The scriptures turn their attention back to the life of Joseph in Genesis 39. Genesis 37 revealed that Joseph had been sold into Egyptian slavery, sold in particular to an officer of Pharaoh, Potiphar. Genesis 39:1 reminds us of this event after telling us the unseemly matters concerning Judah in Genesis 38. What a sorrowful position to be in for Joseph! He was so hated by his brothers that they wanted to kill him. But God spared Joseph’s life for God was going to use Joseph for his purposes. A band of traders pass by, and his brothers sell him into slavery. He is no longer in his own land. He is no longer with his father. He is no longer in his home. Joseph has lost everything. Yet notice the words of verse 2: “The Lord was with Joseph.” The Lord is with Joseph in all of these things and Joseph becomes successful in his work as a servant in the house of Potiphar. Therefore, Joseph found favor with Potiphar and put Joseph in charge of the whole house. This led to God blessing Joseph and the whole house over which he attended.
Verse 6 tells us a little bit about Joseph. “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.” Some time passes by and Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph. Joseph gives a wise and godly response in verses 8-9. The master has blessed him with charge over the whole house and no one has greater authority than the master in this house. How then can he do this great wickedness and sin against God? But Potiphar’s wife does not relent. Every day she tried to seduce Joseph (39:10). One day Joseph went into the house and she grabs his clothes and tries to seduce him again. He refuses, leaves his clothes in her hands, and runs out of the house. With this, she calls for the other slaves of the house to see that he has his clothing because he had tried to take advantage of her. So she lies about the event, saying that he fled because he was trying to take her, and she cried out. So she kept his clothes beside her until Potiphar came home and told him the same lie. Potiphar becomes furious at this news (39:19) and puts Joseph in prison, the same prison where the king’s prisoners were also confined.
Now I want us to see something that may be shocking. Listen to the words of verse 21: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Verse 23 emphasizes the point, stating again that the Lord was with him.
God Is With Us, Even When It Doesn’t Look Like It
What about Joseph’s life looks like God is with him? Joseph has been sold into slavery, yet the Lord was with him. Who would think that being sold into slavery could possibly mean that God was still with that person? From a human point of view we would think that Joseph is out of favor with God to go through such terrible circumstances. Then, we would expect that if God is with Joseph that his faithfulness would be rewarded. Day after day this woman is trying to seduce Joseph. Do not forget that Joseph is 17 years old when he is sold into slavery. Joseph is not a mature 50 year old man when these temptations attack him. He is a young man and he faithfully discharges his duties as a slave and remains faithful to the Lord every day. Is Joseph rewarded for his faithfulness to the Lord? Is he rewarded for his purity? Is he benefited by his integrity? Joseph’s reward for his faithfulness was suffering and imprisonment. Now Joseph is in prison. Does it look like that God is with Joseph? From our perspective we would think not. But the scriptures make it clear that God was still with Joseph. Four times the scriptures make the point in this chapter that God was with Joseph. Further, God is showing his steadfast love for Joseph.
We learn a very important truth: favor with God does not mean good circumstances on earth. God is present with his people even in the worst of circumstances. There are many times in life when faithfulness does not look like it is working. What is the point of being faithful when we continue to experience suffering and loss? We even have a song that poses that very question which we sing to each other and to God. The title of the song is Farther Along. Listen to some of the lyrics of that song:
“Tempted and tried we’re oft made to wonder why it should be thus all the day long, while there are others living about us, never molested though in the wrong.”
“When death has come and taken our loved ones, it leaves our homes so lonely and drear. Then do we wonder why others prosper living so wicked year after year.”
Consider how ridiculous the promises of God may have sounded to him now. Joseph had a dream that his brothers would bow down to him. Not only is Joseph ripped away from his family, now he is in prison in Egypt. How is God’s promise going to come true now? Nothing looked like God was with him. Nothing suggested that God’s promises were still valid. But Joseph still believed in the promises of God. If Joseph were to ask, “Where is God?” the answer would be that God was with Joseph from the very beginning. The Lord was with Joseph.
Friends, do you believe that the Lord has left you? Do you think that because your life is difficult that it means that God is no longer with you? Has your suffering caused you to question the goodness and steadfast love of the Lord? Has the weight of your trials caused you to question the presence of God? The Lord is still with you. Notice that you do not know that God is with you by some sort of feeling. Joseph does not have that. In fact, I would suggest that it does not “feel” like God is with him. But we have the knowledge that conquers our feelings and fears. We have the knowledge that God is with us.
What Joseph does not know is that God is moving things around in Joseph’s life to put him in a place where needs to be to carry out God’s plan. Remaining in Potiphar’s house is not the plan for Joseph. So more life changes will come by the hand of God so that God can bring about his will in the world.
Satan Will Continue To Attack In Adversity
When in adversity, Satan does not leave us alone. Joseph is in these new circumstances, separated from home and from his father, and hated by his brothers. But Satan does not leave Joseph alone. Satan will attack in times of adversity. There are temptations within the trial. There are smaller trials within the larger trials. Satan will continue to compound our difficulties. There can be times in our lives where we are overwhelmed by the trials of life. What has Joseph done to cause him to be in an Egyptian prison? Nothing. All that Joseph has tried to do is be faithful to the Lord. The reward for his faithfulness is for life to go from bad to worse. I think of Joseph’s situation as a slave in Egypt in Potiphar’s house, thinking that things could not get any worse. But no matter how bad things are, things can always get worse. But these circumstances do not take away our responsibility to live faithfully to our God. Joseph honors God while living among the Egyptians. Joseph had every excuse to reject the Lord and no longer live faithfully for him. He could have thought he would get away with his sin. He could have thought that God had left him. He could have thought that it did not matter what he did in Egypt. No one sees and no one cares could have been his attitude. But Joseph remains faithful to his God. Joseph remains faithful despite his life circumstances.
Satan wants to push us over the edge so that we will give into our desires and give into sin. Satan is pushing us over and over to reject the promises of God and forsake the Lord. I have seen it happen all too often and I know you have felt the temptation in your life when difficulty strikes: give up on God. The temptation from Job’s wife rings loudly in our ears. Why maintain our integrity before God? Just curse God and be done with this whole life for God. Many fall into that temptation. Satan attacks us in our adversity. Satan pushes us to harm ourselves or harm others. Satan pushes us to act out against the people of God. Satan pushes us to turn our backs on God. Why should we trust in the Lord? Why should we maintain our faithfulness? The answer is: because God is with us.
You Are Not Alone
Jesus has experienced all that you are experiencing in your life. We do not have to look to Joseph to know that others have suffer as we have. We can look to Jesus and understand why he is a faithful high priest for us. Jesus is the ultimate example of these truths. God was with Jesus, yet Jesus endure severe temptations and difficult trials. God was with Jesus even though it did not look like. The cross looked like the ultimate rejection of Jesus. Yet Jesus repeatedly declared that the Father would remain with him though all others would forsake him. Jesus quotes Psalm 22 from the cross to teach the people that he knew that God was with him through this suffering.
What did the faithfulness of Jesus accomplish? Jesus’ faithfulness to the Father caused him to endure ridicule, punishment, suffering, and death. But the faithfulness of Jesus accomplished the will and plan of the Father. We also have the steadfast love and grace of God to overcome these trials and suffering. We can look to Jesus as our forerunner and example to know that God is with us.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14–16 ESV)