph.
Joseph was Jacob's favorite son. The first-born of his beloved Rachel. Joseph was the son who Jacob planned to be his heir. He was relieved of shepherding and set apart - over and above his older brothers. It was Joseph that had dreams that his brothers would bow down to him.
The elder brothers were envious and hated Joseph for these things. At 17 years old, Joseph was to be murdered by his brothers; he was cast into a pit. Judah pleaded for Joseph and as a result he was sold to a passing Midianite merchants for 20 pieces of silver, and brought into Egypt.
So here was Joseph. His father's favorite son - to inherit his kingdom. Joseph who enjoyed the constant fellowship and teaching and love of his father. The one on whom the very promises of God rested. Promises of the land of Canaan and the Promised Seed. This young man who had dreams of others bowing down to him.
How could God let this happen, some may ask. Where was God when Joseph was in the pit, when he was sold? Where was God's promise? Joseph was in a far country as the lowest kind of servant - a slave. Where was God when all these things had taken place?
What was Joseph's reaction to these events? Do we hear him in despair - do we hear complaints, and mumbling, questioning God; feeling sorry for himself, vowing to get revenge? Do we see him trying to run away from his Egyptian master? Was he given special treatment in Egypt? No. He was treated like the slave he was. His life consisted of obedience to his master. How did he act - he served (verse 4) honestly, faithfully, carefully, trusting God with everything - all rare virtues of servants, much less others. Joseph did not complain and try to get out of doing things - but obediently did more and more until he had complete charge of Potiphar's household, though he himself still owned nothing but the bread he ate (verse 16). God was saying to Joseph, "Behold, your service is pleasing to Me; I will be your reward, and I will render abundant satisfaction for your service to ungrateful men." This was Joseph's promise and consolation and this is far richer than all the treasures of the whole world.
It is at this point that a great temptation confronts him. The lady of the house has become desirous of this handsome, virtuous young Hebrew. This took place about ten years after he had arrived at the age of 17. She had been watching him for a long time and began to flirt, and hint at what was in her heart. She tempts him in various ways, but is finally brought to the point of impudently saying to him: "Lie with me." She thinks that he has been charmed by her many gestures and attentions. She has made a plan where they would be alone - that Joseph couldn't refuse - for it would be very profitable for him.
Joseph firmly rejects her, which she took very badly - a woman scorned. He tells her in an earnest and virtuous manner to turn her from her heated lust. 1.) It is a sin against God. 2.) You are the wife of my master and must maintain his honor. 3.) My master has trusted me with his whole household - I cannot violate that. Joseph did all he could to turn aside her passion - and then he ran away.
She then turns to anger, to get back at him, and possibly also some fear - that he might tell her husband that she had tried to force him to lie with her. She clings to his cloak which she had grabbed when he ran. This was her evidence against him when Potiphar came. Then she called him "The Hebrew servant" that her husband had brought, thus putting the blame on her husband also.
All Joseph's virtues and reputation disappear. He is accused of adultery, hypocrisy - and questioning his goodness as a pretense and cunning trick to hide his real desire - to have an affair with the lady of the house.
She decided to disgrace him and bring him to his death. Her words arouse great anger in the husband - making it impossible to reasonably listen to Joseph's side. Joseph has no protection. He is dragged off to prison as an adulterer.
Joseph had faithfully served for over 10 years. This was his reward. Much more often than not, the world will not acknowledge or pay for our faithfulness or diligence. Therefore we must never put our hope in the world's rewards.
We must say, "I must keep on, because I do this for God's sake, not for the sake of the ungrateful world."
Joseph is cast into the pit again, as if to death itself. He has no hope, nor any comfort. It is in this affliction and dishonor, in prison, in shame, and disgrace that the Lord helps Joseph. God is already planning to raise him up from this living death and hell. Joseph experiences the favor, grace, and presence of God. As II Corinthians 12:9 - "My grace is sufficient for you; I will give you My Spirit, that you may not perish."
We again see all that Joseph does prosper. The keeper entrusts him with his whole sphere of duties, just as Potiphar had done. Joseph was considered so trustworthy that the keeper didn't even demand an accounting from him.
God was continuing His work in forming and fashioning Joseph according to His counsels and good pleasure.
It is always God's wonderful practice to make all things out of nothing, and again to reduce all things to nothing.
It is man's habit to make his own plans and then ask God to bless it and follow that definite method. Undoubtedly God laughs at such ignorant presumption, saying: "It has never been my custom to allow anyone to teach, direct, govern, or lead me. No I am God Who acts and Who is accustomed to doing the teaching, ruling, and leading."
Chapter 40 recounts the two servants of pharaoh who in prison have dreams which Joseph interprets by praying to God. When the butler is reinstated, Joseph requested that he be remembered. The man forgets him, and two years pass. Joseph was only able to bear these years in prison because of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the sustaining power of the Word of God.
Chapter 41. God sends Pharaoh a dream which will occasion Joseph's deliverance - where the butler remembers Joseph's gift.
Joseph's response when summoned was "God will give Pharaoh an answer that will bring him peace." Joseph goes on to interpret the dreams of the 7 fat and the 7 lean years, and advises the king on what is needed to be done. Pharaoh responds: "Can we find such a man as this who has the Spirit of God?"
Joseph is exalted with authority over all Egypt, with the exception of the king only. Pharaoh says "without your consent, no man shall lift up his hand."
We must learn, therefrom, that God is merciful, wise, and good, and that for this reason, He can, and wishes to, give us more than we could understand or dream of asking for. His mercy is greater than our ability to take it in.
At the same time, we must observe how God exercises, exalts, and tries His saints. Nonetheless they endure the time of trial and keep the faith and hope. We must wait for the Lord through times of tribulation and distress. We must hold to the Word of faith without ceasing which is the strength and power of God for salvation to every believer.
In Joseph we also have an outstanding example of moderation and humility after such a great exaltation. For it is much more difficult to hold fast to the Word after great success than in time of trial and misfortune. It is much more common for a man to become puffed up and proud as though he was a god to be adored.
Joseph conducted himself reverently and humbly toward God, for whose sake he knew that he was in that position.
A whole additional message is contained in Joseph's dealings with his brothers when they come down to Egypt to buy grain. But it must be passed over here. Joseph deals with them kindly and tenderly and yet in a way to lead them to confess and repent of their sin.
Joseph had been tried and disciplined in a wonderful way until he was humbled, instructed, and finally raised up again. He had arrived at such knowledge of godliness and wisdom that he could counsel others and rule over them.
In the same manner, Joseph also disciplines and humbles his brothers in order that he may exalt them.
Even so, we are humbled to be cleansed. The more we are purged, the more fruit we bear, and the more we will be blessed in the life to come.
God treats us as a father who loves and chastises his son.
Genesis 45:7,8. Joseph repeatedly tells his brothers that God used their evil for great good. God had sent Joseph as an ambassador to Egypt for the salvation of not only his father, his brothers, and their households, but also of the whole kingdom and other lands. It was a physical and spiritual salvation, since he instructs the people in the faith and knowledge of God.
No one wants to become used to the exercises of faith, but we want to live by sight and enjoy the things that are at hand.
God very often puts off the promise or the blessing and gives us trials in order to test us and force us to live by faith.
God calls on us to be faithful, to live by faith in Jesus Christ, to do all things to the glory of God, whether in good times or bad, in illness or health, in success or failure. God's plan for us is greater than we can ever imagine, but we must learn to be like His Son.
When called upon to vote - find a man most like Joseph.
This article was written by my father T.O.D. Johnston, who was licensed to preach the Gospel by Paran Baptist Church on May 26, 1979. He has been a student of Scripture since 1972. View more lessons at his Bible Study Lessons page.