Genesis 39:1-6 Success necessitates the dual elements of human faith and divine providence
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an Egyptian officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the bodyguard, bought him from the Ishmaelites, who had taken him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3 Now his master saw that the Lord was with him and how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge. 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the Lord’s blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field. 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate.
Joseph’s sale to Egypt is no accident, for God will not allow the righteous to suffer without purpose. Joseph’s tenure in Egypt will in time provide a way of refuge for Israel. God’s sovereign hand that planted Joseph in Potiphar’s house has resulted in much pain and injustice for the young boy. But it nevertheless honed within him faith and resilience while he makes a beeline towards the royal palace. Today’s devotion teaches us that success necessitates the dual elements of human faith and divine providence.
Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt
The idealistic, spoiled but charismatic and noble boy suddenly finds himself as a slave in a foreign land. His plight must be seen in the light of his dramatic humiliation from heir to slave, from riches to abject poverty. Providentially, Joseph is sold to Potiphar, the captain of the Egyptian royal guard.
The Lord was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.
Joseph’s resilience is impressive, having survived the initial shocked, he went on to become the head servant of Potiphar. The narrator’s description of Joseph as a “successful man” here when he is still a slave is unusual. It throws light on how the Old Testament tradition defines success. Nevertheless, the narrator makes explicit the reason behind Joseph’s success: the Lord was with Joseph. The question remains: Is Joseph’s success fully attributed to the Lord’s favour? Or does Joseph’s virtues and effort play a part? Very distinctly, Joseph found favour with Potiphar having gained Potiphar’s complete trust. Thus, Joseph was made overseer over the affairs of his house, his estate and business.
The Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph
Unmistakably, Potiphar’s unreserved trust in Joseph paid off leading to great blessing for himself. It is evident that the blessing on whom the Lord finds favour with can overflow to foreign people of different race and religion. It began with Potiphar himself witnessing how the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. And he followed up with entrusting Joseph with his entire estate. The text went as far as to describe Potiphar as being unconcerned about anything except the food which he ate, an idiom for “his private affairs”.
Success necessitates the dual elements of human faith and divine providence
Joseph is considered by the narrator as successful because firstly he gained his master’s unreserved trust through which he was promoted. Secondly, his master was greatly blessed on account of Joseph. While the former is a virtue that stems from human effort, the latter is an act of God. Thus, we can say that success requires a human and a divine component. While man does his part in exercising faith, it requires divine providence for success. Human faith and divine providence are analogous to oxygen and blood, male and female, heat and light,… the dualities that are essential to life.
However, some work as if success rests entirely on their efforts alone. Hence, they leave nothing to chance, and trusting no one, they carry the world on their shoulders. Yet some do not work at all and choosing to stand by their misinformed faith, they punt for success. But should the worst happen, they expediently attribute their failures to divine causes.
How then should believers work? Believers should work out of good faith, while entrusting the outcome to God. And to work out of honesty and sincerity of intention is good faith. In so doing, a man builds trust with God and with others. However, one who builds trust with people apart from God is manipulative and God is not with him. One who endeavours to build trust with God apart from people is naive because God works through human structures and authority. Therefore, man must first build trust with God by loving Him supremely. And from that supreme love flows goodwill and sincerity of service towards others. God is with Joseph because he loves God supremely and put his master’s interest before his own. Thus, no matter where Joseph goes, the favour of God follows.
The world because of its evil is sliding towards destruction, but God is searching the earth for men and women whom He can trust to turn the world around. And on their account, He would not destroy the world but bless it. The prophet Ezekiel said,
I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Ezekiel 22:30
God has chosen Joseph because he can be trusted to uphold truth and integrity under all circumstances. As we will see in the later chapters, Potiphar’s blessing on account of Joseph is indeed a precursor to Israel’s blessing.
1. Are you a positive change agent in your family, community and workplace? Are you one whom God can depend on to uphold justice and righteousness? An agent of God brings righteousness and trust into the community, not lies and strife. God’s blessing always flow in the direction of righteousness and truth. Therefore, believers are first upholders of righteousness, then workers to generate profit for the company. The psalmist said,
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord,
You surround him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:12
2. Are you a blessing to your organisation or are you just riding on the bandwagon? Do people trust you to deliver what you have promised? Does your boss feel at ease in what is entrusted to you? Make up your mind to love God supremely. Be confident in discharging your responsibilities for God is with you. Be uncompromising in issues pertaining to principles but be flexible in issues of human preferences. Remember that God is your ultimate master who will evaluate our work and who will reward us accordingly. Therefore, work heartily as to the Lord who will judge without partiality. The apostle Paul said,
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Colossians 3:23-25
Dear Lord, cause me to be a positive influence in my family and workplace. I resolve to uphold what is true and to put the interest of the organisation before my own. Help me to build trust among my colleagues. Bless my family and organisation on account of me. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.