Have you ever known one of those people who, regardless of the weather, are sunny? How long have you spent with someone for whom every situation seems to be another opportunity to shine. Not only does nothing seem to get them down, but they succeed at everything. They really annoy me, because they show just how bad my attitude really is, and how cynical I’ve become. Do you know anyone like that? Except for the “sunny all the time” bit, that’s Joseph.
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. (Genesis 39:1-2 NASB)
Sold into slavery, by his brothers no less, and he works, works hard, and is successful. I’ve always wondered if Joseph was “cheery” as he worked, or if his attitude improved as his success increased. Was he despondent when he first arrived? Was the trip down there loud and obnoxious, a spoiled brat calling for his dad? Did he progress through the “stages of grief” or whatever it’s called when your life drastically becomes worse and you have to adapt? Would it be stages of trauma or disaster? He’s a human, so I’m guessing he did.
But, when you read about those stages (like in Psychology Today), the stages aren’t necessarily automatic. So, a lot of people, without help, get stuck in the progression. Joseph doesn’t. I admit, I probably would. Think about how you would react. Being sold, by his brothers, into slavery, in a foreign country, it all completely undermined the safety and control Joseph had assumed he had. Parental preference actually meant a lot less than he thought it did for his safety.
Somewhere in that traumatic shock of powerlessness and violation, he discovers that Yahweh is with him, that the God of his father is giving him success. We’re not told how he noticed it. We’re only told that Yahweh was with Joseph, and “…he was a man causing success; and was in the house of his master the Egyptian.” What a strange way to put it. He was a man causing success. In other words, whatever he tried, worked. That is, except escape or to not be a slave. This God of his father wanted him as a slave. And Joseph lived with that, blooming where Yahweh planted him.
Which of us could bloom in such hard ground? I’m not sure my sense of personal entitlement or pride would totally prohibit me from blooming, but it sure wouldn’t help. What do you think you would do? If you tried to escape, where would you go? The desert is in all directions. My passive aggressive nature would probably kick in, do you have that too? Yet, all we’re told is that Joseph succeeded, he caused success, even to those around him. I’m not sure how I’d react to that. Somehow, I’m sure I’d figure out a way to try and use that for my personal gain, and that would be what would fail.
Joseph is elevated in the household of his master. He’s a slave, but he’s the chief slave, running everything, and everything he runs succeeds. It’s the life, perhaps the best of a horrible situation, but he’s finally doing well. Until that woman.
It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7-9 NASB)
The clue that Joseph hasn’t given into complete self indulgence due to his success is how he responds to his master’s wife. Perhaps he’s smart enough to know that she is a disaster, and would eventually spell his death if he cooperated with her. Maybe there were already stories of predecessors who had suffered her, and then suffered because of her. All we’re told is that he resisted her, and did so because of his success, and that he ascribes such an act as a sin against God. He recognizes who is responsible for his success, he knows it’s not him. I’m not sure I’d be that insightful, how about you?
Eventually she traps him alone, and he escapes without his cloak. She uses that to accuse him, and his master has him imprisoned with the king’s prisoners. Where has that success from God gone now? He did not sin against God, yet his circumstances grew worse? No good deed goes unpunished? And yet, we don’t have a complaint against God lodged by Joseph. Although, we do have clues about how he views his circumstances later on. Maybe tomorrow.
In the meantime, what do you learn from Joseph’s adaptation to his slavery? What do you learn from his deteriorating circumstances, even after doing the right thing? I learn that my circumstances aren’t what define the character qualities of my Master. I know that, but my emotions sure don’t like that. My circumstances do not define the character qualities of my Master, and that means good or bad circumstances. So, my Master is who He says He is, regardless of my day, week, month, or year, or even years. In good or bad circumstances, my Master is good, loving, and sovereign.
What’s your view through your knothole this morning?