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by Rosco Brong

Joseph's Strength in God
[Genesis 39:6-12, 16-23]

As the favorite son of a loving father, Joseph learned to trust in God. As the hated young brother of a jealous lot of older brothers, he still trusted in God. As a slave in Egypt, whether in a position of privilege in Potiphar's house or suffering unjust imprisonment, Joseph continued to trust in God. And finally as the great ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh on the throne, Joseph's faith remained in the God of Israel.
Sometimes professed worshipers of God complain against Him in times of distress and hardship, and so abandon their profession. Sometimes others who have professed faith in God forsake their profession in times of prosperity and success, supposing that they have no need of Him. True worshipers, however, worship Him in Spirit and in truth [John 4:24], knowing that He is always worthy of our trust amid all the changing circumstances of life.
Our lesson illustrates the fact that God is able to bless His children in and through what we might consider the most unlikely places and conditions. For an outline of the lesson, taken from Genesis 39, we may note the following points:

1. Sanctified Service, verse 6.
2. Sinful Suggestion, verses 7-9.
3. Sudden Scandal, verses 10-12.
4. Spiteful Slander, verses 16-18.
5. Satanic Subversion, verses 19-20.
6. Saving Support, verses 21-23.
Sanctified Service, verse 6.
"He" in this verse refers to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Potiphar had bought Joseph as a slave from the Ishmeelites [verse 1], but God's favor toward Joseph was so manifested that Potiphar came to trust him completely with the management of all his business affairs. Instead of giving himself over to self-pity because of his condition of slavery, Joseph simply did his best, with God's help, to be a good slave. Even the work of a slave can be sanctified to the praise of God.
That Joseph was also a handsome young man might easily have occasioned his complete ruin, except for the still greater beauty of his moral character.
Sinful Suggestion, verses 7-9.
In many societies the wives of successful men have nothing to do but to amuse themselves in any way they may fancy, and so apparently it was with Potiphar's wife. If we can believe what we read in profane history, this woman's desire to commit adultery with a favored slave was not at all unusual among women of her class.
"Wotteth" in verse 8 is an archaic word for "knows." To the woman's sinful suggestion Joseph had two simple answers: First, such an act would not be fair to his master. second, and more important, it would be a sin against God.
Sudden Scandal, verses 10-12.
Obviously the woman did not care either about being fair with her husband or about being right with God. She persisted in her attempts to seduce Joseph, and finally succeeded in catching him alone in the house. Brazenly taking hold of his garment, she renewed her appeal, or rather command. How many normal men would have done what Joseph did? Surely none, unless by the grace of God! In utter horror, he slipped out of his coat and fled!
Spiteful Slander, verses 16-18.
Lust speedily turned to hate. To be spurned by a slave was more than the proud hussy could endure. Quickly she made up a story of spiteful slander to clear herself and to get revenge on Joseph. It would be her word against the word of a slave if he attempted to deny her story.
Satanic Subversion, verses 19-20.
Nevertheless it is possible, if Potiphar knew his wife very well, that suspicions of Joseph's innocence may have prevented a death sentence. At any rate, though to some extent playing the part of an outraged husband, Potiphar was content to put Joseph in prison, and then apparently forgot him. Again, so far as his outward situation was concerned, it seemed that Joseph had been brought about as low as a man could be brought and still live.
Saving Support, verses 21-23.
"But the Lord was with Joseph" -- that made all the difference. We cannot fall so low but that God is still able to give us His saving support and to raise us up again. Even in prison God displayed His mercy, and in time gave Joseph such favor with the keeper of the prison that Joseph became the chief administrator of affairs within the prison. In all this experience God was training him for greater things to come.

CONCLUSION [I Corinthians 10:13]
We are without excuse. If and when we sin, it is our own fault. God is faithful, and limits our temptations to our ability to overcome. With every temptation He provides a way to escape. Too often our trouble is that we are looking for a way to sin and get by with it rather than looking for that way to escape from sinning. There is no way to "get by"; there is a way to escape.

[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, November 14, 1975, pp. 2. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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