Sermon delivered February 22, 1997

by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road SDA Church, McDonald, Tennessee

Joseph's Purity in Potiphar's Palace

Joseph's first day as a freshman in the Academy of Egyptology began with a jerk. The jerk came from the chain fastened to his ankle. Chained to other slaves Joseph trudged Southward over the hot dry sands. It's pretty tough on an eighteen year-old lad. Once they were so close to Joseph's family encampment that only a low sand dune or two separated them from his brothers. So close! Yet so far! Little did he know that he would never return.

Joseph must have cried till the tears ran dry. The future was dark and terrible. Genesis 37:36-- "Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to POTIPHAR, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard."

His brothers had taken him out of the pit. They had sold him, and they had said: "Bye Bye Joey boy, happy dreams!" Had his dreams really been true? He had a lot of time to think on that weary journey southward. At some point he came to the conclusion that his life was still in God's hands. What a happy day it is when we conclude that God is in charge of our lives. Nobody could defeat God's purpose for his life. He put his future totally in God's hands.

It is a happy day when we come to the same conclusion. When you KNOW that your life is in God's hand you have peace. Nothing can happen to you that is not within God's master plan for your life.

Being cast into the pit did not hurt Joseph. Believe it or not, Slavery helped him. These things prepared him for larger service. Nothing can ever hurt the one who surrenders his will totally to God. It is true that Psalm 105:17 says that Joseph's feet were hurt. But Joseph was more than feet! Joseph was above his feet. He was not hurt.

This motherless lad's entrance into Egypt had a profound upon the land of Egypt. In fact, it had about as much effect as Gutenberg's movable type had to the whole written communication world. Or as much as the steam engine had in the industrial revolution. It had a profound impact on the most powerful nation in the world. This one child slave in 13 incredible years would become "Lord of all Egypt".

He might as well have been on different planet. There he saw strange looking shapes called pyramid. He saw papyrus boats. He saw this weird writing called hieroglyphics. He had some strange things going on in his brain. "I'm on a totally different world down here." On the first day there was no one in all the land in a lower position than himself. He was the lowest slave on the block. Joseph started from the bottom. God led him from rags to riches.

Joseph's murderous brothers unknowingly helped his dreams come true. They had helped lift their little brother toward his exalted calling without knowing it.

Had Joseph fully known each detail of his future he would have withdrawn from it in fear. I think the if we knew our whole life in front of us, we probably wouldn't be able to face it. If you knew that divorce was coming, that death. Humans can only handle one day at a time. All Joseph had to do was follow God's will for one day.

Joseph was there on a Divine mission. Psalms says he was SENT of God to do God's work. His slavery was no accident. We're just like Joseph. Each of us are so sent. Mark 13:34 says that "Each (is) with his assigned task." God has a plan for you. God has a master plan for your life. God's plan for your life is very clear. All we have to do is submit our will to Him. Everything that happens to us is a nut or bolt in that structure. All our hardships, our disappointments, our tears, pain, grief, heartbreaks.... all are appointed as stepping stones to lead us to God's ideal for us.

Joseph had been brought up as a sheltered child. Did you grow up as a sheltered child? Suddenly he was thrust into a turmoil of a sinful, idolatrous and heathen world. He did not have a friend to his name. None except the best friend of them all.....God! God is with us in our troubles and pain. Whether you are in Collegedale or South America God never leaves you. Don't you ever leave Him.

At the slave auction Joseph was thrust out onto the sales floor. Even then, Central Africa was being robbed of it's humanity for slavery purposes. That's nothing new what Americans did to import slaves to this country. And there Joseph was lined up with all these others. They had darker skin than he did. His skin color made him stand out conspicuously. He was peculiar.

A POTIPHAR, scanning that crowd saw something different about Joseph, and he purchased him, I think, for 30 pieces of sliver, the retail price. Potiphar was the head of the Gestapo or FBI. He was the Provost Marshal of the executioners from the royal Egyptian police.

After the sale Joseph was taken through the sphinx-guarded entrance to the pillared hall that led into Potiphar's Plush Palace. And he saw things he had never seen before. Heathen statues lining the hallway on every side. Things with wings, reminding him of angels, maybe. You know, human idolatry was on every side of Joseph. With no Bible, only his memory kept his religion together.

Genesis 39:2-- an old quaint translation says: "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a lucky fellow!" I kind of like that. A lucky fellow! God does prosper his people. The lucky fellow is the one who is blessed of God. Joseph's own shadow did not follow him more closely than did success.

39:2 In the King James Version it says, "Joseph was a prosperous man!" Was he? He had no income, no house, he was cut off from his family, he owned nothing. He was a slave in bondage. He was just a piece of property. Yet the Bible says he was a PROSPEROUS man! You know, God looks at things totally different than we look at things. We don't live by Bread alone or by our check book. Did you know that the Bible is more important than the check book? When you have Jesus you are prosperous. When you've got God, you're rich! Jesus in your heart makes you rich! He was written out of Jacob's will, and forgotten by his brothers, but not by his God.

Joseph was a slave in Egypt. His body might have been in slavery but not his mind was not in slavery! You know, they can't enslave your mind. Events did not control him. He spent no time cursing his fate or sulking. He decided to make the best of it like Corrie Ten Boom, who was hauled off to a death camp in World War II. She had not choice in that cattle car as to where she was going. She decided if she had to live in Ravensbruck, a suburb of hell, where the only exit was up a smokestack, she would make the best of it. If you're going to be a slave, you might as well be the best slave that you could possibly be. Whatever you find in life you be the best that you can be. If you can't change it then you accept it.

What a witness Joseph was. Have you ever thought about the opportunities for personal ministries? Everybody there was lost. What a golden opportunity! The opportunities were everywhere. How did he witness? How did Pharaoh and Potiphar hear about Joseph's God? Was it because of long religious speeches he made? Was it because Joseph daily criticized the weird heathen gods of Egypt and argued about the pagan practices? No! His boss saw that his God prospered him greatly. That God was blessing him. And that is the best witness. Your neighbor looks at you and he sees an honest person, that God is blessing. They're going to inquire. "You've got something that I don't have."

Joseph's character shined through. To spend 5 minutes with him was to be blessed. He was a special person. His life was a paradigm shift to the thinking of these Egyptian people. With Joseph around no one could lose! Soon, perceptive Potiphar concluded that God favored this slave. He was a smart man. He could see a cause-effect relationship between Joseph and his God.

Genesis 39:3--- "When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did... (Joseph did not hide his religion, did he? I imagine that when he sat at the table he prayed. He wasn't afraid to pray in public.) Don't hesitate to bow your head and pray in public.

Gen. 39:4 Joseph found favor in his eyes & became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned!"

Joseph was a slave. Even though Joseph had been stripped of his richly ornamented robe, he had not been stripped of his rich Godly character! Nobody can strip you of your morals except yourself. He was a man of integrity. He was intelligent, prompt, obedient, industrious, trustworthy, faithful and hardworking. He was faithful in a few things and was put in charge of many things-- Matt 25:21.

Joseph considered everything he did for Pharaoh as working for God. I think that when you come to that position in your thinking you'll be the best employee anybody ever had. Anything you do for your employer is doing it for God. You be the best employee that you can be. Joseph didn't work just to avoid a lashing, he worked as if God were personally watching every effort, every stroke of the pain brush, every decision that he made, every thing he wrote down. Joseph worked to win the approval of God. Christian employees should be the best employees in the world. We ought to be there on time. We ought to put in an honest day's work. We ought to give our best to the person who hires us, even if we're slaves.

Genesis 39:5--- "From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field." Joseph worked for Potiphar about 10 years. God paid Potiphar handsomely for boarding His servant Joseph.

God's blessings are so big, they stretch out so far, that even nearby objects feel the effect. Because of Joseph, Potiphar was benefited. Think about that. Let's say you are currently experiencing the blessing of God. You might conclude that God is favoring you because of your talents, because of your faithfulness, when in reality your prosperity is a windfall due to a humble hardworking employee. Or maybe due to an associate or a faithful wife praying for you.

Potiphar was smart enough to figure this out. A lot of men and a lot of women aren't smart enough to figure out why they are getting the blessings they are getting. So often we look at ourself as a super duper success and attribute this to our talents, when it should be attributed to somebody lower down, or an associate, somebody on a lateral position with us. We would be very upset to be told our prosperity is due to some devoted servant or associate.

How many men are blessed because of a praying wife. She may sit alone in church while he is off elsewhere. He is too busy for God, but God's blessing is so big upon his humble neglected wife that the husband benefits. God blessed Potiphar for Joseph's sake. The apostle Paul's very presence on that sinking ship saved everybody on board from death in the storm.

Maybe a farmer has rich harvests because he has a little handicapped girl at home praying for him. She connects that whole house with heaven! I would call it the Joseph Effect!

Suppose Joseph had escaped! Ever thought about that? Suppose he ran away from Egypt and got back home. Some day he had an opportunity and he ran for his freedom. Finally he got back to Hebron. He got back to those black goat-skin tents. And everyone welcomed him back. Of course there would be some eye-opening when the brothers had to tell what had happened. Finally they all settled down and they lived happily ever after. Suppose that happened.

Do you know that if that had happened:

In fact, the great 7 year famine may have wiped out Egypt. Seven years is a long time. They wouldn't have saved up any food. They didn't know the famine was coming. Civilization would have been set back for centuries. Aren't you glad that Joseph made no effort to escape. You may say, "I'm caught in this dead-end marriage. I'm going to escape." Maybe it's best that you stay right where you're at. Maybe God can use you right where you are. I think it's best to leave our future in the hands of God, totally.

Let's go to Genesis 39 now, the last half of verse 6: "Now Joseph was Well-built and handsome." Verse 7: "after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, come to bed with me."

Joseph was a Rich Young Ruler. Prosperous and handsome with Rachel's good looks. Blessed of God. Satan can't leave people alone like that. It is when we are the most successful in life that we are the most vulnerable. It's during times of ease and prosperity that the temptations are the strongest. Joseph was a man now, with passions like any other young man. The greatest temptation of his life now came fully upon him. A youth living in the city of sin. I want you to know that Joseph resisted! A young man doesn't have to do those things. He can resist, he can overcome, he can be pure! You young men, today, you need to realize that with God you can avoid that type of thing. Joseph had strong internal values.

Now, Potiphar's wife must have been gorgeous, probably Miss Egypt! Potiphar was next to Pharaoh. She was gorgeous. She now offered to him an opportunity that would lift him instantly out from the status of being a slave. That's what it would do. If he did that he'd no longer be a slave, because slave don't do those things. This sin would be politically correct. You don't cross Potiphar's wife, because Potiphar runs a guillotine. You don't cross this woman and live.

Joseph worked in the very place where she waited for him. He could not avoid her. The TIGRESS was on his trail. Day after day she persisted with every talent that she had. You know, water by constant dripping, can even wear away granite rocks. Day after day she came to him. She was not accustomed to being denied any request. She had no religious barriers to inhibit her. She had nothing to hold her back. His temptress waited for him to weaken. She used every visual seductive technique in the book. No one would know. She certainly wouldn't tell. And you know, temptations often come accompanied by amazing opportunities.

Genesis 39:8 "But he refused." I love those words. He refused! He said, "My master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. (9) No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife." He refused.

That reminds me of Adam and Eve. Nothing was withheld from Adam and Eve in the whole Garden of Eden except one tree. One tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. You know, I wish that Joseph could have been our first human being! He would not have taken that apple.

Joseph was a remarkable man! Sexual temptation is so strong. I've seen some of my best friends fall in this area. I want you to know that Joseph did not fall. Joseph had no mother or family looking after him. He didn't have a wife to keep an eye on him. We little appreciate the restraints provided by loved ones who trust us. How weak we are.

Genesis 39:11 "One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servant were inside..." He went into the house, to do what? To attend to his duties. He did not voluntarily enter the ground of sin. Duty compelled him to go. We can't expect God to help us if we willingly place ourselves on Satan's ground. But If the Holy Spirit drives us into the wilderness of temptation, then He will provide the support of heavenly angels to help us. (Matthew 4) Joseph was doing his duty and God was with him.

Finally the day came when she arranged for all servants to be somewhere else. I think that was arranged. There would be no witnesses. She dressed for the occasion and came for him. He came into the room and she said, "I am ready." She took hold of his robe, and what did he do? He ran! His robe ended up in her hand. Joseph's brothers had stripped him of his first robe. She took another robe away. He had a tough time keeping his robes. This was twice now that a missing robe of his was used as false evidence.

Joseph ran out. II Timothy 2:22-- "Flee youthful lusts". Much temptation can be over come simply by deliberately walking away from it at a high speed like Joseph did. Get out of there!

Joseph was controlled by a new nature. Our sinful nature is as inflammable as gunpowder in the presence of the spark of temptation. But if Jesus controls our heart even sexual temptations will be like the Devil trying to strike a match on a damp surface. It won't work.

She stood there with his robe in her hand; he got away! The glowing light of passion in her eyes was replaced with the blazing light of hatred. The wheels of evil swirled in her mind. A poet said, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Joseph's choice cost him dearly. You can be innocent and still pay for it.

I Corinthians 10:13 "God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. He will provide a way of escape. (Even if it's a jogging trail.) Get out of there! You don't have to do that! God doesn't want you to do that!

Joseph met his enchantress in two very successful ways. And I want you to notice this:

  1. -- He refused to even be near her--- 39:10. He fled the temptation ground. He didn't hang around the tree of knowledge of good and evil like Adam and Eve did. He got away from it. He ran away. You need to avoid stimuli. Don't play around with the devils matches.
  2. -- Joseph recognized the enormity of the sin. This would hurt God. All sin is against God. Way before Mount Sinai's laws Joseph had strong convictions against Adultery, that adultery was wrong. Now if you've done adultery God can forgive you, but don't do it again. Fortunately Joseph did not fall.

Genesis 39:9 "How can I do this GREAT sin...?" Can't do it! He didn't say I won't sin, but I CANNOT! - I John 3:9 He could not sin because his love for God was so great. When we love Jesus with all our heart, we're not going to sin. We're going to be overcomers because of our love for our best Friend. We will come to the place where we would rather die than hurt our best Friend! I don't know about you, but I want to be like Jesus.

Opening Hymn-- 229  All Hail the Power of Jesus name
Closing Hymn-- 311   I would be like Jesus
Scripture Reading:  Romans 12:1-2



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