I’m sure you’re praying for the people of Ukraine, their President, Russian soldiers, and the refugees fleeing for their lives. We intercede through pray or service for a better quality of life for others in far-away countries. While a few people can now go to Poland or other countries, some volunteers and missionaries were already in that region of the world. Now they can influence others by their faithful service more than they imagined, knowing that God has placed and kept them there. Sometimes the best influence Christians can have with unbelievers is by godly living where God has placed us. We know that his presence and supernatural providence are better than any plan we might have about how to serve him best. Christ hasn’t saved us to be safe, comfortable, and surrounded by Christians, but to influence our world. Jesus taught us to be light in a dark world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) Should we not be a blessing to every one by God’s favor on us through Christ? We have a great example in the Old Testament account of Jacob’s son Joseph. His story takes up twenty chapters in Genesis and leads to the beginning of Israel’s establishment in Egypt. The Lord’s favor rested on Joseph, in his low position, when he was sold into Egyptian slavery. Despite his sorrowful providence, He blessed his master’s household, giving his master peace. We might also wonder what God did for Joseph’s master spiritually.
The Lord Was With Joseph
After his brothers sold Joseph into slavery, Joseph found himself in the home of an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh named Potiphar. After a time of service, Joseph’s master entrusted everything he had to Joseph, including his food and finances. We are told that Potiphar actually “saw” that God was with Joseph. “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. (Genesis 39:2-6) “Although Joseph was certainly hardworking, the chief emphasis of his story is not on hard work but rather on the fact that the Lord whom he served was prospering him. This is the dominating theme of Genesis 39, where it is repeated seven times…It is an aspect of God’s blessing on Joseph at this time that others, especially Potiphar, were blessed for his sake. Indeed, we might argue that Joseph’s blessing was chiefly their prosperity since he (for the time being at least) was not particularly prospered. This is a theme that greatly interested Martin Luther, for he was convinced that the world’s blessings are not for the world’s sake but for the sake of the people of God who live in it…Luther stated, ‘The world cannot boast of being worthy of its physical life for even one moment, but that on account of the gospel, baptism, and the forgiveness of sins God bounteously bestows all things even on [our] most wicked and worst enemies.’ Luther said that the world does not acknowledge or believe this. But it is interesting that in this case at least, one unbeliever did: Potiphar. He was closest to the situation and saw that God was with Joseph and was the source of his success. Thus, Joseph’s life brought praise to Jehovah from an important officer in a pagan realm. Has your life had that effect on the ungodly?” (1) Clearly, both Joseph and Potiphar were blessed by God, and we know that this blessing was only the beginning of Joseph’s influence on both Egypt and Israel. The blessing of God’s presence is for us and the world.
Seeing the Lord at Work
“The Lord was with Joseph…And his master saw that the Lord [was] with him…He knew nothing of the spiritual and gracious presence of God that was with him, he was no judge of that; but he perceived by the ingenuity of his mind, by his ready and speedy learning the Egyptian language, by his dexterity in business, and by the prudence and faithfulness with which he did everything, that he was highly favoured by the divine Being…and though Potiphar might have no knowledge of the true Jehovah, whose name he uses…knowing Joseph to be an Hebrew, as it is plain his wife did (39:14); and Jehovah to be the God of the Hebrews, he imputes all the prosperity that attended Joseph and his services unto his God. And Joseph found grace in his sight…In the sight of his master, as he did in the sight of God, he had favour both with God and man… Potiphar’s family was blessed with health, his substance increased, he grew rich and wealthy, and abounded with all good things:and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house…every thing belonging to him within doors and without happily succeeded, through the blessing of God upon it. (2) “Our enemies may strip us of outward distinctions and ornaments; but wisdom and grace cannot be taken from us. They may separate us from friends, relatives, and country; but they cannot take from us the presence of the Lord. They may shut us from outward blessings, rob us of liberty, and confine us in dungeons; but they cannot shut us out from communion with God, from the throne of grace, or take from us the blessings of salvation…Good men are the blessings of the place where they live.” (3) The Lord’s grace on Joseph, blessing him in his low position, also blessed his master’s household and gave them peace. We also might be a blessing to those around us by God’s favor on us through Christ. And by God’s mercy, others may see the grace of Christ through our blessedness.
Joseph’s Blessed Christ-Likeness
“You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-44) “God hates evil, but he still brings many blessings in this life even to his enemies by means of ‘common grace’… These blessings are intended to lead unbelievers to repentance (Acts 14:17; Rom. 2:4)…God shows grace and care for all of his creatures; therefore Jesus’ disciples are to imitate God and love both neighbor and enemy…[Christians’] transformed lives should result in behavior that shows significantly greater love.” (4) The gospel of Jesus Christ is the best influence; it is given to us to bring people from all tribes, nations, and people groups into the kingdom of God. “What emerges from this is a Christian approach to success in which we, first, please God and seek his blessing and, second, do this over a long period of time. But we are not to think that our service is Godward only, still less that it is to be exerted in merely ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘practical’ ways. It should also be evident from these verses that, whatever Joseph did, he certainly did not neglect the interests of his master and he worked zealously to be sure that those interests were furthered. In other words, God blessed Joseph through Joseph’s own hard work…Joseph plunged ahead to learn the language, master the trades, and acquire management skills. It must have taken long hours and genuine interest, but Joseph kept at it…Luther said, ‘Accordingly, Joseph was not only good and chaste, and not only diligently poured out prayers to God for his master, for the king, and for the whole land of Egypt, but he was also a most vigilant overseer and manager of the domestic tasks.’ Is this not our responsibility as well?” (5) How motivated are we to be a blessing to others by God’s favor on us through Christ? Proverbs teaches us that “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” (Proverbs 25:25) “Heaven is a country afar off; how refreshing is good news from thence, in the everlasting gospel, which signifies glad tidings, and in the witness of the Spirit with our spirits that we are God’s children!” (6)
Related Scripture: Genesis 12:1-3; 18:18; 22:17; 30:27; 39:21-23; 45:7-8; 50:20; Psalm 1:1-3; 105:16-22; Acts 7:9.
- Boice, James, “Boice Expositional Commentary Series,” Genesis 39:1-6, Baker Books, Software version, 1998.
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Genesis 39:2-6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis-39.html
- Henry, Matthew, “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible, Genesis 39:1-6, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/genesis-39.html
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Matthew 4:43-44, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Boice, Ibid.
- Henry, Proverbs 25:25, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhn/proverbs-25.html
March 24, 2022