And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spoke to him, saying…
A superior man will manifest his superiority in any situation. In slavery, in prison, in exile, his worth will be disclosed and acknowledged. Joseph was a remarkable example of this. Though a prisoner in name, he soon was the actual warden. I invite attention to some of the lessons taught us by the experience and demeanour of Joseph in prison. Consider —
(1) What it is that gives one special power over men. Not great natural gifts merely, or original superiority of mind. Many people who possess these are without much influence. Neither is it the gifts of rank or fortune. Joseph had neither of these to commend him to favour. The Scriptures point to the true cause of his ascendency: "The Lord was with Joseph, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison"; and the latter committed to him the prisoners, "because the Lord was with him, and that which he did the Lord made it to prosper." Since he was a good man, and obviously enjoyed God's favour, he had influence and power over men. Right is mightier than wrong. As one clear, sweet voice singing in tune will bring a whole multitude of discordant voices into harmony with it, because it is right and they are wrong, and concord is superior to discord, so one godly man will prevail over many wicked. Men are always impressed by manifestations of a good conscience. They are persuaded that one who has a conscience void of offence toward God, is more likely to have one void of offence toward men also. His fidelity to his religious convictions wins their confidence. They will honour him, even though he vexes them by his scruples. Nicholas Biddle, we have been told, once had for a private secretary a Christian young man, whom he wished to keep at work on the Sabbath. The secretary objected to working on the Lord's Day. "I shall discharge you," said his employer, "if you do not conform to my wishes." The secretary was poor, and had, moreover, a widowed mother dependent upon him; but rather than violate his conscience by doing what he considered wrong, he gave up his place. A day or two after, Mr. Biddle was in the company of some gentlemen who proposed to start a new bank, and the question was, where should they find a suitable man to be its cashier? "I know of one," said Mr. Biddle; and he recommended to them his late secretary, saying, "He had too much conscience for my work, but none too much for the more responsible office you have." And through his recommendation the place was given to him. In no way can parents do so well for their children, or so certainly insure for them positions of power and influence, as by an early religious training.
(2) Joseph's demeanour in prison teaches the duty of patient accommodation to the situation in which God has seemed to place us. Evidently he tried to make the best of his prison life. He does not yield to despair and refuse to see any hope of good. He is cheerful and helpful to all about him, displaying there, in that uncongenial place, the same serenity of mind and the same religious faith as elsewhere. He rested in the Lord, and waited patiently for the manifestation of His will, never fretting over the peculiar hardship of his case, nor complaining because he was the innocent victim of the wicked devices of another. He believed that God would take care of him, and deliver him out of all his troubles. Though he could not see, what we see, that his prison was only a necessary way-station in his path to the lordship of Egypt, yet he knew that God was there, and that where God was it was safe for him to be, and not ill. His faith sustained him.
(3) Joseph's life in prison teaches that there is good work to be done everywhere. Joseph discovered new capabilities of service in that dismal office. He shed upon it a humane and softer light. He reformed old abuses and introduced new improvements. He did noble work there, work animated by pity and mercy; such work as we impute to angels in their ministries of compassion among the suffering and wretched. It was work, too, which blessed his soul in the doing of it, and which paved the way to that future greatness to which he was advancing. The same thing may be true of the worst situation in which a man may be placed. He can, if he will, ennoble it by good work; make it bright by deeds of love and mercy; make it a field of great usefulness to others, and tributary to his own subsequent advancement.
(4) Joseph's life in prison illustrates how all things work together for good to them that love God. "I have done nothing," he said, "that they should put me into the dungeon." It seemed a hard case. He was there through the slanderous spite of a bad woman. Falsehood and wickedness seemed to have triumphed over truth and innocence. But it was only that the person in whom they were represented might be the more exalted. Joseph's case reveals how God can make everything bend to His purpose.
(A. H. Currier.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.