Tag Archives: Joseph

The Favor of God in the Life of Joseph


If one were to summarize the life of Joseph it might well be this: Joseph experienced the favor of God, in good times and in bad, through the providential working of God, for his good and the magnification of the glory of God.

While Joseph is certainly the central human figure in Genesis 38-41, most definitely the passage is centered upon the actions and character of God, often moving through and in front of Joseph.

About 8 years ago, we touched on the providence of God in the life of Joseph and that is probably the most recognizable theme within the story of Joseph. However, there is an equally compelling work of God in the Joseph’s life.  It is primarily displayed as God’s favor towards Joseph, which again brings us to a worthy meditation.

In Genesis 39 we find Joseph, whom his brothers have sold into slavery, ascending to the highest position in the house of Potipher, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh.  Verse 2 of this chapter sets the tone for our discussion here and serves as a reminder that despite the circumstances, which of course were filled with adversity, God never left Joseph’s side, “The Lord was with Joseph….”  This concept is repeated a couple of verses later, but the effects are expanded, “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.” Gen. 39:5  This formula is used again and serves to frame this pericope in Genesis 39:23.

The principal question for us is, what does it mean that the Lord was with Joseph?  Summarily, we may call this the favor of God or the beneficence of God, to use the term from the Reformation Study Bible.

It would be enough for us if we observed this favor of God towards Joseph during times of prosperity.  For instance, if we read, “and the Lord was with Joseph” and found it occurring during a time of prosperity or blessing, it would likely be more palatable for us.  The difficulty, and what makes this even more worthy of our marvel, is that these statements are made after Joseph has been sold into slavery and again after he has been falsely accused and imprisoned.

The point is this:  often during our darkest or perhaps loneliest or perhaps our most adverse times, we get the impression not only that God is not for us, but that He is not even with us.  Yet the opposite is true and precisely what we see in the Joseph narrative.

Let’s pause to ponder this briefly.  Joseph, an Israelite by birth, is a slave in Northern Africa, Egypt to be precise, sold by his brothers no less.  Who did he have with him during this seemingly dry, deserted time in his life?  Noone…but God.

God’s favor towards Joseph was so abundant that it spilled over into the life and house of a pagan, Egyptian ruler, as seen in the verse above,  “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.”  Genesis 39:5  Have you ever considered that in your life, including your affliction, the favor that God may show you is so abundant that it positively impacts those around you?

Sometimes our inability to see God’s presence in our lives, particularly during difficulty, is because we are looking through the lens of circumstance, rather than through the lens of providence.  The former is blinding, the later is illuminating.  The former is crippling, the later is comforting.

God has promised to never leave us or forsake us and it is a promise that we should set our hope in.  A promise rooted and grounded in the love of the Father to send His only begotten Son to die, in the love of the Son who gave up His life willingly, and the love of the Spirit, who daily comforts us and brings to mind the aforementioned promises of God.


The Vertical Nature of Sin

“How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9b

Think of a time recently when you have sinned.  What was your response to it?  Did  you view it in it’s proper perspective or did you view it as something external that you did or didn’t do; an action or word maybe?  Was it primarily an offense to your neighbor or an offense to God?  These questions matter and the order of primacy is important, in fact, critical.

In Genesis 39, we are nearly in the middle of the historic narrative of Joseph’s life.  Having been sold into slavery by his brothers (Gen. 37) because of their jealousy and hatred of him, Joseph was shipped to Egypt.  Yet through the providence of God he found himself exalted to the position of overseer for all the house of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s and captain of the guard.  Soon Joseph, “handsome in form and appearance” (Gen. 39:6), caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife, who began to seduce him.  Upon refusing her advances, Joseph replies, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” and herein lays our subject, The Vertical Nature of Sin.

What if Joseph, perhaps we would view him today as a political assistant or aide, had surrendered to the advancements of his boss’ wife?  There would normally be two responses to an adulterous scandal such as this.  The first is usually the loudest voice, judgment from the world.  In our day, the media would’ve been in a frenzy over a political scandal such as this.  We can call this the “casting stones” response.  The world loves to throw stones and pile on when someone commits an “error” because it makes them feel better about their own imperfections.  Far from recognizing how short of the glory of God they have fallen, the world loves to measure their own value and “goodness” in terms of others.  “As long as I’m not as bad as that guy” is the normal response.  Largely, from this perspective we would not see it called sin, but instead a mistake or lapse in judgment.  It should go without saying that this response is ignorant and contrary to the Gospel.

A second response proceeds largely from the Christian worldview and it’s focus is on the sin, even calling it as such, but the primary direction of the focus is horizontal.  What I mean by this is the emphasis is placed on the relationships involved.  “How could ‘Joseph’ do this and destroy a marriage?”  “How could ‘Potiphar’s wife’ treat her husband so disrespectfully and cheat on him?”  “How could she commit adultery?”  “What about the kids?”  “What they did is just so terrible.”  Think about this.  How often do you hear these responses within Christian circles?  Are these responses wrong?  Not necessarily, but they miss the primary point.  Sin is not first against other people or even oneself, it is first and foremost against God.

Note Joseph’s response, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”  His chief concern was not whether he ruined his career with an “indiscretion”.  It was not mainly about how he might destroy a family or even be a disappointment to his own friends and family.  His focus was not horizontal at all, but was rightly concerned with his sin being an offense against the all-holy God.  This is the proper response and attitude toward sin, whether in our own lives or as we seek to bring a sinner to repentance, and it is from this direction that the horizontal aspect of sin can be rightly addressed.  Sin must be viewed first in light of the holiness of God in order to understand the magnitude of its offense.

We can hardly cast blame or be surprised at the world when she judges sin with a Pharisaical eye as in response one from above.  She is after all unregenerate and under the influence of Satan (though God is certainly sovereign). Our surprise should be when our brothers and sisters in Christ (or even ourselves) are first focused on the external, horizontal effects of sin and fail to first recognize the internal (heart) and vertical nature of sin.  Failing to properly recognize sin is a distortion of the Gospel which will at best lead to moralism and at worst send the sinner down a different avenue of sin.  The level of offensiveness of our sin in relation to God is supremely higher than that between our fellow man.  In your recognition of sin, begin with God.

See also David’s response in 2 Samuel 12:13 and Psalm 51.