Genesis 39
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Again the word of the Lord tries Joseph, but not so much now as the word of prophecy, but as the word of command, the doctrine of righteousness. "The Egyptian's house is blessed for Joseph's sake." "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man." A lesson on the true method of prosperity. A prosperous man is one who has the Lord with him -

1. To give him favor with fellow-men.

2. To teach him wisdom, and put things into his hand.

3. To give him the faculty of rule, and dispose others to trust him entirely.

4. To keep him pure from the vicious besetments of the world, both by his own personal chastity and by his courage and self-command in hours of temptation.

5. By delivering him when he is entangled in the meshes of the evil-minded. The bad woman's determination is thwarted. Mercy is shown him in the prison.

6. By making him a messenger of peace and truth, even in the very prison house of shame and misery. Notice again the elevation of Joseph's character.

1. His love of God. "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"

2. His love of man. "My master hath committed all to me - how can I wrong him so?

3. His confidence in the blessing of God on the upright and holy life. He knew that God would vindicate him.

4. His self-control. His circumstances were fearful temptation. Had he not been a virtuous man in his heart of hearts, he would have succumbed, and then pleaded, as so many do, the power of the flesh and of the tempting circumstances. Notice also how these characteristics do help one another when they are in the character, and how, when a man casts himself upon God, God makes the way of escape. Joseph was safer in prison than he was in his master's house. - R.

But the Lord was with Joseph, &c. Men would have thought, as they looked on the Hebrew slave, that he was God-forsaken. Not so. God blessed him. This was evidenced in the character he developed. The Lord was with him.

I. DISCRETION, THE RESULT OF A SENSE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. He did not betray trust, or presume on the confidence placed in him, or the kind treatment he received; nor did he unwisely run into danger.

II. DILIGENCE, THE OUTCOME OF A SENSE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. Toll kept off much temptation. If a slave by circumstances, he will yet do what he can to benefit his master. He worked under apparently hopeless conditions.

III. DEVOUTNESS, THE CERTAIN CONSEQUENCE OF A SENSE OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE. Joseph lived as under the eye of God. Hence when special temptations came he repelled them in the Divine strength. "How can I do this great wickedness?" &c. Joseph was neither to be persecuted out of his religion nor enticed from it. This is the brightest chapter in Joseph's life. He would not sin against himself, nor against God, who was with him. - H.

Joseph in slavery, yet the Lord was with him (cf. Revelation 1:9). Twice stated in this chapter. Outward prosperity is no test of God's presence (cf. Romans 5:3; 2 Corinthians 12:9). Often in times of trial God's presence is most clearly felt. When all dark below, the eye is drawn upwards. The world's good seen to be unprofitable (James 4:4). There is a sense in which God is always with all. He guides men's actions and course of life, whether they will or not. But while unbelief derives no comfort from this (Zephaniah 1:12), the knowledge of his presence gives peace to his people (Isaiah 26:3-12).

I. CHARACTER OF HIM WITH WHOM GOD WAS THUS PRESENT. A Godward mind - habitually living-as in the sight of God, though left alone (cf. Galatians 4:28). Fulfilled what his hand found to do. God's will was his rule of life. He resisted temptation (James 1:12); was faithful in the charge committed to him, though not of his own choice. Did not look upon the wrong he had suffered as excusing him from fidelity. This faithful spirit can spring only from thorough belief in God's love and care (1 John 4:19).

II. THE BLESSING OF GOD'S PRESENCE EXTENDED TO EVERY PART OF HIS LIFE. Not merely in the fact of his being carried to Egypt (cf. Acts 23:11), but in every incident God's hand is seen. His management of Potiphar's affairs was a training for rule over Egypt. His unjust accusation was a step towards his standing before Pharaoh. His experience in prison prepared him to be the deliverer of a nation (cf. Hebrews 2:18; Hebrews 4:15). Thus God's presence is something better and higher than merely a prosperous course. It is the certainty that everything that happens is ordered by infinite wisdom and love - is a step towards the fullness of joy (Deuteronomy 8:2). This holds good in spiritual experience not less than in temporal. A Christian is often led through times of darkness. Communion with God seems to be interrupted (Psalm 65:3; Romans 7:24). Temptation, opposition, difficulty in prayer make the soul sad. Yet the Lord is not absent; and these are all parts of the training by which he is preparing his servant for the fullness of blessing.

III. HE WITH WHOM THE LORD ABIDES (John 14:23; Revelation 3:20) IS A BLESSING TO OTHERS. So it was with Joseph. Potiphar, the jailer, Pharaoh, the Egyptian nation, were blessed through him. There is no such thing as keeping a blessing to ourselves; the very attempt destroys it as a blessing. Temporal possessions and powers, used selfishly, become vanity. They pass away, and leave no good, no joy behind. And so with spiritual good. He who has experienced the grace of God must care for others, or his own state will suffer (Proverbs 11:24). The more we partake of the mind of Christ, the more we learn that wherever he leads us, it is that we may be channels of blessing to others. - M.

And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hands all the prisoners that were in the prison, &c. Joseph is unjustly treated and thrown into prison. Here he makes the best of circumstances. He gains the confidence of the keeper. The keeper of the State prison is glad to find one like Joseph, to whom he can delegate much toil and responsibility.

I. DUTY DISCHARGED IN A SYMPATHETIC SPIRIT. He admits many to prison, and feels for all. He sees that it is but a step from the presence-chamber of Pharaoh to a vile prison. To those who found higher places slippery, and those who found the temptations of poverty too strong, he shows his pity. His own bitter separation from friends makes him sympathetic.

II. DUTY DISCHARGED IN A CHEERFUL SPIRIT. Generally he had a smile for the prisoners. They looked for it, and responded to it. The heart can give to the sad that which is better than gold - a cheerful helpfulness. Our gloom can lay extra burdens on others.

III. DUTY DISCHARGED IN A COURTEOUS SPIRIT. He would not trample on those already fallen. He inquires even into the cause of the sadness of the prisoners, and interprets for them dreams which had perplexed them. His own dreams had made him at one time elate, but they seem as yet far from being fulfilled. Still this only leads him to be more courteous to those who may also be doomed to disappointment. The sympathy, cheerfulness, and courtesy of Joseph made him eventually prime minister of Egypt. - H.

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