A Real Prince

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Joseph led interesting life. It was a “long and winding road” that got him from his highly dysfunctional family to the throne in Egypt. If we could pinpoint the main theme of Joseph’s life, it would have to be this: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Did you know that’s a Biblical attitude? It is, both in the Old and the New Testaments:

As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20 TLB)

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Romans 8:28 TLB)

Joseph’s life story begins in Genesis 37 but is interrupted by the events of chapter 38, which tells the story of a man, Judah, who is the complete antithesis of Joseph. It’s a good contrast that serves to show the sterling character of a unique man.

When we first meet Jacob’s favorite son, we see a typical spoiled child. His brothers were jealous of him because his father favored him. Joseph also had a talent they didn’t have – he could actually interpret a person’s dreams. This just added to the hostile feelings the brothers had toward him. Because of this dysfunctional family environment, a series of negative events overtook Joseph and he wound up in a dismal Egyptian prison. But Joseph was a young man with not only a positive outlook on life, but he also had faith. He had faith enough to spare. That faith, coupled with the fact that in spite of Joseph’s terrible circumstances God had a plan for this young man’s life, led to an unbelievable, sudden turn of events that brought Joseph from the pit of a forgotten prison cell to the pinnacle of the throne room in one of the great nations of the ancient world.

Genesis 39:1 – 12

Joseph was as different from his brothers as day is from night. Just look at how his brothers reacted to stressful situations and compare that to Joseph. When faced with bad situations or unfortunate circumstances, his brothers always reacted in the most negative ways you can think of;  jealousy, deceit, lust, immorality, and hatred were their favorite ways of dealing with anything or anybody that challenged them or their way of life.

Joseph, in contrast, was a young man of almost super human moral strength who never yielded to feelings of bitterness, self-pity, or even despair. Rather, he maintained a positive, cheerful outlook and in every – every – situation he faced, Joseph demonstrated his absolute and unshakable faith in God.

Because his brothers’ hatred, Joseph had been sold into slavery and taken to the land of Egypt. The prospects for this seventeen year old young man were nil. At least that’s how it looked. God, though, was in control and had plans for young Joseph.

The Lord greatly blessed Joseph there in the home of his master, so that everything he did succeeded. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph in a very special way. (Genesis 39:2, 3 TLB)

Joseph had been purchased by Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. It became obvious even to a pagan like Potiphar that “the Lord was with Joseph.” As happens with God’s people when they are living right and thinking right regardless of where they are, God blessed Joseph and that blessing overflowed and benefitted the entire household of Potiphar. There’s a lesson here for Christians. Our obedience to God not only helps us, but it also impacts those around us.

Life was good for Joseph and Potiphar’s family. But things were about to change.

One day at about this time Potiphar’s wife began making eyes at Joseph, and suggested that he come and sleep with her. (Genesis 39:7 TLB)

Potiphar trusted Joseph in every way; the young man had the full run of the house and was in charge of his master’s personal life. Joseph was a busy young man.  Potiphar’s wife was also busy! But Joseph, exercising that super human morality, resisted her constant temptations. What a contrast to Judah, the man in the previous chapter.

So he stopped and propositioned her to sleep with him, not realizing of course that she was his own daughter-in-law. (Genesis 38:16 TLB)

Potiphar’s marriage was probably not the best to begin with, but even in a land full of idolatry, Joseph maintained his integrity and his high view of marriage:

Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in the entire household; he himself has no more authority here than I have! He has held back nothing from me except you yourself because you are his wife. How can I do such a wicked thing as this? It would be a great sin against God. (Genesis 39:8, 9 TLB)

Joseph was right about that. Adultery, or any sexual sin, is not only a sin against another person or persons, but it is also a sin against God.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 NKJV)

The time-worn phrase, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” was given originally in the context of sexual sin. You don’t commit that sin because your body is where the Spirit of God resides. It has nothing to do with smoking, alcohol, or fatty foods. Sexual sins are the only sins a Christian is told to “flee” from. Albert Barnes’ comments on this are worth a look:

Flee fornication – A solemn command of God – as explicit as any that thundered from Mount Sinai. None can disregard it with impunity – none can violate it without being exposed to the awful vengeance of the Almighty. There is force and emphasis in the word “flee” φεύγατε pheugate. Man should escape from it; he should not stay to reason about it; to debate the matter; or even to contend with his propensities, and to try the strength of his virtue. There are some sins which a man can resist; some about which he can reason without danger of pollution. But this is a sin where a man is safe only when he flies.

Well, Joseph did just this and he ended up in prison.

Genesis 39:13 – 23

Falsely accused, our moral stalwart was tossed into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. It happens sometimes; life doesn’t treat you fairly. It was a case of “he said, she said,” and of course Potiphar sided with his wife even though he probably didn’t believe her. Joseph was, after all, just a slave.

Joseph never once failed God. You can’t say that about the rest of his family! Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continually fell short of God’s expectations. They continued to have faith in God, though. But Joseph remains the classic example of a believer in God who actually lived what he believed.

It was a bad scene, to be sure. And it was unfair. But Joseph maintained his integrity and his faith even while in prison. And he even kept up his positive and cheerful attitude.

But the Lord was with Joseph there, too, and was kind to him by granting him favor with the chief jailer. (Genesis 39:21 TLB)

Here’s another important verse to remember. A good attitude and keeping a check on your actions are vitally important, but will get you only so far. Joseph’s good rapport with the chief jailer was made possible by the Lord.

Genesis 41:1 – 13

Because of a lie, Joseph spent two years in prison. Imagine that. How would you feel if your whole life was derailed – put on hold – for two years because somebody told a lie about you. Well, Joseph instinctively knew God had not forgotten him. Others might have, but God hadn’t. God had a plan for this young man, and neither a lie nor a cuckold husband was going to stop it from coming to pass. In fact, that’s the central theme of chapter 41, as expressed by Joseph in verse 32:

…God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon.

That was spoken by Joseph in regards to a dream he interpreted while in prison. That was something Joseph did to pass the time. He interpreted the dreams of a butler and a baker in the previous chapter, and now in this chapter, he’s going to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:14 – 32

Pharaoh was greatly troubled by his dreams but was greatly impressed by what the butler said abut a former cell mate of his:

And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him. (Genesis 4:11 NKJV)

So Pharaoh sent for Joseph. We have to give Joseph some credit. In Pharaoh’s presence, Joseph didn’t take credit for being an expert dream interpreter; he gave the full credit to God. Unlike the pagan diviners that worked for Pharaoh, Joseph did not claim to have any innate ability to interpret dreams or to make predictions. He regarded this “ability” he possessed as a gift from God. The dreams that Pharaoh had were no problem to interpret:

“Both dreams mean the same thing,” Joseph told Pharaoh. “God was telling you what he is going to do here in the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:25 TLB)

The dreams concerned what God was about to do to Egypt. The “one true God” was about to do something to Pharaoh’s domain. Joseph used the Hebrew word for God, ha Elohim, which denotes His distinctiveness. In the land of many, many gods, Joseph’s “one true God” was about to act on His own. This kind of testimony took a lot of courage to give.

The meaning of those dreams, too, took a lot of courage to give. A devastating famine was about to hit Egypt. It would be so bad and last so long that people would forget about what life was like before the drought and famine.

The double dream gives double impact, showing that what I have told you is certainly going to happen, for God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon. (Genesis 41:32 TLB)

Genesis 41:33 – 45

Well, here we go again. Joseph is not only released from prison, but he gets promoted. Based on past experience, I might be a little leery about this promotion! But I’m not Joseph, and God is the one who ultimately in control. The promotion, though, was based, not on the interpretation of the dreams, but on the added advice Joseph gave Pharaoh –

My suggestion is that you find the wisest man in Egypt and put him in charge of administering a nationwide farm program. Let Pharaoh divide Egypt into five administrative districts, and let the officials of these districts gather into the royal storehouses all the excess crops of the next seven years, so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise, disaster will surely strike. (Genesis 41:33 – 36 TLB)

We call that Reaganomics, but it was the Lord’s word to the Pharaoh through Joseph.

Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said to him, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the country! I am hereby appointing you to be in charge of this entire project. What you say goes, throughout all the land of Egypt. I alone will outrank you.” (Genesis 41:39, 40 TLB)

Genesis 41:46 – 52

It had been 13 years since Joseph landed in Egypt as a slave. For some three years of that time he was in prison. But now Joseph is second only to the Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. How did that happen? Of course, God was the One who was in control of not only Joseph’s life, but he was also in control of the land of Egypt, regardless of what Potiphar or Pharaoh thought. So, ultimately, Joseph was where he was because God wanted him there. But there may be another reason, that also shows how God works in history.

The Pharaoh at this time was actually one of the Hyksos kings. He was not a native Egyptian. The Hyksos were Bedouins, who lived in the Arabian desert. They were a nomadic people who, for some time, had come into Egypt and took over its throne. This would make the Pharaoh at this time closer in nationality to Joseph than to the Egyptians. In other words, there would have been a kind kinship between Pharaoh and Joseph. This may explain Pharaoh’s kindly disposition toward Joseph. Only God could make that happen!

The Hyksos were eventually expelled from the land of Egypt, which explains this verse:

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. (Exodus 1:8 NKJV)

There’s no denying that Joseph was a special individual. He was a man whose life was order by the Lord and anointed by Him. And through all of life’s ups and downs, Joseph remained completely committed to God.

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