Genesis 39-40

Out Of Sight, But Not Out Of Mind

“…the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful. Genesis 39:23 NET

In the previous three chapters, God seemed no where to be found. He was mentioned only once in the entire text, yet He was there – behind the scenes orchestrating and controlling events that to us looked completely out of His control. And now, as we pick up the rest of the story of Joseph, God seems to be everywhere. And there is a phrase that is repeated over and over again in this passage that should be a real source of comfort and encouragement to those of who are children of God and Christ-followers: “the Lord was with Him.” This story is full of the ups and downs of a young man’s life. It all started with Joseph being sold into slavery by his own brothers – all out of jealousy and the desire for revenge. He did nothing to deserve their actions – other than share with them a dream that they didn’t particularly like the meaning of. Yet they sold him to a band of Ishmaelite slave traders. They take him to Egypt, bound in chains, and sell him to Potiphar, the caption of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. But what does the text tell us? “The Lord was with Joseph.” Not just at this point, but He had been with Joseph all along the way. It is no coincidence that Joseph ended up in Egypt and was sold to this particular man. God was with Him. God was in complete control of the circumstances. And He made Joseph “successful.” We are told that “the Lord made everything he was doing successful” (Genesis 39:3 NET). Now keep in mind, Joseph was still a slave. He was still a long way from home. He was still suffering the injustice forced upon him by his own brothers. But the Lord was with him.

Everything was going great for Joseph. His presence in Potiphar’s house was even having a positive impact on his master. Things were looking up. Then the bottom falls out again. This time he is falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife – all because he turned down her sexual advances. But wait a minute! Wasn’t the Lord with him? Had the Lord left him? No. The Lord was with him and knew exactly what was going on. He had other plans for this young man and it was going to include imprisonment. The next thing we know, Joseph is in prison under false charges. He is innocent, but incarcerated none-the-less. His stock had dipped, but His God had not abandoned him. “But the LORD was with Joseph there, too, and he granted Joseph favor with the chief jailer” (Genesis 39:21 NLT). Now be honest. If you had been Joseph, wouldn’t your natural reaction to these circumstances have been to conclude that God had somehow left you or abandoned you? How could this be in God’s will? Why would a good and loving God allow this to happen to you? But the Lord was with Joseph there – even in the middle of prison. And the Lord made everything he did successful – even in prison!

But God was not done. Because in chapter 40 we are introduced to two characters who would have a profound impact on Joseph’s life. They would used by God to help introduce another new chapter into the story of Joseph and the story of God’s redemptive plan for His people. Chapter 40 ends on a negative note. It simply says, “Pharaoh’s cup–bearer, however, promptly forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought” (Genesis 40:23 NLT). Joseph had done this man a favor, and asked him to extend a favor in return. But he forgot all about Joseph. We are left with a picture of Joseph sitting in prison – forgotten and alone. But was he? No, the Lord was with him. The Lord had always been with him. The Lord was directing his path and determining his destiny. God was not done with Joseph yet. But if we stop here in the story, we will wrongly conclude that all is lost. We will falsely determine that Joseph has been abandoned by God. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Now think about this. Is God with you? Is He part of your life story? Is He behind the scenes orchestrating events and determining outcomes? It might be easy to conclude that He is not because of how things have turned out. But what if Joseph had done that? What if Joseph had decided that God was nowhere in his life story just because he had been wrongly imprisoned and unjustly forgotten? We can’t judge the presence of God based on our circumstances. He is there, regardless of how things may appear to be going for us – and He can prosper us even in the midst of difficulty. He has a bigger and better plan for you than what your current circumstances seem to indicate. In fact, difficulty can be a lousy determiner of God’s proximity. Things may not look like they’re going too well, but that does not mean God is uninvolved or out of control. The loss of a job does not indicate the loss of God’s favor. It may just be the opportunity to learn to trust Him. It could be your opportunity to see Him work in ways you never would have expected. Would Joseph have chosen to be sold into slavery? Did he enjoy being falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit? Was he happy at the prospect of being left to die in prison? NO! But he was learning a valuable lesson. He was learning to see the hand of God in his life. Did he fully recognize it at this point? Probably not. But there would come a day when he would look back over the span of his life and see the unmistakable hand of God over every event and circumstance he had ever encountered. God had been with Him. And God is with you!

Father, You are with me. I can’t always see you, but You are there. Thank You for reminding me that my circumstances cannot be the tool by which I determine your presence. Things are not always as they appear when You are involved. Because You are behind he scenes working Your plan to perfection. Prison could be a step towards promotion. Slavery could be a precursor to salvation. Help me rest in the reality that You are intimately involved in every circumstance of my life – whether I can see You or not. You are with me! Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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