THE LORD IS WITH US!
JOSEPH: MAN OF FAITH...IMAGE OF CHRIST
by Ron Ritchie
The holiday season has passed. The family members have all gone back to
their homes, the parties are over, the tree has been taken down, the nativity
scene has been put back in its box, and the decorations have all been stored
in the garage. A new year has begun.
One of the first letters I received at the beginning of this new year was
a reminder from the government that I should begin to prepare my l994 income
tax return. I don't know why, but that letter had a way of bringing me back
to our current reality in a hurry. I was in my garage when the mail carrier
brought it, and as I sat down right there and read it alone, I found my
heart beginning to fill with fear and worry about a lot of personal issues.
After talking to many men and women about their lives this week, I found
out that I was not alone. They shared with me many of their fears and the
difficulties they are struggling with at this moment: problems in family
relationships, the need for jobs and job security, financial difficulties,
taxes they owe or may owe, changing health programs and benefits, retirement
programs, social security benefits, etc., etc. The temptation to give in
to fears about all these things can be overwhelming at a given moment, especially
if you feel that you are alone.
But in the middle of my fear and worry---which, by the way, change none
of the above situations---the Lord reminded me of a wonderful spiritual
truth out of the Christmas story. The angel of the Lord had come to Joseph
in a dream and said that he should take Mary as his wife, and she would
bear a son whom he was to name Jesus, for it was he who would save his people
from their sins. And then Matthew added, "Now all this took place that
what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled saying,
'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they
shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God [is] with us'"
(Matthew 1:22-23; see also Isaiah 7:14). That truth is real in our lives
at this very moment regardless of whatever stressful circumstances we currently
That "God is with us" is powerfully illustrated in the life of
the patriarch Joseph in Genesis 39.
God is with us in our trials
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.
God was preparing Israel to become a great nation from which would come
Messiah, who would be "the light of the world" and would bring
blessings to the nations. It all began with God's covenant with Abraham
and Sarah; which then was continued through Isaac and his wife Rebekah;
and then through Jacob and his wife Leah, who gave birth to Judah, and his
wife Rachel, who gave birth to Joseph. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were each
men of faith who struggled with God and in reality were prime candidates
for our current recovery programs---all three came from dysfunctional families.
This affected all their children, right down to Joseph, who was a man of
faith and an image of Christ.
The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of
his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and
that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, 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. 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.
So he left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he
did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
In Genesis 37 we found that Joseph (1905-1815 BC) was the eleventh son of
Jacob and the first son of his beloved wife Rachel. "Now Israel loved
Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him
in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe [many-colored tunic]
for him" (Genesis 37:3). This love and special treatment watered a
seed of hatred and jealousy in the hearts of the other brothers, which began
to grow into a murderous anger when Joseph saw some of them break some family
rules and felt obliged to tell his father. Then the straw that broke the
camel's back in their relationship came when God gave Joseph two dreams
in which he saw his brothers and parents bowing down to him in subjection.
From then on the brothers looked for an opportunity to kill Joseph.
That opportunity came when Jacob sent his favorite son north to look for
his brothers and the flocks to see how they were doing and report back to
him. When Joseph arrived in camp, the brothers stripped off his many-colored
tunic and threw him into a dry well to die. Judah, the fourth son of Jacob,
convinced his brothers to sell Joseph to some traveling Ishmaelite merchants
passing between Syria and Egypt rather than kill him. The deal was made,
and they sold him as a slave for twenty shekels of silver. The brothers
then took Joseph's robe, dipped it into the blood of a slaughtered goat,
and returned to their father Jacob to tell him that Joseph had been killed
by some animals. Jacob mourned Joseph's death, not knowing that at that
moment his beloved son was being sold again as a slave in Egypt to the captain
of Pharaoh's guard.
Chapter 38 tells the story of Judah, who married a Canaanite woman who gave
birth to three sons. When they came of age to marry, Judah found a Canaanite
bride for his first son Er, named Tamar. But because Er was evil in the
sight of God, the Lord put him to death. Judah asked his second son Onan
to marry Tamar, but he refused to produce children with her. This was wicked
in the Lord's sight, so he put Onan to death. Then Judah promised Tamar
that when his third son came of age, she could marry him. In time Judah's
wife died, so in his aloneness he decided to join some of his men to shear
some of his flock, forgetting his promise to Tamar. She reacted to this
abandonment by dressing as a shrine prostitute with her face covered. Judah
saw her and offered her a goat in exchange for sex; and she became pregnant
by him and gave birth to twins, Perez or Pharah ("Breach") and
Zerah ("Dawning"). And it would be out of the lineage of Perez
that King David and Messiah Jesus would come (see Matthew 1:3).
But working behind all these scenes of hatred, jealousy, deception, and
sexual immorality is the fine hand of God, the Master Potter, who had placed
Joseph on his potter's wheel in order to mold him into his very own image.
And after being placed into the fires of trials, temptations, and persecution,
Joseph would come out as a chosen vessel through whom the Lord would pour
out his life, love, and the gift of salvation to many.
"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." The year was 1888 BC, and
Joseph was seventeen years old when he arrived in Egypt as a slave. Either
Amenemes 1-1V or Senwosret 1-111 was ruling in the Twelfth Dynasty (1990-1775
BC), which was called the Strong Middle Kingdom of Egypt. You can imagine
the physical and emotional state Joseph was in when he arrived at the slave
block in downtown Cairo. One day he had been a teenage boy greatly loved
by his father, and the next day he was experiencing the murderous hatred
and jealousy of his brothers, being thrown into a dry well, feeling the
fear of being abandoned to wild animals that would surely take his life,
and having no one to protect or rescue him. Sitting in the semi-darkness,
he had begun to hear the voices of several of his brothers mixed with the
foreign accents of some other people, and then the words, "Sold for
twenty shekels of silver." Sold! To whom? He had been pulled up out
of the well into the bright daylight only to have chains placed on his legs
and an iron collar fastened around his neck. He had been tied by a rope
to a camel and forced to follow the Ishmaelite traders some three hundred
miles from Dothan to the capital of Egypt with no hope of redemption, no
family, no friends, no future---alone!
Finally, after being cleaned up, this well-built and handsome seventeen-year-old
boy was placed on the block to be sold again to a total stranger, an Egyptian
named Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard. In
the immediate circumstances it looked like a horrible moment in the life
of Joseph, but as King David would write some nine hundred years later (Psalm
"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
That word, according to his first dream, was that he would one day become
the leader of a nation, which would take place in order to save not only
the Egyptians, but also the surrounding nations and in time his own family,
from death. He would become part of the foundation of the second dream which
would finally be fulfilling in Jesus in his humanity and finally in his
deity at his second coming (see Revelation 12).
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Look to the LORD and his strength;
seek his face always...
He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
and he sent a man before them---
Joseph, sold as a slave.
They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck they put in irons,
till what he foretold [dreams] came to pass,
till the word of the LORD proved him true."
"The LORD was with Joseph...." Potiphar took Joseph into his own
home, and Joseph was given some tasks to do. In time his master saw that
there was something about this slave that made him totally different from
all his other slaves. The Lord was with him...Somehow the master found out
that Joseph was a follower of the God Yahweh, and that this one God,
in contrast to the many gods in Egypt, had blessed this boy, because everything
he touched on Potiphar's behalf prospered. Promotions were in order, and
Joseph was moved from the position of just one of Potiphar's slaves to that
of Potiphar's personal attendant, and then that of steward over his household
and all his property. And the Lord continued to bless Joseph and all that
Potiphar had in the house as well as the fields. In time Potiphar turned
everything over to Joseph except his wife and what he had for dinner. And
at this point we can see the seed of the Abrahamic covenant taking root:
"...All peoples on earth will be blessed through you" (Genesis
12:3). In the case of Joseph the blessing began in the house of Potiphar,
and it would spread to the staff, a prison warden, some prisoners, and eventually
to Pharaoh, his Egyptian people, the surrounding nations, and finally Joseph's
own family. The communities in which we live and work are also blessed by
God when we choose to trust in him and walk in righteousness.
In this way Joseph reflected the life of Jesus (see Genesis 18:19). We can
see it in the spiritual principles of the New Covenant as recorded in Jeremiah
31:31-34 and Ezekiel 37:24-28, where divine sovereignty and human responsibility
are woven together by the Spirit of God, when he gives to all men and women
who choose to follow Jesus "a new heart" that desires to respond
to him in obedience and faith. "I will be your God and you will be
Pharaoh would describe Joseph as a man with the Spirit of God (see Genesis
41:38; Deuteronomy 30:6-10). This story is not about the success of Joseph
but the reason behind his success: The Lord was with him. As Jesus would
grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men (see Luke 2:52),
so did Joseph.
But like Jesus, before he would be given a ministry of saving many people,
he would have to go through the fire of temptation.
God is with us in our temptations
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife
took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!"
But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master
does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns
he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am.
My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife.
How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" And though
she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even
be with her.
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the
household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come
to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the
When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the
house, she called her household servants. "Look," she said to
them, "this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came
in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help,
he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house."
Joseph had three strikes against him: (1) He was a slave of his Egyptian
master, (2) he was well-built, and (3) he was handsome. And he was placed
in a situation in which his Egyptian master's wife appeared to be bored
with her life, wanting to add some personal excitement to it. You can have
everything, be in a position of power and honor, and still be alone and
empty. Isn't this what our society tells us every day in our magazine articles,
books, and TV programs? Just because you're breathing doesn't mean you're
living! So to ease her boredom and emptiness, she commanded this new slave,
perhaps as she had many others before him, "Come to bed with me!"
expecting an immediate response so she could satisfy her sexual needs.
"But he refused." This is an amazing moment in the life of Joseph
when you realize that he had lived in a Canaanite society that was given
over to degrading sexual perversion that included the rape of his own sister
Dinah by a man of Shechem (see Genesis 34:1-2). He had also experienced
the disgrace of his brother Reuben's giving in to his sexual lust and sleeping
with his father's wife Bilhah (see Genesis 35:22). And it is even more amazing
when you realize that the Law of Moses that would command, "You shall
not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14), and, "You shall not covet
your neighbor's wife...." (Exodus 20:17), would not be written on stone
for another five hundred years.
So where did Joseph get his high idea of morality and the strength to refuse
his master's wife's sexual advances? First, he had the direct revelation
of the character and heart of God and the truth about good and evil, or
righteousness and sin, that God had personally revealed to mankind when
he spoke directly to Adam and Eve in the garden: "Be fruitful and multiply,
and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over [it...." (Genesis
1:28). "...You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good
and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
God also spoke directly to Cain and asked him why he was angry with his
brother, and then told him, "If you do well, will not your countenance
be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and
its desire is for you, but you must master it." (Genesis 4:6-7.) God
spoke to Noah, who found favor in his sight, and told him he would destroy
the earth with a flood because he saw that "...the wickedness of man
was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart
was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). We have already seen in this
series (see Discovery Paper 4417) that God had spoken personally, in dreams
and visions, and through angels to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph himself.
Later in the history of Israel and then of the church of Jesus Christ, God
sent his priests, prophets, and apostles, his Son, and his written word
to reveal his character and moral will to humanity in every generation.
And all mankind has had indirect revelation as Paul declared to the Romans
some two thousand years later (1:18-20): "The wrath of God is being
revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who
suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God
is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation
of the world God's invisible qualities---his eternal power and divine nature---have
been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men
are without excuse." Paul also articulated to the Thessalonians (1
Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8) a spiritual truth that had been given to mankind
since the beginning of the creation of men and women: "...This is [always]
the will of God, your sanctification [being set apart unto God for his purposes];
that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality...For God did not call
us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this
instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit."
(God would never ask us to do something without first providing the power
of his Spirit to accomplish it.)
So Joseph responded to Potiphar's wife's advances in a spirit of righteousness
as revealed to him by his God Yahweh. Here he stood, a handsome young
man, before this apparently beautiful and powerful woman, with no one else
around as far as they knew. She knew that even in her Egyptian culture what
she was proposing was punishable by prison and death, but she wanted to
make sport of him anyway. Joseph, on the other hand, let her know that his
master had entrusted to him everything he had---except his wife.
He also saw immediately that what she was suggesting was wicked and declared
openly to her, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against
my God Yahweh?" Joseph was more concerned with how adultery
would affect his relationship with God than with what it had to do with
her or him. He was living in the presence of God; he was never alone. It
was God alone whom he had chosen to live for and honor with his life. (If
only King David had had the same moral fiber when he saw Bathsheba; yet
we find that God was willing to extend mercy and forgiveness to David and
to all of us who sin against him, when we are willing to confess our sin.
But no one sins without personal consequences [see 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm
However, the master's wife had her mind made up, and the issue had become
not just her need for sexual fulfillment, but her struggle for power and
position. So she set a trap to get rid of him. A day arrived when her servants
were not in the house and she was alone, so when Joseph came into the house
to make his daily rounds, she appeared out of nowhere, grabbed his coat,
and again commanded him, "Come to bed with me!" But Joseph left
his coat and ran out of the house.
There are times when in the midst of temptation you can give the tempter
a theological reason why you do not want to participate in a sin, and then
there are times when you have to run without a word. Peter would later write
to the Christians in Turkey: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.
Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone
to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences
of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
And after you have suffered for a little, the God of all grace, who called
you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen
and establish you" (1 Peter 5:8-10).
Before Jesus began his public ministry, he was led by the Spirit into the
desert to be tempted by the devil. Later the writer to the Hebrews would
remind us, "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered,
He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted" (2:17), and
"...We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin"
(4:15). During his ministry he told his disciples and all who wanted to
follow him, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit
adultery'; but I say to you, that every one who looks on a woman to lust
for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew
Joseph's spiritual stand may have strengthened his own heart, but it had
little if any effect on the wicked heart of the master's wife, for she tempted
him day after day, although he refused to listen.
God was with Joseph in his trial and in his temptation. Now God would be
with him in his unjust persecution.
God is with us in our persecution
She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then
she told him this story: "That Hebrew slave you brought us came to
me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his
cloak beside me and ran out of the house."
When Joseph ran, his master's wife was embarrassed to be left holding his
coat in her hand. So she immediately designed a plan to save face and get
rid of him. She called in her servants, and with racial overtones accused
Joseph, the Hebrew slave, of trying to rape her, saying that only her screams
had saved her, causing him to flee for his life. "And look what I have
in my hand---the proof...his coat." Then she waited for her husband
to come home, and feeling very secure because her servants believed her
story, she repeated it to her husband and held up the evidence of Joseph's
coat, as if she had not ripped it off him, but he had disrobed and dropped
it beside her in order to rape her, leaving it behind when she screamed.
And then she drove the nail home on Joseph's coffin: "Look how your
slave treated me, your wife!"
When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is
how your slave treated me," he burned with anger. Joseph's master took
him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed
him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So
the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he
was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention
to anything under Joseph's care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave
him success in whatever he did.
The master, angry yet wanting to quiet his wife and end the situation, took
his once trusted slave Joseph without a word of explanation and cast him
into the king's prison. For unlike American justice, Joseph was guilty until
But now we get a review of the blessing of God on the man of God regardless
of the circumstances. The Lord knew where Joseph was, and he was with him
in the same way that our Lord Jesus would be with his disciples and all
who would love him over the centuries: "And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). And not only was the Lord
with Joseph, but he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes
of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other
prisoners with their work details, and he was so successful that the warden
did nothing, becoming a warden in name only.
As Joseph suffered unjustly, so would Jesus. Peter would remind us, "For
you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no
sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He
did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept
entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously...." (1 Peter 2:21-23.)
As Joseph was placed into the darkness of prison in preparation for bringing
blessing to the nations, and as Israel too would be placed in the darkness
of Egypt for four hundred years before bringing blessing to the nations,
so Jesus would be placed on the cross and buried in darkness for three days
but raised from the dead by his Father. And from his heavenly throne he
can bring spiritual blessing to all who love him, and one day he will bring
blessing to all the nations.
These days our hearts can be tempted to become fearful and worry about many
unknown situations. But as we look at this wonderful story of Joseph, there
are five statements that are important to remember in the midst of our trials,
temptations and persecutions:
- "The LORD was with Joseph..." (verse 2).
- "...His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD
gave him success in everything he did...." (verse 3).
- "...The LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of
Joseph" (verse 5).
- In prison "...the LORD was with him...." (verse 21).
- "...The LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever
he did" (verse 23).
"'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear
a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God
[is] with us.'"
Out of this study I hope that both you and I will take this new year and
make it one in which we choose by the power of the Holy Spirit to have
the faith, courage, and strength to demonstrate to ourselves and all those
around us the eternal reality that Immanuel, Jesus himself is with us and,
is our firm rock in the midst of the storms that may come into our lives;
and I hope that we will continue to demonstrate this reality for the rest
of our time on this earth.
Catalog No. 4418
January 8, 1995
Copyright © 1995 Discovery
Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula
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