Although we find his name in the chapter which lists the giants of faith, Joseph is not listed with these giants inHebrews 11. He is simply mentioned as one whose sons Jacob blessed leaning on his staff. This, however, in no way minimizes the great faith that he had, even though it may come as somewhat of a surprise to us. We may have expected to find his name with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with Moses and Rahab, Gideon and Barak. Where do we read of Barak doing anything in the way of walking by faith that compares with what is written of Joseph in Genesis 39 when he resisted powerful temptations of Potiphar’s wife? How brightly Joseph’s faith shines on the background of his father’s weakness and his brothers’ carnality. But let us beware lest we in conceit sin by thinking that our choice of candidates for the display of saving faith is superior to that of the Holy Spirit Who gave the list which we have.
There are several other amazing facts recorded concerning the life of Joseph. His father, who is listed as such a giant of faith, also displayed some tremendous spiritual weaknesses; and his mother likewise set a very pathetic example for the children. If she had faith in God, nothing recorded in Holy Writ underscores it or calls it to our attention. And yet, here is a son, born to these parents, who stands up in faithfulness to God in most powerful temptations. Let it be remembered that what our parents are will determine whether we will be taught the truth, and to what degree, and whether we shall be taught His law, and how strongly. But it will not determine whether we will believe that truth, and whether we will keep that law. What God gives us will determine that. What the Spirit of Christ does in us will determine whether and to what degree we will walk in truth and in good works. Not the faithfulness of the parents produces faith in the children, but the faithfulness of God to His covenant promise to give to the seed of the woman hatred of the devil and all his works, and a love toward God.
And the most wonderful statement in Genesis 39:1-3 is that “The Lord was with him.” Joseph was obedient, and he was faithful in most amazingly trying circumstances. Consider that he had no human supervision of his spiritual life at all in Potiphar’s house. Potiphar was an unbeliever who demanded of Joseph only faithfulness to his whims and wishes. Joseph was far removed from his father’s eye. There were no elders or deacons to observe his going in and coming out so far from home. Children like to leave their parent’s home to be free to follow their flesh without rebuke or frown. That was not Joseph. Given his wishes he would be back in his father’s presence. All he had was the eye of God upon him as far as supervision goes. But above and beyond that he had the love of God in his heart; and that kept him in the narrow way, even in most powerful temptations by a scheming and bold sexpot. But the hand of God was with him.
O, yes, that means that God blessed him and prospered him in what he set out to do. But it also explains why he stood so strongly in a walk of faith and obedience to God and man. With His hand God works for His people, but also upon and in His people. And this hand of the Lord with him, was not simply with Joseph’s hand in his works to prosper him in what he did, but with his soul, his mind, his heart. God is first with us, and His hand first takes hold of our hearts and minds before He prospers us in our way. Blessings come only in the way of a walk of faith. And a walk of faith comes by the gracious hand of God that is not against us but with us so that we walk with Him.
Let all shut-ins and afflicted children of God take note. Joseph was a slave, was in exile, was a lonely young man completely cut off from those he loved and whose fellowship he desired. But this was not because God’s hand was against him. That hand of God was working all things together for Joseph’s exaltation and restoration to his father, yea to undreamed of exaltation. Let no child of God in his sufferings and miseries think that God has forgotten or forsaken. Let that child of God wait until God’s work with him is finished. In heavenly glory all the saints shall see that God’s hand was with them for good and not against them for evil. Even in the way of misery and suffering the child of God prospers. His way is always upward and forward to unheard of joys and blessings.
In that light we must see the imprisonment and debasement of Joseph because of a deceitful siren. She is God’s tool as well as Satan’s. And she is God’s tool first; and Satan as well is His tool. God is behind all this history; and because His hand is with Joseph, Joseph prospers through his sufferings. As David wrote in Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” He shall reach that heavenly joy because mercy and goodness follow him in this life. And that these follow him does not mean that he does not enjoy them now but will in the future. It means that these are powers of God that are behind him to direct him and impel him toward that glory. They pursue him. They follow him, not like a wagon follows the horses, but as a man is behind the wheelbarrow to push it ever onward and forward till the work is finished.
It was that mercy and goodness that was under and behind Joseph; it was that hand of God that was with him, that sustained him in the powerful temptation of this bold, sensuous woman. We read that Joseph was a goodly person and well favored. He made a very pleasing appearance, a clean-cut young man, not at all hard on the eyes, a manly youth. And then in the next breath we read that Potiphar’s wife “cast her eyes upon him.” He was sexually attractive to her, even though he made no attempt to be such. And after lusting after him for a time she made bold advances and came with a command, “Lie with me!” This did not happen only once or twice; for we read that it happened day by day. She sought in every way to wear him down. And Satan was working harder than she was. But behind it God was working all things together for Joseph’s good and for the good of His Church. And God’s hand was with Joseph to prosper him in his battle against his own lust.
You must not forget that! Joseph was not a cold, abnormal child with no body chemistry like that of his brother Reuben who went in unto his father’s concubine, or his brother Judah who turned in unto one who he thought was an harlot. What young man today would have stood as Joseph did? He had gotten in the good graces of Potiphar. Now he could do the same with his wife, to be needed by her and protected by her and sought by her every time that Potiphar went on his many trips as officer in Pharaoh’s army. Joseph did not resist because of fear of being caught. He did not refuse because he had no emotions and had no desires whatsoever for what she wanted him to do. Nor did he try to put her off with, “Not today, maybe sometime in the future.” He did not stall for time. He set an example for our young people. He called it SIN, and let it be known that he had no interest in sinning against God. Try to put the tempter or temptress off in any other way, and he or she will come back. Fight with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and the enemy will hate you. Put on the whole armour of God, and you will be protected from his fiery darts.
It is true, this sex-pot did not take No for an answer. And in spite of Joseph’s use of that sword of the Spirit, she came back day after day. This was only because she did not know what the word sin means. She knew not God. She knew no sin against Him. But young people in the church, tempted by young people in the church, should by all means fight with that sword of the Spirit of the whole armour of God. And they should never date with those who know not God. They should not play with fire!
In all our trials there is that hand of God with us and under us that gives us the courage to say No to sin and Yes to righteousness. No temptation is greater than His grace. When His goodness and mercy are behind us, no force can come up against us to push us back into sin and unbelief. And whereas we live in a day and age when sensuous men and women abound, and lewd magazines—to say nothing of lewd, enticing dress, or better undress—married and unmarried alike need that whole armour of God. Even as Potiphar’s wife did not let up or give in, so the wicked world around us today multiplies its attacks on the church. Satan is out to get us and our youth. Fight him, and the hand of God will be with you.
Crafty this woman was. When Joseph fled and left his garment in her hand, new deviltry arose in her heart. Him whom she lusted so strongly after in what the world calls love, erotic love, she now hates vehemently and plots his undoing. And Joseph was handed over to the keepers of Pharaoh’s prison on circumstantial evidence and without even a word which he might speak in his own behalf.
We would be inclined to ask, “Did Potiphar not know what kind of wife he had?” He must have known her and her ways. She was no foreigner to him. That she was a liar may not have been impressed upon his mind. He might not have found her lying to him or around him. But he certainly knew her sensuous nature, and her aggressiveness therein. But we must not forget that hand of God upon Joseph. It was after all His hand with Joseph that handed him over to the keeper of the prison. This could not have happened without His hand directing all those who served this purpose. And that hand of God went with him into the prison where soon enough he is once again exalted in servitude. We read, “But the mercy of the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” God had not failed him. He had not withdrawn His hand. It was His hand that brought Joseph into the king’s prison. Long before this it was the hand of God that brought him into the service of Potiphar who was captain of the guard, a man who could throw his enemies into the king’s prison.
But lest we conclude that Joseph was having coat trouble—first the coat of many colours that made his brothers envy and hate him; and now the coat Potiphar gave him, which his wife used to get revenge upon him for snubbing her in her carnal cravings—let us consider that God’s people do not have coat trouble. Fig-leaf aprons that men make cannot help us; coats that men may give us, coats that men may snatch from us and use to condemn us to death, cannot hurt us, because we have robes provided by God, robes of righteousness washed in the blood of His Son. Joseph’s coat was soaked in animal’s blood and brought Jacob great grief. Christ’s robe was taken from Him and His blood was shed that we might have robes that justify us before God, even though we have sinned against Him over and over again. And these robes of the righteousness of Christ will not testify against us and cause us to be thrown into the pit, but cover our sins and bring us to unspeakable exaltation in that day when, the hand of God being with us, He will with His hand send back that Son, Who was also falsely accused and nailed to a tree, but rose on account of our justification. In the days of the Antichrist the world may strip us naked, and falsely accuse us. But we have garments of righteousness that make us exceedingly rich.