The Lord Is With You
November 9, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The Lord Is With Joseph
1. Today I read to you the last section of Genesis chapter thirty-nine. This chapter begins from the place where "Joseph was brought to Egypt," (verse one). Then he is purchased by a man named Potiphar, a government official in the pharaonic court and a grand chamberlain, and he became a slave in his house.
2. Joseph originally used to live in his father's house in Hebron that was at a great distance away. He had ten older brothers. But, Joseph, as the child of a father in his old age, was his father's favorite son, favored above any other brother, and he was raised receiving his father's affection [all] to himself. The text says his father "made" only for him "a long garment of high quality." When you do such a thing, it will inevitably put a strain on the family. The brothers became jealous of Joseph and hated him. It was just a matter of time before a catastrophe would pay a visit. At last, a disaster did occur. The brothers had plotted to kill Joseph when he was sent by his father to check on their situation as they tended the sheep. In the end, although they did not kill Joseph, "they ripped the long garment" he wore all the time "and threw him into a hole. Then he was sold off to a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants that happened to be passing by, and he was brought all the way to Egypt. Thus Joseph became a slave to an Egyptian government official."
3. Just a short while ago, wearing that fancy long garment of his, he was living a care free life with a silver spoon in his mouth with his father, but now [he was] in a foreign country not knowing the language, and worse still he had become a slave bought with money. And to cap it all off, in the passage I read to you today, he was accused of a false charge and then degraded to a place where he was imprisoned. What a fall! What a drastic change!
4. But, when you give it another thought, it is not strange at all in the Bible when someone has experienced a sudden change in his or her every day life like he did. To begin with, it looks that way ever since Adam and Eve, whom you could say are the very first characters in the scriptures. They went from a life in the garden of Eden to a complete change, to a life of exiles driven out of the garden. We can make the case that this first example is the greatest of drastic changes and upheavals in [any] life [ever].
5. Furthermore, one other thing is clear, we can say that Joseph's case is certainly an extreme one, but yet such upheavals in life can and do happen in anybody's life. Indeed rather, we should probably say it is more rare when a person goes his or her whole life not experiencing any sudden changes in his or her life. In some cases it is due to natural disasters. In some cases it is because a family member becomes ill and then dies. In some cases it is due to being deceived and getting involved in some mess. In some cases it is due to a country's system falling apart. As a matter of fact, many of those here in this place have probably been through the upheavals of war and post-war (from World War II). In that sense, we can say the Bible is an exceedingly realistic book. When you are living in this ole world, it is always possible for your life to end up changing one day all of a sudden. It is also possible [for your life] to degrade and go downhill. The Bible does not hesitate to thrust this reality of the world before us.
6. Thus, as a person living in this passing world, Joseph too was handed the card of tasting a great fall into degradation. So, what does a person think when he or she runs into things that come that way? There may be some who think "I've been abandoned by God." There may be some who cuss out "What the heck kind of god is he!" In fact, weren't the events that Joseph experienced the kind where he could have uttered in despair, "There just isn't any god or Buddha out there!?" But, when we read chapter thirty-nine, we find the following statement over and over. "The Lord was with Joseph." The Bible clearly states it that way. In a reality where he probably felt like "What the heck kind of god is he!," it says, "The Lord has been with [him]" for sure. And because the Lord is with [him], Joseph turned out to be a person who brought good fortune to the house of Potiphar. That's right. When the Lord is with [someone], whatever circumstances he or she may be put under, he or she can become a person who brings good fortune into the situation.
Joseph Is With The Lord
7. Thus, "The Lord was with Joseph." But also it can be said that "Joseph was with the Lord." The events written in this chapter do a pretty good job in showing this fact.
8. "Joseph had a handsome face and a superior build," (verse six). That's what the text has written in it. Furthermore, he was entrusted with the management of the household and all the assets in it as a young person. It all came about through God's plan, but as seen from a worldly perspective, it could be said that he was an able and dependable person. [Then,] the wife of Potiphar the master had her eye on this young Joseph. She came right out and commanded him, "Come into my bed!"
9. This very direct way of talking was used in a quite ordinary way, and what's more, judging from the places where it is repeated, that the wife of a high ranking government official would take a choice slave as her own property was quite likely not all that odd of a thing back in Egypt at that time. Even though one was considered a slave, to be pleasing to the wife of the master could work out to a great advantage as per one's position. On the contrary though, if one refused the requests of the lady of the house, and things turned out that you offended her, some kind of poor treatment could be awaiting you for that reason. With that in mind, Potiphar's wife was probably thinking that Joseph would naturally obey her requirements.
10. However, Joseph had refused her demands. Joseph said, "As you know, my master has placed me in a responsibility, and he isn't a servant over anything at all in this house. He has entrusted all of his properties into my hands. Since no one stands above me in this house, there is nothing that is not as I wish it to be. You are the only exception. Because you are the wife of the master. How could I work such a great evil and sin against God?," (verses eight and nine). This last statement is important. He says that [if he were] to obey the words of Potiphar's wife, [he] would be "sinning against God."
11. Slave life in Egypt was a daily life in which one was being forced by what you could call sudden degradation and demotion. Yet, Joseph clearly was living out this forced lifestyle, such as it was, consciously aware of himself as being in the presence of God. When life goes into an unforeseen direction, the options to blame God, to curse God, to turn your back on God, and to live in conscious pursuit of anything not God related might seem right. But that's not what Joseph did. Through and through, up and down, in and out, he lived consciously aware that he was in the presence of the Lord, and he chose to live looking up to God.
12. We will see that clearly, as another thing happens next in the text. Every day she woos Joseph. But, the scripture says, "Joseph does not lend his ears to her, but refuses to sleep at her side and to even be with her," (verse ten). In particular, where it says that he "refuses to even be with her," it was probably to the maximum extent that he was able [to refrain from being in her presence]. The ones who fall into temptation often times are not the weak ones. Rather it is the strong. It is accurate to say that those who think they are strong are not in touch with their weaknesses. Joseph was sufficiently aware of and in touch with his weaknesses. Therefore, he did his best to distance himself from the temptation itself. He did not think that "It's fine just to be with her."
13. Nevertheless though an incident did occur. "So, one day, as Joseph entered the house to do some work, as there were no members of the house at home, she clung to Joseph's garment and said, 'Come into my bed!' Joseph left [his] garment in her hands and went out fleeing. When she saw that Joseph had fled leaving [his] garment still in her hands, she called out to those of the household and said, 'Look! Since you brought into our place people like this Hebrew, we are being played against. He has come into my place and tried to sleep with me and so I cried out loud. After you heard me lifting my voice and crying aloud, he ran away outside but left his garment by my side.'," (verses eleven through fifteen).
14. Then, she gave a report of the details when her husband came home and she made the accusation. Upon hearing her statement, the master became angry, says the scripture. It makes sense. But, I think there was room for Joseph to make his defense several ways because so far Joseph had earned the absolute trust of the master of the household. Yet surprisingly in chapter thirty-nine Joseph does not make one word of defense for himself. It was probably because he was living consciously aware that he was in the presence of the Lord. The Lord is with him. Therefore, even if no one else had seen anything, the Lord did. The Lord understood. That was enough for Joseph.
15. Thus, Joseph fell from the life of a slave to a lower life in jail. It wasn't because he was bad. It was because of somebody else's evil. And because of other people's misunderstanding. But at this point in the text the Bible says it again, "The Lord was with Joseph." The Lord was with him even in jail. Thus, the scriptures state it again. When the Lord is with you, even while you're in jail, the Lord has his plans for you.
16. Therefore then, the important thing to do is not to question the meaning of why he is in jail, but to do the best he can while in jail. As a matter of fact, ever since Joseph had been sold to the Egyptians and became a slave, he had lived with all his might, fully aware that he was in the presence of the Lord and believing in the Lord's plans [for him], wherever he may have been placed. Thus, the main thing is that we are to believe that the Lord is with us and that we are with the Lord. Now, no matter where we are placed, the fact will always be that God caused us to be there. If it ever looks like we're stuck, we should give praises to God, just like Paul and Silas did. Whenever we worship God like that and live with all our might in the Lord's presence, the Lord himself will make it clear to us that he is with us wherever we are. Like he did for Joseph. And like he did for Paul and Silas.