Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 8, 2012
Genesis 39:1-23, “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.” So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.” So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.
The end of the year and the beginning of a New Year is one of those critical cross-roads in life, isn’t it? As we flip over the calendar, month-by-month, marking off each of the 365 days on it, we might not think that much about it. However, when the time comes to change calendars, and, perhaps to do like we do at our house, to transfer from the old calendar to the new calendar, all the birth dates and anniversary dates, each of the highlights and lowlights of the previous year, when that time comes, we often find ourselves stopping to evaluate, don’t we? Was I successful last year? And, if so, how successful was I? And in what areas of my life did I succeed? And, what about this New Year? Will it be a year full of prosperity and success for me, for my family, and for those I love?
Last week we discussed the fact that prosperity or success is something that most everyone years for, and many go to great strides to achieve. We also observed that different people’s definitions of success look and sound different. Profit – did I make a profit? Product – is this year’s product going to be better than last year’s? Progress – how far did we move from where we began during the last 12 months? A lot of people use words like profit, product and progress to define and measure success. But, what did we learn? What must we always keep in mind? We, who call ourselves the people of God, set apart by Him, set apart to Him, set apart for Him and for His purposes, we must remember that our God has given us a different definition of success than profit, product or progress. We must always keep in mind that success, prosperity, blessing, is always patterned according to His will for our lives, His goals, His Word. That’s why we are opening up this Book today. That’s why we open it every Lord’s Day, to see how our God defines success, to keep coming back to the simply but powerful truths He’s given us on the subject. Truths such as the ones laid up for us in this text.
Last week, we began our look at Joseph’s life, and at the fact that he was successful, very, very successful. And, we asked ourselves, ‘What would it take to be more materially prosperous in this new year?’ Our text tells us that the “Lord blessed [Potiphar] the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and [that] the blessing of the Lord was on all that Potiphar had [both] in the house and in the field.” Joseph’s success spilled over, reverberated, into the life of his master, Potiphar. God blessed Joseph, yes. But, God also used Joseph to BE a blessing! In a nutshell, that’s what success is all about from God’s perspective.
Material prosperity, monetary success. We’d all like to be a little more, maybe a lot more successful in those ways this year, wouldn’t we? But, how about this? Would you, do you also want to succeed, be more prosperous, militarily this year?
Military power and success. Most of us likely don’t have that category of prosperity even listed on our goals for 2012. But, if I may, I’d like to suggest it be written in near the top. Military success; what do you mean, ‘Military Success’?! Are we talking bombs and guns and combat boots? What do we mean when we say, ‘In 2012, we ought to be striving for military success, greater levels of military success?’
We read through the passage rather rapidly a moment ago, so perhaps you didn’t catch it. But, take a look again. The 39th chapter of Genesis begins and ends with the same refrain: “the Lord was with Joseph” – remember? The Emmanuel Principle? The ‘God-with-us’ principle that is at the heart of real success from this Book’s vantage point. This chapter begins AND ends with the same refrain: “the Lord was with Joseph, and whatever he did, whatever Joseph put his hand to, the Lord made it to prosper.”
Joseph was a successful man as God poured His blessings on and funneled His blessings through His servant, this man, Joseph. We notice those parts of the passage, don’t we? We want those parts of the passage to be true in our lives, also, don’t we? But, here’s what we must not overlook: Joseph’s success was not without its battles! Joseph’s prosperity was not a result of God’s putting him in some kind of protective bubble where there would be no wars and skirmishes! Rather, at the heart of what we need to see and learn about success, as it is measured and defined by God, is what we discover in the middle verses of this passage, the section dealing with Joseph’s war, his battle with a woman, a wistful woman and agent of the Tempter, who wanted him to give into lust!
The section we’re talking about here, the portion of the passage that deals with military success, begins in the sixth verse with the words, “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.” A blessing of God – physical beauty – a beauty that, I believe, in Joseph’s case, flowed from the inside out, that was more than skin deep, this gift of God upon his life could have been his Achilles’ heel. ‘Aw, come on Joseph… You’re young, you’re handsome, you’re single and unattached. And, remember, I am your master’s wife, I could get you fired!’
Can you imagine the enticement all of that must have been to Joseph? I mean, who would know? His parents wouldn’t know. They were in another country. He hadn’t seen or heard from them in years! His master wouldn’t know. Surely, she wouldn’t tell on him. Who would know?
It’s not written there in some many words, the phrase that is so prominent in the first and last halves of the chapter, “The Lord was with Joseph”, that phrase that encapsulates the Emmanuel principle, is not written there in black and white, but, listen. It’s there! Believe me, it’s there!
How can you tell? Two things, two indicators that the Lord was with Joseph as he walked through this landmine. Number one, his words, what Joseph said shows that the Lord was with him. And, secondly, his deeds, what Joseph did shows that the Lord was with him there on that battlefield. Take a look: I mentioned it to the Sunday School class last Lord’s Day, but I want all of you to see it today. This woman, Potiphar’s Wife, who is in many ways like the strange woman, the immoral woman, that Solomon warned his sons against in the Book of Proverbs, notice how she uses her words. Take a look at what she does. Verse 7 – Prompted by longing eyes of lust and an empty, wicked heart, this woman doesn’t waste time with small talk: she just blurts it out: “Come to bed with me, you, handsome devil, you!”
Sounds like a proposition from a street walker in the red light district, doesn’t it, fellows? And, who wouldn’t be flattered by it, right? That, by the way, is an appeal not only to the fleshly lust, but to pride! “Come to bed with me…” That’s what Mrs. Potiphar says with her words. “Come to bed with me…” “Come to bed with me…” “Come to bed with me…” It’s what I call the ‘broken record’ approach. Take a look at verse 10 and you’ll get the picture. “Come to bed with me…” That’s what this audacious flirt says with her mouth. Those were her words. But notice the words Joseph uses in reply. Unlike the foolish Israelites, who several hundred years later said to Moses, “We will go up to the place which the Lord has promised,” (Numbers 14:40). We will go up and fight this battle and win. We will… And, sadly, Israel lost, was soundly defeated at the hands of the Amalekites and Canaanites – why? Because “the Lord was not with them…” (Numbers 14:42-43).
Notice, the words of Joseph as he stood toe-to-toe with this temptation and this enemy. There were no boastful forecasts of what he was going to do, on his own! No! Look! Instead, with is words, Joseph draws a line in the sand. He marks off the moral boundaries which governed his life. He says,
“But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9)
When the heat was on and the hormones could have been also, Joseph glorified God. With his words, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin – SIN – against God?” With his words, Joseph honored God. But, words, you know, are a dime a dozen. ‘Talk is cheap’ is how my mother puts it. In other words, character, the kind of moral character and strength it takes to win battles, to succeed militarily, must be more – way more – than hot air! It must be backed up, followed up, by what? Actions!
Take a look at verse 10, would you, please? A lot of people, when they are pummeled with a continuing barrage of verbal assaults like Mrs. Potiphar used - that day-after-day, morning-after-morning, noon-and-night, ‘broken record’ approach – a lot of people give way and cave in when attacked like that. How come? Because they run out of air! Because they get tired of the talk, the arguments, the verbal volleys back-and-forth. And so, they lose the war!
But, we’re wanting to know how to win the war, aren’t we? We’re in need of guidance, THIS lamp for our feet, and light for our path (the Bible), to succeed militarily, aren’t we? And, what is that guidance?
The Emmanuel principle, Joseph lived by the ‘God-is-with-me’ principle. How do we know that? We know that by what he said. Verse 8 and 9, on the battlefield of lust and pride, he glorified God with his words! “How can I do such a wicked thing, and sin against God?!” But, that’s not all! Joseph also demonstrated what it means to live by the Emmanuel ‘God-is-with-me’ principle, by what he did! Verses 11 through 15 – to put it bluntly, he ran! When the temptress tried to grab him, he remembered, “I must honor God now! I am a vessel of honor, sanctified and fit for His use – here – today. So, I must run!” And ran he did!
Military success, to win battles of the mind, body and spirit. To honor God and allow the Emmanuel, God-with-me principle, to guide what you do with your mind, your body, and with your spirit, that’s what it means to succeed! That is what our God is calling us to, when He says, “Set your hearts, your minds, your affections, on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God…” (Colossians 3:1-3) That’s what He intends to be worked out in our lives, when He says, “Flee sexual immorality…” “You are not your own! You’re not! No! You have been bought with a price! Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s!” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)