The common refrain that we will see in today’s passage is “the Lord was with Joseph.” This is unexpected since the last time we saw Joseph, he had twice been sold as a slave, first by his brothers to the Midianites, then by the Midianites to Potiphar. By ancient Jewish standards, one would certainly not believe that the Lord was blessing Joseph—more like cursing him as a slave!
However, God will not forsake Joseph. Even as Joseph gets sold into slavery, wrongly imprisoned, and forgotten, God remains with him. God continues to bless Joseph in such a way that others will see Joseph’s life and give glory to his God.
Please read Genesis 39:1-6.
In this passage we are told objectively that the Lord was with Joseph. But we are also told subjectively that Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph, and Potiphar attributed all of Joseph’s success to the Lord.
Why would Potiphar believe this? After all, Potiphar was an Egyptian, and not just any Egyptian--He was an officer of Pharaoh, and the captain of the royal guard. This was an Egyptian through and through. As such, he would have believed in the pantheon of Egyptian gods and he would have had no concept of the One True God. There is no natural reason for Potiphar to attribute Joseph’s success to Yahweh. The only reasonable conclusion is that Joseph himself told his new master about his God.
Most Egyptians were superstitious and believed in a god for nearly everything. They believed there was a god who gave them rain, another god who gave them a fruitful harvest, another god who made the sun go across the sky, another god who gave them good deals in the marketplace, another god who gave strength to their building materials, another god who caused their flocks to breed, another god who caused their wives to bear children, and many more. Yet, Joseph didn’t worship any of these ‘gods,’ and he still had success in all of their domain. We can safely assume that Potiphar was curious about the source of Joseph’s success, and Joseph told him about Yahweh.
When Potiphar saw how Yahweh blessed his slave, he was inclined to give Joseph more and more responsibility. As such, Potiphar received more and more of Yahweh’s blessings—to the point where Potiphar put Joseph in charge of all that he had so that Yahweh would bless it all.
There is a very important lesson for us here today: God does not bless us so that we can be happy and have success; God blesses us so that we can give Him glory and bless others.
While God was blessing Joseph, Joseph remained a slave. He remained betrayed by his brothers. He remained exiled from his home. He remained subservient to a master over even his own life. But, Joseph boldly gave God the glory as the source of his success—to the point where Potiphar saw that Lord was with him.
I don’t dare to presume that Potiphar became a follower of Yahweh. That would be reading far too much into this text. But, because of Joseph’s witness, this pagan Egyptian does gain a knowledge of the Holy One that he never would have had otherwise. Potiphar is given an opportunity to know God, and he tastes how blessed the follower of God is.
May we all live lives like Joseph. May we all allow God’s blessings to pour through us for the benefit of others—so that they too may be blessed and may begin to understand that these blessings come not from their false gods, but from the One True God, the Only God, Jesus Christ.