Joseph #4 “Living In The Lord’s Presence”
Genesis 39 September 19, 2004
INTRO: On our vacation this past summer we hiked up Harney Peak which
is the highest peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
On the top is a stone tower once used as a lookout for forest fires.
From the top of the tower you have a panoramic view of the Black Hills.
The problem we had when got there is that Adrienne doesn’t like heights.
The steps were very steep, almost like a ladder.
Openings you could look out of and see hundreds of feet down the mountain.
She said she couldn’t do it. But I told her I would be right behind—so started up.
From my perspective—I knew Adrienne was completely safe.
There was no danger of falling out of the tower and down the mountain.
Hundreds of people hiked the mountain and up the tower every day.
The steps were steep, but if her foot slipped, I would catch her.
In my mind, things were settled and secure.
From Adrienne’s perspective—she saw the heights, she felt the weakness in knees.
She knew I was behind her, knew other people had made it to top,
But it was a battle of her will to make self climb. She went up one step at a time.
And she made it, and was rewarded with the view. But for her, it was a struggle.
From my perspective, things were settled and secure—she was going to make it.
From her perspective, it was a struggle—that took an effort of her will.
That is a good description of the Christian life.
From the Lord’s perspective, things are secure with you.
You are in the Lord’s hands. You are not going to fall and be destroyed.
Things are settled. He is with you to bless you.
From your perspective, things are a struggle.
You face troubles and temptations that are very difficult.
Overcoming them takes a tremendous, sometimes heroic acts of your will.
The Bible speaks of the victory of Jesus on cross against all forces of evil.
Also says you have to stand and fight against an enemy who wants to devour you.
The Bible speaks of the heavenly country, your real home, prepared for you.
It also says that your life is a hard pilgrimage through hostile country.
The Lord says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
But he doesn’t shield you from all troubles, dangers, and temptations.
The Lord is with you, he will not let your foot slip. There is reward at the top.
But climbing that ladder takes exertion of your will against all sorts of forces
inside and outside that are pulling you back, urging you to stop, give up, give in.
I love this chapter in Joseph’s story. Such a vivid illustration of Christian life.
Seven times we are told that the Lord was with Joseph.
With him to bless him, to prosper him, to make him favorable to people,
to make other people successful through him.
Seven times told “the Lord” was with Joseph.
Five times at the beginning, when describing years as a slave of Potiphar.
Two times at the end, when unjustly thrown into prison.
Sandwiched between this seven-fold assurance of Lord’s presence is what?
The temptation Joseph faced with Potiphar’s wife.
Temptation that went on an on, came against him in different ways.
Was only overcome by a heroic struggle of Joseph’s will.
From Lord’s perspective Joseph was secure in his blessed presence.
From Joseph’s perspective he faced a struggle for his life.
You must constantly remind self of these two inseparable truths of Christian life.
I am secure because the Lord is with me.
I have to struggle with all my might.
You can’t forget or ignore either one—both must be held together.
Let’s look at the way this story illustrates both of these truths—
the security and the struggle of the Christian life.
MP#1 The security of the Christian life
The security of the Christian life is simply that the Lord is with you.
That is the way it is expressed in Joseph’s story and many other places in Bible.
Hebrews 13 “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”
Romans 8 “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.”
Psalm 121 “The Lord watches over you, he will not let your foot slip,
the Lord watches over your life,
the Lord watches over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
Seven times told in this passage that the Lord with Joseph,
blessing him, blessing other people through him,
causing other people to look on him with favor. Let’s look at these.
vs. 2 “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered
vs. 3 “when his master saw the Lord was with him . . .”
“and the Lord gave him success in whatever he did”
vs. 5 “the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph . . .
“the blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had (because of Joseph)”
vs. 21 “the Lord was with him, he showed him kindness and granted him favor . . .”
vs. 23 “the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success”
What does the Bible mean when it says that the Lord is with you?
What did it mean that the Lord was with Joseph?
You have to understand this for it to be a help to you.
It obviously doesn’t mean that you are shielded from all trouble.
The Bible never says becoming a Christian means stepping into a magic circle
that keeps you from all trouble.
Only have to look at Joseph to see that this is true.
He had lots of trouble. He was a slave in Potiphar’s house. Imprisoned unjustly.
There is not a single believer in the Bible who does not face trouble.
There is not a single Christian who has ever lived who has not had trouble.
Jesus Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Paul says, In this life you will have tribulation.
So what does it mean that the Lord is with you?
Two things. See both in Joseph’s story.
1. The Lord’s presence means that his purposes for your life will be
The Lord has a plan for you. That plan is to use your life for his glory.
No matter what twists and turns your life takes,
no matter how much trouble and hardship you suffer—the Lord is with you.
He is using all of that, even the bad things, to accomplish his good purposes.
You see this in Joseph’s story.
As I have said over and over—great thing about this story, we know the end.
We know how all the twists and turns, even painful ones part of God’s providential
plan to use Joseph as the savior of family and conduit of God’s grace.
It was terrible for Joseph to be sold into slavery.
But we know rest of story—Lord brought to Egypt to raise to position of power.
It was terrible to be tempted and falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife.
But we know rest of story—Lord used to refine his character so that he would
be a man of integrity when he came into this position of absolute power.
It was terrible to be thrown into prison.
But we know the rest of the story—Lord used to put in contact with a man
who would introduce to Pharaoh when the time was right.
If you are a Christian, when you look back over your life,
will be able to say the same thing.
The Lord’s purposes for my life have been accomplished.
He was with me even in times of trouble to bring about his good plan.
But when Joseph was falsely accused and thrown into prison, he didn’t have any
idea prison was going to be a pathway to the throne of Egypt—
and that’s part of the lesson too.
You don’t really have any idea how God is using all of these things—especially
trouble to accomplish his purposes in your life.
All you have are his promises that that is what he is doing.
You have examples of people like Joseph whose lives prove God’s good plan.
You have Savior Jesus Christ, whose suffering and death is your path to glory.
Ultimately, you have to accept the Lord’s presence by faith.
He is with you. Your life is secure in his hands.
2. The Lord’s presence means that he always gives you evidences of his watchfulness over your life.
The Lord didn’t keep Joseph from being sold into slavery.
But while he was a slave, Lord gave him success, caused Potiphar to notice him,
moved him into a position of authority in Potiphar’s house.
The Lord didn’t keep Joseph from being falsely accused and thrown into prison.
But while he was in prison, Lord gave him favor in eye of jailors,
gave him success in his work as a trustee so his imprisonment was softened.
A complainer might say—If God is so great, why didn’t he just keep Joseph
from being sold as a slave in the first place? Why didn’t he keep out of prison?
God could have, but he didn’t.
Instead, in the middle of those times of trouble—part of his plan—
he gave Joseph little evidences that he was not forgotten, but that Lord
was watching over his life.
Some friends of ours were on vacation recently, driving home,
wife became very sick, had to be hospitalized for a week in city passing through.
There they were, far from home and relatives, husband and four children.
Said in email that The Lord was with them—provided them place to stay,
gave them nurses and doctors who were sympathetic and competent.
Complainer could say—Why didn’t God keep her from getting sick in first place?
Why didn’t he wait until they got home from vacation?
He could have, but he didn’t. Instead, in the middle of that troubling time,
he gave them little but encouraging evidences they he was still with them,
had not forgotten them.
Some Christians are better at seeing the Lord’s hand than others.
But any time there is a softening of your troubles,
a relief or comfort that comes along in the midst of them—no matter how small—
that is the Lord’s presence.
Harlan Popov—Bulgarian minister who suffered under communists—time weeks
of being fed nothing but soup little more than water, found a bean, whole bean.
Knew the Lord is with him. All of you here given more than a bean.
MP#2 The struggle of the Christian life
The fact that the Lord is with you, your life secure in his hands does not mean
that you can put your life on cruise control. Not at all.
The Christian life is also a struggle.
It is a struggle against sin and temptation.
It is a struggle to obey and honor the Lord in all things.
It is a struggle to believe and live by the truth.
You are secure in the Lord’s hands and you have to struggle.
The struggle takes place in your will.
Will I obey or disobey. Will I honor Christ or dishonor. Will I believe or not?
Joseph’s struggle in this chapter is so helpful because it illustrates the way
this struggle is to take place in your life—two things stand out.
argument and action.
In the struggle of the Christian life you have to argue.
Have to argue with the devil, sometimes with other people, most often with self.
Potiphar’s wife said, “Come to bed with me.” And Joseph argued.
He argued with her—and he was also reinforcing arguments had made with self.
vs. 8 How can I do this—violation of the authority, honor, trust Potiphar gave me.
vs. 9 How can I do this—violation of the sanctity of marriage.
clincher: How can I do this and sin against God.
There are reasons not to sin—no matter how appealing a particular sin is.
There are reasons that are so serious that no Christian who looks them square
in the face and argue them with himself can go ahead an sin.
The reason we sin is that we forget these reasons. Or if remember, refuse to argue.
I’m not just talking about this particular temptation Joseph faced—all sin.
There are many arguments you can use.
The love of God. Jesus Christ sweating blood in Gethsemane.
The crown of thorns, the nails, the cross,
The presence of the Holy Spirit, danger of grieving him.
The damage to your own soul and conscience, fruitlessness of sinning.
The harm to people you love.
The victory that you will give Satan who absolutely hates you.
Giving an account before Christ. We could go on and on.
There is no shortage of arguments. Use them on yourself. Use against the devil.
Martin Luther wrote a letter to a friend of his who was struggling.
Said he heard about a man who carried a flute in his belt,
whenever his wife started to nag, would pull out flute and play merrily
until she was exhausted and left him alone.
Friend, that’s what you need to do to the devil when he tempts you.
Flute you get out and play are the arguments of Scripture.
I’ve focused on temptation—but applies to every struggle of Christian life.
Struggling with assurance? Despondent? Devil telling you worthless, hopeless.
You have sinned in the past and now using that to beat you over the head?
Maybe devil is even using this very chapter—you’re no Joseph.
He was a man of integrity—God can’t use you.
Argue with yourself and devil.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Argue with yourself and devil. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that we
might become the righteousness of God.”
Take communion to spite the devil. The body of Christ, blood of Christ—for me.
When Adrienne was climbing that tower, she was saying:
“OK, I’m not going to fall. Don’t look down.” Arguing with herself.
You must do the same in the arena of Christian life.
Argument has to be followed by action. Things that you have to do or not do.
vs. 10, after arguing, Joseph did all he could to avoid her completely.
He took action. Changed his schedule. Refused to be with her.
He actually did something to remove himself as much as possible
from the occasion of temptation.
When the final attempt came—when she found him alone, grabbed him—
with a decisive act of the will, he ran.
As drastic as it seemed—left his cloak in her hands and ran out of the house.
Joseph knew his own heart well enough to know that we like to get just as near
to temptations as we can without committing the sin.
Our love for sin is so strong, pains us so much to be separated from it—
even when we know it’s wrong, don’t actually do it, stay close to it.
You know gossip is wrong. You know the arguments against it.
You know it grieves Holy Spirit of truth, tears down people in God’s image.
But you love it. So you get as close as you can to it without doing it.
You call a friend who also likes to gossip.
You bring conversation around to person, maybe she will bring up rumor.
You know Lord wants you to use money wisely.
You know he will call you to account for wasting money, frivolous spending,
frivolous debt that has crippled your family finances,
kept you from giving generously to the work of the kingdom.
But go shopping anyway—I’m not buying anything, I’m just looking.
Do you see what action means? Cutting off the conversation.
Cutting up the credit card or the catalog. Those things are painful.
The Christian life is a struggle.
Once again, the focus on this chapter is on struggle against temptation.
But applies to many matters in Christian life.
After arguing with yourself—you have to take action.
You know God calls you to spiritual instruction of children.
You know the reasons. You know the arguments.
After supper—you have to reach over and pick up the Bible—read story.
At night—you have to go into their bedroom, lay down with them and pray.
You know Lord calling you to love your wife.
You know the arguments. Husbands love your wives.
After work—you have to talk to her, listen to her, do what he likes.
Adrienne could have talked to herself all day—had to put a foot on first step,
and then the next, and the next.
The Christian life is work. Fighting temptation is work. Obedience is work.
But it is glorious work. Wonderful struggle. Behind before, presence of Lord.