God Is Lord, And He Is With You
THE LORD BE WITH YOU!
Even if you didn’t say out loud “and also with you” I am sure that some of you knew the response. This is the typical greeting in many liturgical backgrounds. The priest or the pastor gets up and says: “The Lord be with you!” And the people respond, “And also with you”.
But yet, for many of us, these types of religious phrases or sayings can start to feel empty or insignificant over time.
The greeting “The Lord be with you!” is rather remarkable if we stop and think about it. Think about the ramifications of the realty that God as Lord or Jesus as Lord is with you. Think about the ramifications of this when you are having a bad day, or hear horrible news, or when you are at work getting a bad review, or you lose a sale, or when you are dealing with a screaming child. How might your heart or attitude be encouraged and helped if you reminded yourself that God is with you?
Or, think about the ramifications of this reality that the Lord is with you when you have successes, like when you get a promotion, or you close a big sale, or sales are up, or you get a parenting win. How might your heart or attitude be humbled and stable if you reminded yourself that God is with you?
Believing that God is Lord and with us is foundational to our faith. The fundamental confession of the people in the Old Testament is that “God is Lord”. And the fundamental confession of people in the New Testament is that “Jesus is Lord.”
God Is Lord, And He Is With You
“God is Lord” is the confession of Genesis, which is the very first book of the Bible, and it is in the Old Testament, and this confession “God is Lord” is what we have seen so far in the book.
Today, we are looking at Genesis 39-40 and specifically at a few of the first events in Joseph’s life in Egypt.
In Genesis 37 we learned how Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. Joseph specifically landed in Potiphar’s domain and Potiphar we learn is a captain of the palace guard. So, Joseph is working for Potiphar. This is where our story picks up, at Potiphar’s house where Joseph is working.
First Observation: God is With Joseph In The Good Times (Genesis 39:1-6)
In Genesis 39:1-6, we learn that Joseph was a successful man. There aren’t a lot of details of what this means exactly. But, Joseph was a worker for Potiphar, and Joseph must’ve been doing a really god job in his role, because Potiphar gave him a lot of responsibility.
So, the first observation is that God is with Joseph in the good times. The text is very clear that “the Lord was with Joseph”. In Potiphar’s domain, Joseph was incredibly successful. And, we learn that Joseph was good looking, he was handsome, he was a stud, and he got things done. He was a gifted administrator and made things happen.
So, it begs the question, was God behind all this, or was Joseph pulling himself up by his own bootstraps? We could easily look at this without seeing God at work and say, “Joseph is really digging himself out of a hole here” (no pun intended). See, we tend to give credit to the person for success.
But, the text is clear that “the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” God has blessed Joseph in his role with Potiphar.
At one point Joseph was a slave and possibly ready to die. His life was about to be cut short. Things are a little bit better now, even though he is still in a foreign land and away from his father. The author is very clear that God is at work in this prosperity.
Joseph worked hard, and God was with him and success happened. Potiphar really liked Joseph. Who wouldn’t? It seems as if Joseph is a great guy, he works hard, he has integrity. And did I mention that he is a good looking guy?
Joseph shows us how to not forget about God in the good times.
But, it is interesting that typically in the good times it is easy to forget about God because we are so prone to take the credit. Part of our sinful nature is that we want glory. We want to receive praise. In fact, we love to hear our names praised.
I want us to think about our craving for praise, and specifically, how we love to hear our names praised. We love the announcement of our name. We forget about God in the good times and we focus on our name, not God’s. We love to hear our names called out when promotions are announced. We love it when those above us call out our names when acknowledging achievements. This craving is at the heart of our sinfulness. We worship ourselves. It has been in us ever since we were born.
I think back to my high school days (which is coming up on 20 plus years ago) and I remember that at points when I was playing sports, like at a basketball game, I cared more about my name being called out during the starting line ups then I did whether we played well or not. I was so excited when I knew that announcers would call the game in front of the crowd and call out your name when you scored. And I loved it when the radio crew would show up to the game because then my name would be called out for all to hear that was listening to the game on the radio… all twenty of them.
And when you think deeper on what is going on here, you realize that you want your name to be called out and lifted up. We love to hear our names announced. So, in the good times, when you are successful, like Joseph was, it is so easy to forget about God’s name, forget about his glory, forget about how he is with you in this success.
The application is that God is Lord and he is with you in the good times, so our heart, our faith in God is that when times are good, we as Christians should not be arrogant, but we should be humble and praise God’s name, not ours.
And in our text, from what we can tell, Joseph fears God and is humble before him, even at this point in the story when everything is going well.
I want to challenge us, to be humble before God and praise his name, when life is good.
Second Observation: God Is With Joseph In The Bad Times (Genesis 39:7-23)
The second observation that could sum up Genesis 39:7-23 in that God is with Joseph in the bad times. Joseph is hard working, and God is with him, and now we see there are trials.
As we can tell from the text that was read, there are ups and downs with Joseph.
In the story we can sense something bad is about to happen when the narrator starts describing the physical appearance of Joseph (39:6). It is not typical in Hebrew narrative to describe physical appearances unless it is important for the plot. And it seems that is the case here. The narrator describes Joseph as being well built and handsome. His mother was Rachel, the beautiful daughter, and he is definitely his mother’s son. The text says: “Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.” And on top of that he was very successful in managing Potiphar's house, and running his business.
Because of this, Potiphar's wife keeps trying to lure Joseph to her bed, and Joseph does the right thing by saying no.
Joseph refused her advances. He considered it very wrong to sleep with the boss’ wife. Good point Joseph!
Joseph's response is really good (39:8-9). He says "How could I do such a thing. My boss has entrusted me with everything he has. How could I do a wicked thing such as sleep with his wife?" And then Joseph says something subtle yet profound, "It would be a great sin against God". Joseph knows that adultery is a sin against God. And right now, things are going really well for Joseph, and Joseph does the right thing by keeping his focus on God… even in the good times.
Potiphar's wife tempted him daily and asked for him daily. Joseph did the right thing by refusing so as to not sin against his boss or his God.
Later in the Bible, in the book of Proverbs, such as Proverbs 5:20-35, it talks about the horrible consequences that follow sinful behavior such as sleeping with another person's spouse.
Joseph is putting on display being the wise man from Proverbs 5-7. And according to the Proverbs, typically when a wise person does wise things, good things happen to them, and that is true. That is the message of Proverbs. But there is also the message of Ecclesiastes which says that bad things can happen to good people.
You would think that Joseph would be rewarded. He did the right thing. The exact opposite happens. He is thrown in jail.
Here is how it unfolded. Potiphar's wife caught Joseph by his garment, a piece of clothing, like a cloak maybe. Joseph ran and left his piece of clothing behind in her hands. Now we have a situation on our hand. Now what does she do with this piece of clothing? She decides to call foul and falsely accuses Joseph for things he did not do.
Once again a garment of clothing plays a part in Joseph's fate. Earlier it was the fancy coat that was shown to Jacob as evidence that Joseph was mauled by a wild beast. Now a cloak was left behind as some sort of evidence that Joseph was forcing himself on Potiphar's wife. Both situations were fabricated by people who meant evil against Joseph. I guess, Joseph is not doing so well where clothing is concerned, but his story is not over yet, and we will see in the coming chapters in the next few weeks how this theme of a cloak comes back and is tied to Joseph’s promotion.
But for now, she frames Joseph, and Potiphar listens to his wife's account and he gets very angry with Joseph and sends him to jail. But even in this, there is grace from God, because it could have easily happened that Potiphar could have sentenced Joseph to death. But he didn't. God is with Joseph, even in the bad times.
Potiphar is a high ranking official, the chief of the guard, literally the "chief butcher". This type of a person in this high level position could have executed Joseph if he wanted to.
God, in his ultimate control, allows Joseph to be sent to the royal prison, which means, Joseph will now come into contact with people who come in contact with Pharaoh.
It is important to note that we see here again that God was with him even in prison. God blesses Joseph in prison. Genesis 39:23 says “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” Think about that, in the place that you would least expect it, God is there, and he blesses Joseph and allows him great success in prison.
The warden gives Joseph lots of responsibility and leeway. Joseph was even put in charge of other prisoners. This guy Joseph must've been a baller administrator and leader. He got things done. He made things happen.
It is remarkable to consider that when Joseph is working really hard and doing the right things, and God is with him, there can be two totally different outcomes – one is success, and one is prison.
Bad things can happen to those who are working hard and doing the right things. Suffering and testing and trials can come into your life from the weirdest angles that you never saw it coming. And bam, it’s there.
One minute you are thinking about the afternoon golf outing and getting to the first tee, and then the next minute the doctor tells you that your baby has fluid build up in their brain. You just don’t see it coming.
Or, the bad times can exist because of other people’s sin against you. Maybe in your case a parent was abusive and did a lot of scary things that shook your world growing up. And the bad times seem like they are ever present.
Or, in your case, maybe the person you thought you were marrying ended up changing and turned, and started to make your life miserable with their sin. And the bad times linger on. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were working hard, trying to do the right things, and yet the bad times came.
It is critical, to remember that God is with you, even in the bad times.
Joshua 1:9 says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
So in the bad times, I challenge you, to turn to God, and be strong and courageous, because God the Lord is with you, even in the bad times.
Unlike in the good times when we tend to forget about God, when bad times come it is so easy to put God on trial under the interview spotlight, and start going after him asking – What are you doing?!!
It is easy to be self-focused and self-oriented, and get bitter, and angry against God in the bad times. I challenge you to trust God, and turn to him in the bad times, because whether you like it or not, he is with you in the trenches, in the darkness. Even if you can’t see him in the darkness, that doesn’t mean he isn’t there. God is with you in the bad times. And like Joseph, your story isn’t over yet!
Third Observation: People May Forget You, But God Does Not (Genesis 40)
In Genesis 40 we find Joseph in prison. Joseph is sentenced to prison falsely. He shouldn't have been there. He didn't want to be there. But now that he is there, God is at work in his prison days.
So, in prison, Joseph comes into contact with two very important officials of Pharaoh - the cup bearer and the baker.
These two guys, the cup bearer and the baker, each have disturbing dreams one night. And Joseph becomes relevant to the cup bearer and baker because Joseph is confident in interpreting dreams.
Joseph is clear that he interprets dreams based on God. In Genesis 40:8, Joseph tells these two guys “Do not interpretations [of dreams] belong to God? Please tell me these dreams.” In our story, Joseph tells these two guys that interpretations of dreams are from God, not from some dream book commentaries. Evidently in this time period there were books written interpreting dreams. But Joseph says, no, interpretations of dreams belong to God.
Ok so Genesis 40 is like tales from prison life in Egypt. One guy telling two other guys what their dreams meant.
The cup bearer goes first with his dream. His dream is of three grape vines and the cupbearer squeezed the grapes to give a drink to Pharaoh. Joseph interprets this to mean that in three days the cup bearer will be restored to his position.
The baker likes this interpretation, so he goes next and tells Joseph his dream, which is of the baker having three baskets of pastries on his head. The top basket was for pharaoh, but the birds came and ate the pastries. Joseph interpreted this dream that Pharaoh would have the baker killed by beheading, and impale his body on a pole, and the birds will come and eat his corpse. I am serious! I don’t make this stuff up. It’s in the Bible. Chapter 40.
And lo and behold, three days later, it was Pharaoh's birthday, and the two officials were called out from prison, and things happened just as Joseph predicted.
But Joseph also knew something else would happen. Joseph pre-emptively told the cup bearer to remember him and that he should ask pharaoh to get him out of prison. But Joseph suffers ill treatment again and the cup bearer forgets about Joseph.
Joseph did the right thing by helping these guys. Joseph didn't need to spend the effort helping these guys figure out their dreams, but he did. And then he got nothing for it. But again, the story’s not over yet for Joseph. Eventually the Cup-bearer does remember Joseph when Pharaoh has his own dreams and needs an interpreter.
This may seem like an unimportant story in the Bible. Joseph is in prison, and he is interpreting some dreams. And this story gets a whole chapter.
And it is a sad story, at the moment. I mean the last verse of chapter 40 says “Yet the chief cup bearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”
And Joseph could tell this was going to happen. So, there are two ways that Joseph could’ve responded. He could’ve said “this stinks. I was falsely accused. I shouldn’t be in prison. I don’t care about your dreams.” That would’ve been legit, but it would also have been self-focused because in verse six we know that Joseph saw these guys really upset after they had their dreams.
So, Joseph did the right thing in the smallest of details in life, which was, sit down, have a conversation with two strangers about the dreams they had the night before.
This seems so insignificant, yet, Joseph, again does the right thing in the moment. God cares about how you act in the smallest of conversations. Were you caring and helpful to the other person, or did you give an attitude of entitlement that you don’t care about what the other person is struggling with?
God is Lord, and he is with you in the details of how you interact with people.
Take sales for example. Often in sales (which I read once that in Latin sales means servant. I really see myself in my role of being in technical sales as being a servant. I am helping bring my company’s pneumatic conveying systems to people who can benefit from it and produce products for the consumer)… so in sales, as a servant, you can often feel taken advantage of. In the moment, the customer asks for more and more product or features, for less and less money. Right, the buyer, wants more for less money. And this can get really annoying really quick. But, by faith I have learned the importance of doing the right things in the smallest of details for my customer, whether they see it or not, whether they remember or not. They may forget me and what I did for them, but God did not forget, and I want to be the type of person that does the right things in the smallest of details, when no one cares to remember or care to acknowledge. God sees, and God is with you in the smallest of details and in the smallest conversations.
Jesus is LORD
This leads us to the final point and brings us to the table. Jesus is Lord and Jesus is with you.
Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is fully God and fully man. He left his throne and humbled himself to be born into the likeness of men. He was tempted like we are tempted, but he did not sin.
Joseph is a type of Jesus. As Joseph suffered unjustly in our story today, it points to Jesus who suffered unjustly. Joseph trusted God and did not sin in our story example, and he suffered for it. Jesus in an ultimate way, never sinned, yet he suffered by dying on the cross for us.
Isaiah 7:14 prophesied of Jesus being the Lord with us, Immanuel. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel”, which means, God with us.
Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of Joseph's life in that Jesus is Immanuel. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God being with his people.
John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”