Joseph's Faithfulness and God's Blessing (Genesis 39)
Why do we obey God? Why do we work hard to not disobey him? Why has Jesus’ freed us from the curse of sin? What is the purpose? We are going to consider the story of Joseph as an example of what God does with his obedient children. I want us to see in action what God has saved us to do and why it is imperative that we obey God’s voice.
In Genesis, God created Adam and Eve and blessed them them with the task to be fruitful and multiply. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s voice, so they were cursed with difficulty in fruitfulness and multiplication — in child-labor and laboring to get food from the ground. Outside of the Garden, sin and death filled the earth. They watched the result of their sin as their older son, Cain, killed their younger son, Abel. Their disobedience brought a curse to all.
But God told Abraham’s family that he would multiply and make them fruitful (Gen. 28:2; 35:11; 47:27; 48:4) and thus bless the nations through their descendants. Abraham wasn’t perfect, but God was patient with him and through the years Abraham learned to trust God. And when God told Abraham to sacrifice the son through whom all God’s promises were supposed to come, Abraham obeyed God’s voice. So God solidified his promise: “In your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Gen. 22:18) Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s voice and through them a curse was mediated to all; now, God has patiently nurtured Abraham to obey him so that through his offspring a blessing will be mediated to all.
But here’s the problem when we get to the story of Joseph. Abraham and his offspring have mostly been a curse to everyone. When Abraham and Isaac acted without faith, Pharaoh and the Philistines suffered for it. Later, when we come to Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, we find that his children are a mess. Two of Jacob’s children deceived and slaughtered all the men in a city, captured their wives and children, and plundered their wealth as vengeance for one man’s sin. These are the offspring by whom God is going to bless the nations?
One of Jacob’s sons was named Joseph. Though he was hated by his brothers, God gave him dreams that his family would one day bow before him. Annoyed by Joseph’s dreams, the brothers nearly killed Joseph, but, they opted to sell him as a slave. And now, in chapter 39, at 17 years old, Joseph is all alone in Egypt, unjustly made a slave of Potiphar — an officer of Pharaoh. How will Joseph respond to all this? What will come of his dreams? As we read, I want you to notice what Joseph does and what the Lord does through him.
The Lord Was With Him (Gen. 39)
Joseph has been unjustly sold as a slave, and yet the text repeatedly tells us that the Lord was with him. Verse 2: “The Lord was with Joseph…” Verse 3: “His master saw that the Lord was with him…” Even after Joseph is unjustly cast into prison, verse 23 says “the Lord was with him.” When you are shipped to a foreign land and falsely accused of rape, it takes eyes of faith to see that God is with you — especially when God has promised that your family will bow before you. It seemed like that promise had gone off the rails. Family — whatever you are suffering right now — have the eyes of Joseph and see that if you are in covenant with the Lord, the Lord is still with you and his promises are valid. You may be in a tough marriage, a job where you are mistreated, or suffering health issues far earlier than you expected — but God is still walking with you and can even still use you. Suffering is not a sign God has left us — it is when he especially draws near. Psa. 23:4 ESV, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Joseph Was Relentlessly Faithful (Gen. 39)
Here’s why seeing the Lord’s presence in his life is vital: Joseph is about to face the test of his life. For Adam and Eve, it was the fruit in the garden. For Abraham, it was his son. For Joseph, his family has completely rejected him and it seemed like God’s promise was dead. He’s a slave and he’s all alone. But his master’s wife tells him he doesn’t have to be all alone. “Come to bed. Lie with me.” I don’t have to tell you how comforting her offer could seem to a young man who has nothing and nobody — and no father looking over his shoulder. Furthermore, he’s a slave and she is the wife of the master — she’s in a position of power. Day after day she spoke with him. “Come on. It’d be fun. Lie with me.” And yet, verse 10: “he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.” And when she grabbed him by the shirt, he ran — leaving his garment behind.
Did you see that? He wouldn’t listen to her. He didn’t think about it. In fact, not only would he not sleep with her, he wouldn’t even lie beside her. No flirting. No snuggles. No Netflix and chill. Let me offer a strong suggestion to those of you who are not married: don’t sit around alone in a house watching shows and movies together. You can Netflix and chill when you get married. If you snuggle up on the couch, you are asking temptation.
But Joseph wouldn’t do that. Why? Because he didn’t merely see himself as a victim. He doesn’t only see himself as a lonely young man who has nothing. Notice what he says in verse 8-9. He sees that his master has given and put him in charge of everything, and hasn’t kept anything back from Joseph except his own wife. Ashley pointed out to me a couple months ago that this is intentionally crafted to be a twist on what happened with Adam and Eve. God put Adam and Eve in charge of everything and there was nothing he held back from them except for the forbidden tree. When the snake pointed out the one thing, she listened to the snake and ate and Adam listened to his wife and ate. They failed to refuse one piece of forbidden fruit in Paradise while Joseph refuses a forbidden woman while he’s a slave. He may be a slave, but he refuses to let that excuse his behavior and he takes a different perspective: he’s been given everything and he’s not about to take this woman. What loyalty to his master — his neighbor! What loyalty to God!
Joseph suffers for his faithfulness. He’s accused of attempted rape. In an instant, he’s no longer a glorified slave but a prisoner. Faithfulness can lead to suffering. And yet, the Lord was still with him there.
God Mediated His Blessing through Joseph (Gen. 39)
Finally, see that wherever Joseph goes, God causes Joseph to be a blessing. 39:3, “His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” How did Potiphar know it was Yahweh? Simple: Joseph told him. Notice 39:5. “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. 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.” Skip to the prison and it’s the same story in verse 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.” And it was the same story when Pharaoh set Joseph over the land of Egypt: in a terrible famine, God preserved Egypt, the surrounding areas, and even Joseph’s family through Joseph.
Do you see what’s happening here? Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s voice and through them a curse was mediated to the ground and to all people. Now, God has been patient with Abraham’s family and as Joseph obeys God and works hard for his master and uses his God-given wisdom to advise Pharaoh, God’s blessing is finally being mediated through Abraham’s family to the nations.
God’s commands are so often given a negative connotation. The secular world looks at rules as repressing liberty and self-expression. Especially when it comes to sexuality and identity, rules appear to repress our internal identity. God’s rules are oppressive towards people. This completely misses the point, and as Christians we need to help the world recover the right basis for God’s commands. But even Christians can give negative connotations to God’s commands. Christians are who try to obey God’s commands and call others to do the same are often called legalists — and some certainly lose sight of why we ought to carefully obey God at all.
At the most basic level, rules are the basis of good, healthy relationships. But, here, Joseph’s obedience to God — his love of God and love of his neighbor — allowed God’s blessing to freely flow through Joseph to the nations. What a crazy position God has put Abraham’s offspring in! The whole world is under the curse that came from Adam and Eve’s sin, and yet God has decided to mediate his blessing through these guys? For Joseph, that was clearly a humbling thought and he not only gave God glory — he told Potiphar that Yahweh was the one blessing his house — he respected that position by walking faithfully when tempted.
Disobedience is not arbitrary rule-breaking that merely keeps us out of eternal life — though it can do that. Forgiveness is not merely wiping the slate clean so we can enjoy eternal life — though it does that. Disobedience unleashes the curse — dark, Satanic chaos into our lives, families, churches, communities, and world. When we disobey God we are the cog holding up God’s desire to bless others through us (who are now Abraham’s offspring by means of our loyalty/faith to/in Jesus). Just look at any serious studies that are done — when people are obedient to God even unbelievers can see that there is more morality, order, and happiness — blessing. The world is objectively better without sin.
Redeemed from the Curse to Bless (Gal. 3:13-14)
But there’s 7.9 billion problems with this. We haven’t always chosen to be satisfied with everything God has given us. All we like Adam and Eve have taken the fruit, lied to Pharaoh, or said yes to Potiphar’s wife — in one way or another. Israel is a clear example of everyone’s failure in this regard. They did not bless the nations for God’s glory, they did not serve as royal priests to shine a light — they were worse than the nations and they dishonored God’s name. But then an Israelite came who, unlike Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or even Joseph, never sinned. He always kept God’s “arbitrary rules” — and they turned out to not be so arbitrary because everywhere he went he, as Peter said, “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” God was with him and he was a blessing. But then they falsely accused and executed the Righteous One on a tree.
But notice what Paul says that did for those held captive by the curse. Gal. 3:13–14 (ESV), “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” The curse has come upon us and we like Adam have mediated that curse to others, but Jesus became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse of the law. And Paul doesn’t say that now means we get to go to heaven when we die — though it does mean that. He says that means Jesus has enabled the blessing of Abraham to come to the Gentiles. Jesus is finally the first Israelite — the first offspring of Abraham — through whom God’s blessing can finally flow through to the Gentiles, the nations. And now we can all receive God’s blessing — God’s Holy Spirit, God’s personal presence. Paul goes on to say in Galatians that when the Spirit in us, righteous fruitfulness is multiplied in the world through God’s growing family: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Jesus Christ has been such a blessing to each of us by redeeming us from the curse of the law and by turning us from our sins (cf. Acts 3), and now we have the wonderful opportunity to share that blessing with others in a host of ways — in our families, schools, work, neighborhoods, cities, countries, and world. We are alive through the Spirit of God, and now we must keep in step with the Spirit and let Jesus Christ live in us — bless people through fruit of God’s Spirit in us with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and more. And we also have the opportunity to bless others by turning them from their sins. They can be saved to start enjoying the life that is eternal now and to become fruitful trees now that bless others. Isa. 27:6 ESV, “In days to come Jacob shall take root, Israel shall blossom and put forth shoots and fill the whole world with fruit.”
Do we see now why it is so vital that we flee from sin as Joseph did? Let me especially urge us with the words of Paul. 1 Cor. 6:18–20 NLT, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” Run!!! We are temples of the Holy Spirit through whom God trying to mediate life and blessing to the dead world, but no other sin so clearly prevents this like sexual sin. Churches are hurting and sometimes fruitless because of sexual sin. So many of our men and our women are entranced by pornography, premarital sex, adultery, and same-sex desires. This is not arbitrary rule breaking that we simply need to be forgiven of: this is a root bearing bitter and poisonous fruit that must be chopped down.
When we run and God frees us from any sin — bitterness, greed, jealousy, fight-causing, drunkenness, pride, or sexual sin — God’s Spirit is unleashed to work through us so much more powerfully. In school we will look out for others and learn to think and reason well to bless others for God’s glory. In our work we will work hard and cultivate earth’s resources to bless others for God’s glory. We will look out for our neighbors and bless them for God’s glory. We will love the world by confidently telling them the good news of the king who died to free us from the curse so God’s Spirit could restore our original humanity and work powerfully in us.
Has Satan held you in his grip telling you that you will lose everything if you start confessing your sins to another brother or sister here? Don’t listen to Satan’s lies — listen to Jesus. Jesus became a curse for us to redeem us from the curse so we could receive the promised Spirit and bless others. Trust him and trust his people. Whatever root is bearing bitter and poisonous fruit, will you confess and repent today? Don’t lay your head on the pillow before you reach out to a brother or sister for help.