Introduction: Tom Swanston wrote that the life of faith is like a long-distance runner. He wrote: “There is a kind of loneliness. It is the spiritual loneliness in the zealous Christian who has outstripped his fellows in the race … I call this ‘the loneliness of the long-distance runner’ … To press on with Jesus in the path of full surrender means, almost inevitably, that the competitors thin out as the race proceeds. Many are left far behind. There is no loneliness in the world quite like this. It is unique and stands on its own. But the rewards are breathtaking. It was said of Mallory and Irvine (two of the first climbers to attempt Mt. Everest in 1924, who lost their lives on the high peaks) that, when last seen, they were heading for the summit. That’s the spirit!”
May this week’s Bible notes give us great encouragement as we see Joseph, all on his own humanly speaking, climbing towards the summit of greater communion with God – even from the depths of slavery and prison.
Monday: read Genesis 39:1-2. How comforting it must have been for Joseph, at the low point of being sold as a slave into Potiphar’s house, to know the presence of God. But if that was a comfort for Joseph, it was also encouraging for Moses, who wrote these words in Gen. 39:2: “The LORD (capitalized to indicate the great personal name of God, “Jehovah”) was with Joseph… .” This personal name “Jehovah” was fully revealed to Moses after years as a forgotten wanderer – first as an outcast from the court of Pharaoh, and then for forty years in the desert of Midian. After decades of loneliness, God called him at the burning bush using this name to reassure Moses that he and his Hebrew kin were not forgotten – see Exodus 3. Moses must have known the loneliness which Joseph endured as an enslaved stranger in Egypt. Both men experienced the comfort of this Divine Name, “Jehovah,” “The I am God,” who promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
Meditate and Pray: How do you handle times of loneliness, when you or one you love are set aside by affliction or forced to endure times when faith is tested? Learn the secret of the faith of Joseph and Moses: that God is MOST present with you as the unchangeable, personal LORD at precisely those times when you think Him least active and present on your behalf. As Frederick William Faber wrote in his great hymn, ‘Workman of God, O Lose Not Heart’:
“He hides Himself so wondrously,
As though there were no God;
He is least seen when all the powers
Of ill are most abroad.
Ah! God is other than we think,
His ways are far above,
Far beyond reason’s height,
Reach’d only by childlike love.”
Tuesday: read Genesis 39:1-6. What a comfort, even in the midst of Joseph’s dark years of slavery in a foreign land, that the LORD also gave him days of fruitful rewarding service in the house of Potiphar! As Moses writes: “The LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph … So Potiphar left in Joseph’s care everything he had” (Gen. 39:5-6). If you are a young Christian reading these Bible notes week by week you may wrongly conclude that the life of faith is nothing but one trial after another. Not so! God is able to make even the “desert” of Joseph’s sufferings in Egypt into fertile ground, with many joys.
Meditate and Pray: Thank the LORD that He still has the power to turn your deserts and trials into streams of blessing, bursting into blooms of joy, just as Joseph rejoiced in working for Potiphar. Ask God to give you contentment in your station in life, even as He did Joseph. Ask Him also to miraculously turn some of your driest times of desert despair into a blooming garden of fruitfulness – as He promises to do in Isaiah 35:1-6.
Wednesday: read Genesis 39:6-10. Great blessings in the midst of great trials, mercy in the middle of judgment, these are the rhythms of the life of faith. Even while God’s blessing causes Joseph to increase daily in the esteem of his master Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife begins to hatch a terrible plan of sexual betrayal of her husband, urging Joseph repeatedly in Gen. 39:7-10 to commit adultery with her – so much so that Joseph refuses even “to be with her” in Gen. 39:10.
We may marvel at the persistence and brazenness of Potiphar’s wife in her determined desire to sin. But even more let us marvel at the restraint which God gave Joseph, “delivering him from evil” even as we pray He will do for us daily in the Lord’s Prayer. God simply will not allow His own people to destroy their bond with their Savior. Though God does not restrain us from all sin (for His own wise Providence ordains that sometimes we fall into sin in order to be humbled, driven to our knees and driven into closer reliance on Himself), He does restrain us from any sin that would destroy our salvation. He will indeed keep us from the ‘hour of temptation,’ and from the outright breakdown of our faith.
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus that He prays for us as He did for Peter, “that our faith will not fail” (Luke 22:31-32). Even though Satan seeks to sift us like wheat, even though temptation rises daily with ever-increasing intensity, God’s preserving Grace at work in us is stronger. Praise His Name.
Thursday: read Genesis 39:11-20. Gen. 39:11 is surely one of the most chilling receptions ever given to faithful, God-honoring duty. Look at how Potiphar’s wife would tear her whole house down by pursuing her lustful plan towards Joseph. Did she not appreciate the stability and blessing which Joseph’s faithful “attending to his duties” (Gen. 39:11) brought on her husband’s whole estate? Would she throw everything out the window for the momentary seduction of this young Hebrew slave? That is exactly what she does, thereby fulfilling the words of Proverbs 14:1: “The wise woman builds her house but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”
No wonder her husband cannot bring himself to mete out the expected death penalty against Joseph as a slave ‘guilty’ of rape (which is the exact accusation against him in Gen. 39:13-18): Potiphar probably doesn’t believe his wife’s charge, and only displays rage in imprisoning Joseph in Gen. 39:19-20 to save face, and try to maintain some kind of home life with his tragically flawed wife! How bleak and lonely their house must have been without Joseph there in charge!
Meditate and Pray: Thank the Father that He has given us a far more competent and faithful “servant in charge of our house” even than Joseph. Christ Jesus is the faithful “household manager” whom we can trust with our lives, our wealth, our spouses, our children – all that we are and have (See Hebrews 3:5-6).
Friday: read Genesis 39:20-23. Look at how God’s faithful kindness (‘HESED’ is the Hebrew word for God’s covenant faithfulness used here in Gen. 39:21 for the first time) makes Joseph stronger than all his foes and able to rise above his painful imprisonment. No ploy of the Devil can stop Joseph from “faithfully attending to his duties,” so much so that, with the same level of trust which Potiphar had shown, Joseph is rewarded by the warden with the complete run of the prison in Gen. 39:22-23! Evidently Joseph had “good works ordained by God” to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10) and not even all the powers of Hell could prevent those good works from being successfully carried out!
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus that the same Spirit who ensured that Joseph would have the strength, faith and opportunity to “attend to his duties,” the same Spirit who would not allow the Devil through Potiphar’s wife to derail Joseph’s all-important work in Egypt, also works even more mightily through the Son of God in His ministry. When He comes into our lives to set up His dwelling place within us and to attend to His duties as Joseph did, no one can drive Him away by lies, attacks or any other kind of ploy! Jesus is, in terms of Matthew 12:28-29, the “Stronger Man” who can enter the “Strong Man’s” house and plunder all the Devil’s possessions. Thank Jesus right now that He never surrenders His place of service in our lives. When Satan comes against Christ at home within us, as he attacked Joseph in his place of service, Jesus always wins, for Satan has “no hold on Christ” in our lives, as John 14:30 tells us. Hallelujah!