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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

August 17, 2016

Genesis 38:27:30, 39:1-20

  1. Chapter 38:27-30. Recapping from last week, we are reminded that Tamar wanted children. But was hindered by her father-in-law. We recall how she was able to conceive by pretending to be a temple prostitute. God intended for her to have children, but Judah tried to prevent it. Tamar had two sons: Perez and Zerah (38:27-30). The twins were God's gift to Tamar to compensate for the lack of children from her two husbands. Perez was the first of the twins born. Though born of a dysfunctional relationship, Perez became the ancestor of David (Ruth 4:18-22), who in turn became the ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:3). Tamar and Judah were not examples of godliness, but both were in the family line of Jesus Christ the Messiah, through Perez (Ruth 4:12; Matt 1:3).

  2. Genesis 39:1-3. The title “Potiphar” means “he whom Ra gives.” Ra was the name of an Egyptian god. Potiphar is called “the captain of the bodyguard,” which means he was in charge of the palace police, with the power of life and death, under the supervision of Pharaoh. Now, it was not a coincidence that Joseph ended up in this man's home. Unbeknownst to Joseph, the Lord had sent him to Potiphar’s house to prepare him for the important task which lay ahead, that of serving as the second highest official in the land of Egypt. But in order for this to happen, Joseph first had to learn the language, culture, business, and politics of Egypt. As Joseph worked he was granted favor by God in all that he did. Good reports reached the ears of Potiphar, who then brought him into his house. The LORD was with Joseph. The theme of this narrative is found in the statement: “The LORD was with Joseph” (cf. Acts 7:9). The divine name “LORD” (Yahweh) appears eight times in this chapter (39:2, 3 [twice], 5 [twice], 21, and 23 [twice]) but only one other time in the eleven remaining chapters of Genesis (49:18). In the same way, you and I must understand that as we walk with the Lord, He too will be with us. Even though the circumstances of life may not seem to go our way, God is in control. He will orchestrate His purposes behind the scenes. We can lean on Him. He will be faithful to us. God was blessing Joseph so well, that even Potiphar had to declare that there was a divine blessing on Joseph. God's blessing upon Joseph was not ordinary prosperity--it was phenomenal and unexpected, because even Potiphar had to admit that the Lord was with Joseph and was causing him to prosper. This was not only God's will for Joseph's life, this is God's will for your life. He wants you to live a supernatural life that attracts the recognition of the world. He longs for your boss, your coworkers, your neighbors, and your family members to see the presence of God in you. A man or woman that has the favor and blessing of God resting on him or her will have to be acknowledged by the world.

  3. Verses 4-6. Since the Lord was with Joseph, he was promoted to personal servant, to Potiphar’s overseer (i.e., Executive Director). And God blessed everything that Joseph did. The verse ends by stating that Joseph was very handsome. This is to give understanding to the temptation he would face due to his physical appearance.

  4. Verse 7. Our story picks up some steam. Moses records these fateful words: “It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.”’ Please notice something very important. Verse 7 begins with the words, “It came about after these events...” The natural question to ask is: After what “events?” The answer: God's prospering of Joseph. Temptation often comes when we least expect it. Joseph is exactly where God wants him to be and he is simply minding his own business. Satan tempts us then in order to destroy our testimony. Serious believers threaten him. Temptation often blindsides us in the moment of our greatest success, because that is when we least expect it. Temptation successfully resisted prepares us to do greater things for God. Moses records that Potiphar’s wife “looked with desire at Joseph.” The Hebrew reads, “she lifted up her eyes toward,” an expression that emphasizes her deliberate and careful scrutiny of him. Many men think they are more desirable than they actually are. But in this particular case, Joseph didn't misread the signals--he was directly propositioned. Mrs. Potiphar’s pickup line was, “Lie with me.” For a woman to be this forward he must have been very handsome. Please notice though, it was after Joseph’s rise to power and position that the physical attractiveness of Joseph registered with Potiphar’s wife. There is little chance that she would have had any interest in a mere slave. But a man who had great leadership abilities and good looks--well, that was an irresistible combination.

  5. Verses 8-10. Joseph used three reasons for not giving in to temptation (1) the abuse of trust, (2) an offense against her husband, and (3) a sin against God. This is what it means to be above reproach. Joseph is concerned about his integrity, the institution of marriage, and his fellowship with God. What a man! An important theological point is being made here: Our sin is never private. Every time we sin, we sin against God. And in a certain sense our sin is always against Him alone (Ps 51:4). What would you do in a similar situation? If you haven’t spiritually and mentally prepared for such a temptation, you might find that you are unprepared in the heat of the moment. In 39:10, Moses writes, “She spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.” I’m sure she dressed seductively and touched Joseph as often as possible in her effort to break down his resistance to an adulterous affair. She likely had all kinds of one-liners in her repertoire: “Potiphar is gone for the day.” “No one will ever know.” “Just this once!” “Potiphar hasn't been a very good husband...I deserve some happiness too, don't I?” “Just come close and hold won't go any further.” “We won't be hurting anyone.”

  6. Verses 11-12. This woman was all over Joseph. She tried to grab Joseph and take him to bed. She was a woman who was unaccustomed to hearing the word, “NO!” Joseph had on a tunic. This means there was a struggle involved here as Joseph sought to free himself. Can you imagine? Mrs. Potiphar is seductively screaming, “Lie with me!” and Joseph is trying to break free from her. What a sight this must have been! I imagine for a split second Joseph paused to consider his alternatives. Instead, Joseph ran! Don't fall like Samson, David, and Solomon. Be like Joseph...flee. It is possible to be pure in the 21st century. But it requires a pure mind, quick feet, and God's grace. Joseph could have used his misfortune as a justification to sin, but he sticks with being pure unto the Lord.

  7. Verses 13-18. All of a sudden, Mrs. Potiphar is left holding the bag...or better yet, a pile of dirty laundry. What is she to do? She can't admit that she has been coming on to Joseph for many days. So she pulls the race card and blames her husband for bringing in a “Hebrew” to rape her. Mrs. Potiphar uses the phrase “make sport” in 39:14 and 39:17. After this pathetic sob story, Mrs. Potiphar left Joseph's garment beside her until Potiphar came home (39:16). In 39:17-18, Mrs. Potiphar blamed her husband for what took place.

  8. Verses 19-20. Potiphar’s reaction to this situation was that “his anger burned.” The statement is deliberately ambiguous, not asserting whether his anger is directed at Joseph or his wife. Potiphar is in a difficult position here--he cannot discount his wife's accusation without publicly humiliating her, even if he was certain she is lying. The action he takes against Joseph is as minimal as it can be and still retain his family's honor. Potiphar “took him and put him into the jail.” Attempted rape was a capital offense. The milder punishment suggests that Potiphar does not believe his wife. He probably knows her character. If Potiphar believed his wife and was truly angry with Joseph, Joseph would have probably been executed on the spot, no questions asked. Furthermore, the king's prison was a place for political prisoners and would hardly have been expected to accommodate foreign slaves guilty of crimes against their masters. Another very telling observation is that the prison is in the basement of Potiphar’s house (cf. 40:3, 7). Joseph was thus demoted. He was banned from the penthouse and bound in the prison. He went from the top floor to the basement. I can visualize Potiphar going down to Joseph each day to discuss the stock market, the economic conditions of the country, and all of the areas, which used to be under Joseph's direct control. Now he was only a consultant. Potiphar is a very shrewd man. In reality, Joseph's imprisonment by Potiphar was an answer to his persistent prayers: “Lord, protect me from this woman.” Where could Joseph be safer than behind the bars of a dungeon? The prison was God’s chosen location to further develop Joseph's leadership skills and the setting of a very important future divine appointment between Joseph and the cupbearer of Pharaoh. This should also remind us of another principle: Those who resist temptation are rarely rewarded by the world. But overcoming your temptations like Joseph prove personal integrity, promote spiritual maturity, and prepare for fuller opportunity.

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