Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “The Lord Was with Joseph” based on Genesis 39 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, July 14, 2019
You’ve heard the expression, “born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” That’s meant to suggest someone is born into privilege…that someone doesn’t really have to work too hard to earn their own way; instead things have been handed to them…doors have been opened for them…life, which often can be cruel and unforgiving, has been made easy for them.
One could argue that Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, was born with a bit of a silver spoon in his mouth. He was daddy’s favorite. He got all the breaks…all the special treatment. But If Joseph seemed to have everything conveniently handed to him, it was also true that Joseph would have everything taken away from him. His life might have started out on easy street, but then it took a turn…an unexpected turn. And not just one, but several unexpected, extreme turns. And yet through it all the Lord was with Joseph. At every turn…at every pinnacle…at every low valley…the Lord was with Joseph….just as surely as the Lord is with each of us.
Quick recap. The older brothers grew tired of hearing about how great Joseph was. They got sick of all the special treatment Joseph was given as Jacob’s favored son. So they did something drastic. One day, when they were out in the fields, they threw Joseph into a pit. Instead of killing him, which several brothers really wanted to do, they sold him into slavery – to a caravan that was headed to Egypt. And they told Jacob, the father, that precious Joseph had been killed by wild animals.
Joseph went from favored son to hated brother to slave headed for Egypt to now slave in the house of a man named Potiphar. But, all things considered, Joseph did well. Joseph was efficient and prosperous in his work…and Potiphar noticed. He made Joseph his personal attendant…a manager or supervisor of some of the other servants. Again, Joseph prospered and again Potiphar took notice and again he promoted Joseph…this time, putting him in charge of everything. Did you happen to notice we left something out? Joseph was efficient and prosperous. Yes, we mentioned that. Joseph got promoted a couple different times…mentioned that. Here it is: The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered…when his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes.
When success comes our way…the blue ribbons and the pay raises and the flattering compliments…the nice jobs and the nice homes and the nice things – let’s remember where they come from. Joseph was doing something right. I’m not sure if it was his attitude or if he specifically gave credit to the Lord and those in the household heard him. But Potiphar noticed. Wouldn’t it be nice…wouldn’t it be refreshing to see people who are successful, rather than beat their chest and pat their own backs…to confess the Lord as the gracious Giver of every good gift. The Lord was with Joseph and blessed him.
This also is true. The Lord was with Joseph when he was thrown into the pit by his brothers…when he was sold into slavery…when he was getting falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife…when he was thrown in jail for something he didn’t do. While Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him. We tend to think that the Lord is with us only when things are going well…when the sun is shining on our private sky and the family budget is in order and everyone is healthy – God must really be with us. And when the unexpected turns come…when we find ourselves in the valleys…we wonder where God is. Even in sickness…even in times of stress…even when we are persecuted for our faith…even then the Lord is with those he has redeemed….baptized…and promising to bless us in his special way.
The Lord was with Joseph when he was successful and when he was suffering – peaks and valleys. The Lord was also with Joseph in his time of testing. Notice a few things about temptation.
- First, these temptations come at us again and again. Potiphar’s wife “spoke to Joseph day after day.” The devil doesn’t rest. The sinful world doesn’t close up shop when you come walking by. Your sinful nature never takes a vacation. Day after day temptations pound away at us…hide around corners and spring out when we are most vulnerable. Day after day. There’s a reason the Apostle Paul doesn’t describe the Christian life as a stroll in the park or a leisure day at the beach but rather a fight…battle…struggle. Day after day.
- Secondly, the devil takes wonderful blessings and turns them into bait for sin. The benefits of marriage. Outward beauty and outward good looks. 3,500 years ago in the days of Joseph, the devil was trying to ruin marriages and bust apart families. He’s still at it. In 1979 Ann Landers had a concerned mother write in about her 18 year old daughter. She was upset because her daughter was sexually active. Ann Landers wrote: “The problem is with you, not your daughter. 25 years ago I would have called your daughter a tramp, but not today. Accept it and stay off the subject.” The devil was working in 1500 B.C. and in 1979 A.D. and today. Day after day. Be on guard.
- Thirdly, even when we are successful…even when we do win a little battle over sin, we can’t expect the world and the people around us to stand up and give us a round of applause. What we can and should expect is extra criticism and extra persecution. Joseph did the right thing. He got thrown in jail. You may do the right thing and the devil will do his very best to make it uncomfortable for you. Expect it.
Joseph. What a fine example for us in the face of temptation. He honors his boss, Potiphar. He honors Potiphar’s wife. He honors the 6th commandment. He honors his Lord. He flees temptation.
What a fine example. And if you’re like me, you see people in the Bible, like Joseph, exhibiting great acts of courage and living godly lives and you think…I don’t do that very well. When the devil whispers in my ear, I listen. When temptation sneaks up and catches me off guard, I don’t run away I get cozy. When a thousand voices like Ann Landers tell me the world is changing so you better accept it, it’s sometimes easier to just cave in and walk with the masses. What a horrible example I would be if my brushes with temptation were recorded and read by my peers.
What can we do? Live in the presence of your Savior God. Understand that we weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths, but a forked, devilish tongue. We weren’t born into privilege, but in sin. We weren’t born with faithful, obedient hearts, but hearts void of life and faith. But your Savior wanted you…went to the cross for you…went searching for you.
- He sees you fall – and he gives you a tongue to confess those sins.
- He sees your heavy, guilty heart – and he gives you ears to hear “I forgive you.”
- He sees your desire to follow him, but you lack the strength – so he provides the strength and he helps you to battle and struggle and fight.
Jesus Christ is ever with his people. He’s with you…at every pinnacle and in every valley…at times of success and at times of failure and hardship. He is with us with this promise:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.