Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 31 2019 - Genesis 39:1-23 – Joseph and Potiphar

The Midianite traders sold Joseph as a slave to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's high officials. But though he is far from home and is in an alien environment Joseph is not abandoned; the Lord is with him (an echo of the promise to Jacob), and is intent on fulfilling his purposes through this young man. Nor does Joseph simmer with resentment at all that has happened to him; he seeks to act well and serve faithfully in this new and strange setting – serving not only his new master but also the Lord. And as a result he brings blessing to Potiphar's household – through him a family from another nation is blessed.

But Potiphar's wife took a fancy to Joseph and wanted him to sleep with her. Joseph continually refused saying that this would not only be a betrayal of Potiphar's trust but also a great act of wickedness; it would be to sin against God. Enraged, Potiphar's wife tells her husband that Joseph tried to rape her. Joseph is thrown into the royal prison. But even here Joseph is not abandoned; the Lord is with him and shows him 'steadfast love' – the Hebrew word is used particularly of God's covenant love and faithfulness towards his people (see Psalm 136). Joseph continues to act with grace and integrity and becomes a trusted prisoner, placed in charge of all the others.

What a contrast there is between this chapter and the one that preceded it. Joseph was conscious that everything he did, and even every thought in his heart, was in the presence of the sovereign creator of heaven and earth. He knew that the Lord was with him and he sought to please God in all things. In this, Joseph provides us with a model of how the child of God should conduct themselves in a hostile world. Acting with integrity and with an eye always to pleasing God will not guarantee an easy life – it landed Joseph in prison – but it will bring blessing of God to those whose lives we touch.

How can we train ourselves to a conscious sense of God's presence in all that we think and do? We could learn a thing or two from Brother Lawrence's classic little book, The Practice of the Presence of God. He was a man who was preoccupied with cultivating a keen sensitivity to the presence of God in everyday life and sought to encourage others to do the same. I also love and often meditate on the poem/hymn The Elixir, from George Herbert, part of which reads:

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee.

A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heav'n espy.

A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine:
Who sweeps a room as for thy laws,
Makes that and th' action fine.

Loving Father, thank you for your promise that you will never leave me or forsake me. Thank you that I am embraced in the covenant love you have lavished upon me in the Lord Jesus Christ. Help me continually to be aware that I live in your presence, your love and your sight. Strengthen me by your Spirit that I may serve you faithfully in whatever situation you bring my way. Whatever challenges or troubles I may face, may I know the blessing of pleasing you and being a blessing to those whose lives I touch.

Peter Misselbrook