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Author: Phil Hodson
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Congregation:Christ the King Presbyterian Church
 Longview, Texas
Title:God puts us between a rock and a hard place, to teach us to rely on Him
Text:Genesis 39 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Readings Ps139; Heb 12
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Phil Hodson, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Do you have a faith that gives your life stability, a faith that drives your life?

  • Or are you blown about all over the place,
  • controlled by all the various things that come your way? 

Do you become a different person when things are going smoothly as compared to when things seem to be falling apart and challenges come? 

If you haven’t been hit hard as a Christian you will be. 

  • God says that being hit hard is the normal pattern of the Christian life.
  • In fact in the Hebrews 12 passage that we read, the writer says every member of Christ should expect the trials and tribulations of God’s discipline and if you don’t then maybe you are not then something is wrong.

And the key is that God’s discipline is for our good to teach us to rely upon Him.

  • To demonstrate the reality of our faith.
  • To train us for righteousness.
  • To make us holy.

You see it is only as you walk by faith that you can get through the trials of this life.

  • Faith gives us stability in the midst of every storm.
  • It is what energizes the Christian life. It is why we push on through every obstacle.

If you are building your life upon Christ and trusting Him by faith, the rest of your circumstances will not be ultimately controlling.

  • The Christian’s life does not consist in such as these, it does not consist in our circumstances.
  • But it consists in knowing Christ and walking according to His promises.

    If you are grounded in your relationship with Christ and know Him,

  • and are simply taking Him at His word, then you won’t be blown all about no matter what happens
  • Your faith will push through every obstacle.
  • And that is what we are going to see today in our passage about joseph.

Faith gives stability.

  • Faith endures.
  • Faith overcomes.
  • Faith pushes through every obstacle.

In our passage today we have an example of how God takes us right up to the line,

or should we say right down to the wire, in order to train us.  

He puts us between a rock and a hard place as it were, to teach us to rely on Him.  

He gives us circumstances out of our control, to make us understand that He is faithful in every circumstance, and that He is the one calling the shots.  

And He glorifies Himself by doing it this way.

  • He proves our faith to the world, and He proves our lack of it to ourselves.
  • But you see, whether we pass the testing or we stumble and then repent,
    • the thing that is always true,
    • and that these circumstances drive us to consider and rest in,
    • is that He is always with us and He is hammering on us to make us more like His Son,
  • that we will be conformed to the image of His Son,
  • who is the perfect example of what our faith is to look like.

In this last part of Genesis we’re in a section with the story of Joseph that is an amazing picture that God has given us of Christ.

  • Joseph in his faithfulness here points us to look to Christ.
  • And we will see that here again this week.

We’re at chapter 39 this week,  Let us read it now: 

Genesis 39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.

2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.

3 His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.

4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had.

5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had, in house and field.

6 So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

7 And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, "Lie with me."

8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.

9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"

10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house,

12 she caught him by his garment, saying, "Lie with me." But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house,

14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, "See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice.

15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house."

16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home,

17 and she told him the same story, saying, "The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me.

18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house."

19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, "This is the way your servant treated me," his anger was kindled.

20 And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.

21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.

23 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. 

The Word of the Lord

Thanks Be to God. 

As we read this passage it is important to remember from ch37 that Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, Jacob gives him the special coat of many colors, and the brothers are not happy.

Then we saw Joseph have some dreams about his family bowing down to him and his brothers have had all they can take.

  • So they plan to kill him, throw him in a pit, and then at the last moment decide to sell him to some Ishmealites passing by.

So Joseph was about to die, but at the last moment is sold into slavery, and that’s where our passage picks up.

  • He’s not dead, but he might as well be.
  • His life as he knew it, as the favored child, is over. That life is dead and now he’s been humbled to the ground.

And as we look through this passage here, the thing that we see very clearly is that Joseph shows us what it is like to have a faith that endures. 

As the passage opens the stage is set by our finding out that Joseph is now a slave of a man named Potipher, in Egypt, in the house of Pharoah.

  • He has been brought all the way down from being the favored son of the great patriarch Jacob, who we have just now been told will be called Israel, and a great nation is suppose to come from Israel.
  • Joseph was the heir apparent and he has been swept seemingly out of the picture and down into slavery in Egypt.
  • Joseph the potential representative of God’s nation- for all intents and purposes, is as good as dead.
  • That’s how the scene opens.

But even as the stage is set, we are given a key bit of information.

V2. 2 The LORD was with Joseph,  

Even though by the standards of the world things seem to have gone completely south and to be hopeless.

  • The Lord was with Joseph, the writer tells us.

And the resurrection of Joseph seems to be happening.

  • The Lord is with him, and it goes on to say, “and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.

The Lord blesses Joseph, and he begins to be successful, not a successful man like a high roller or a man of status, but a successful man in the sense of being blessed to achieve success as God made him fruitful.

  • Whatever Joseph puts his hand to is done well so much so that in v3 we read,

3 His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 

It is obvious that the Lord is with Joseph, and his master takes notice, and in fact in v4 his master gives him more responsibility, and promotes him right up to being overseer of the whole house- twice it says, all that he had, in house and in field. 

And the Lord blesses all that house, it says, for Joseph’s sake. 

Josaph is being supernaturally blessed down in the land of the Gentiles, and the Gentiles are being blessed through his presence there. 

This is a foretaste of the New Testament isn’t it? 

The nations gladly place themselves under a Jewish servant who rules over them to bless both his people and the Gentile peoples. 

We see here two sides to what is going on.

  • Both the blessing of God is upon His man, and the man’s faithfulness. 
  • This really is blossoming into a perfect picture of Christ.

But in v6ff it begins to look like Joseph’s rocketing to stardom might be about to hit a wall. 

The Hebrew dramatist begins to build the tension in the story.  

“V6 Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.”

“V7And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, "Lie with me."

And then v8 8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, "Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.

9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" 

He gives a clear answer.

  • He will have nothing to do with this wickedness.
  • He is faithful to his master, and he is faithful to his God. Period.

Now if you think about this scene there really is a similarity to the temptation in the Garden of Eden. 

  • From any tree you can eat Adam.
  • You are in charge of everything Adam.
  • You are my representative in the whole kingdom,
    • but just do not touch this one thing.

Then the temptation comes, and Adam falls right away. 

Well here Joseph passes the test.

  • He is going to be the faithful servant.
  • Joseph makes the good confession.

But wait, the temptation doesn’t end. 


10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 

It is a continual thing, and Joseph is resisting the temptation to give in.  

What is going to happen?

  • Will he be successful, or will he finally give in like Samson does when his wife pesters him constantly to give her the secret to his strength?
  • The tension is building.

And notice here it says that not only would he not listen to her advances, he refused even to be with her.

  • He tried not to be around her.
  • He was trying in every way to be faithful to his Lord and to his Egyptian master.

He is faithful.

He’s not just faithful outwardly or he surely would have given in. Something is keeping him faithful.

  • What is it?

It’s his faith.  

It’s his relationship wit the living God.

  • He’s not just a guy who can recite his theology as some abstract system.
  • He is in a vital relationship with the God He is serving.

God says through the prophet Jeremiah, in ch9

23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches,

24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD." 

Joseph is the real thing.  “How could I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" 

He could have just as easily said, ‘against my God.’

  • Against the God I love.
  • The God I know, and Who knows me. 
  • I am my beloved’s and He is mine, how could I betray him?

And so if Joseph is going to be brought down, it would seem that it will have to be not by his giving in to temptation, but it will have to be by treachery and betrayal.

  • Again, just like with Jesus.

And that’s what happens in the following verses.

  • She comes in when no one is around, and tries again,
  • and he does the right thing and runs away,
  • but she grabs his robe and he runs off without it,
  • and then we see in what she does next her true character.

He is portrayed as the faithful follower of God.

And she is just the opposite.

  • He loves God, and loves his master. He hates what is evil.
  • She loves what is evil, hates the living God, and hates even her husband.

Look at v14, she says to her servants “my husband has brought in this Hebrew in order to laugh at us,” literally to make sport of us. 

In other words she attacks the reputation and motives of her husband to her servants. 

  • She lies about Joseph and then she violates her own husband.
  • She cares about no one but herself and her own desires. And that is what she is pursuing hard.

We see it when she is around Joseph, day after day.

when she is around her servants, blasting Joseph and even her husband, and now when her husband comes she does all in her power to turn him against Joseph and convince him he has done her wrong. 

Notice it says in v16 she keeps the robe there beside her.

  • She calls Joseph “The Hebrew Slave, whom you have brought among us.” 

Notice she calls him the Hebrew, he’s a foreigner, he’s not one of us, and he is just a slave, he’s nothing special.

  • Nevermind that you have liked this foreigner and put him over the whole house.
  • He’sa slave, and now I want him put to death.
  • (The penalty for what she is accusing him of would have been death.)

If you look through this passage you can see this woman is breaking every commandment.

  • She has no concern for God or worshiping him,
  • She is a liar, she is trying to murder Joseph because he will not be impure with her.
  • She is coveting what is not hers, she is disrespecting the authority of anyone but herself, and living according to her flesh.
  • She is a law unto herself.

Joseph and this woman are portrayed as complete opposites, and she is the representative of the kingdom of this world, while Joseph is the man of faith living according to the standard of the world to come.

  • He is looking forward.

We can see that he is being driven forward, and he is overcoming, because of His faith in God and his relationship with Him. 

He can’t even be toppled. 

  • Joseph here is just like Jesus when the devil came to tempt him in Matt 4.
    • There is no give. 
    • And in Matthew it says that Satan left him until a more opportune time.
    • That scene is at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and this scene here is at the beginning of Joseph’s story.
    • Just like Jesus has much hardship to endure before He is ultimately enthroned, before He has been trained for righteousness and ready to be enthroned, so here things for Joseph are going to get worse before they get better.

And so it’s off to prison where again we see his pattern of faithfulness and God blessing him. 

So we see here in this passage that Joseph is brought into the story as the favored one, and those who are his brothers would kill him,

  • but through God’s providence he begins to learn obedience through the things that he suffers,
  • just like the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus.
  • You see God is training Joseph here for great things, but the way that it comes is through the things that he suffers, the things that he has to endure.

And in this story the first thing he is taken through is being sold into slavery and being faithful in all the house.

  • And then the second part of the passage is Joseph’s sustaining the temptation, the testing of his faith.
  • And the third thing here is this prison scene.

There is slavery, then testing, then prison. 

And in prison we see the same thing. 

Joseph is faithful.

  • He is unswerving.
  • He is persevering through every circumstance.
  • Nothing is phasing him. How can this be?

Well this is what I want to put before you and see from this passage. 

The reason that Joseph is so stable through all this is because he has a foundation that is stable, a foundation that stabilizes him,

  • a foundation that is like the rock that Jesus speaks of in the parable.
    • One man built on the sand and was easily washed away.
    • The other built upon the rock, and could not be moved.
  • What we are seeing here is that Joseph has built his life upon the rock of Christ, upon a hope in the world to come.
  • He is trusting in the messiah that God has promised will come and put things right.
  • And because he knows God and is trusting in His promises, trusting that God’s promises are true and unshakable, He is not willing to turn aside, He is unshakable.
    • Joseph remains faithful.

Notice that back when we read about Abraham and Isaac, that we saw them being trained for righteousness as well.

  • But one thing different about their training was that we saw them stumbling in big ways and then having to repent and learn big lessons.

They went to Egypt and they were scared and lied about their wives.

  • And the Egyptian pharaohs had to rebuke them.
    • “How could you have lied to us and almost let God strike us?!!”
    • The Gentiles in those stories are better than the patriarchs.
    • But now the tables have shifted and we have here Joseph being trained not by falling and having to repent, but by choosing the right thing and being persecuted for righteousness sake.
    • This is much more like the picture of Christ.

There has been development in the story. Progress. 

Joseph is suffering for what is right, and God is training him and growing him up here so that He can use him mightily.

  • And we are going to see that in the coming chapters.

But notice in our text what it says, Just as we are told that Joseph is thrown into prison for this crime that he didn’t commit, it says in v21, using the same language as before, ‘But the Lord was with Joseph. And showed him steadfast love.’  

Steadfast love is the word Hesed, which means God’s special covenant love.

The covenant love that is in view when God comes to man and establishes a special bond or covenant with man through a promise, through His own commitment, a commitment that includes offering to give even His own life by passing between the pieces of the animal right in front of Abraham, where God says “let this happen to me if I do not keep my promise.” 

You see it is this love that is shown to Joseph here and that we are told to remember.

  • And it is this covenant faithfulness of God, this steadfast love that our lord Jesus depends upon and is faithful to when He comes.

It was really the only thing that our Lord could depend upon.

It was what our Lord built His life upon.

When everything else including the whole world was against Him, and even his disciples could not be trusted to be there for him, it was the steadfast love of His Father that Jesus was resting in. 

Think about the garden of Gethsemane, the hour of Jesus’ greatest struggle. Jesus tells the disciples I am sorrowful even unto death.  

And He asks the disciples to pray.

  • As His friends they should have been praying for Him and His struggles.
  • But they were not there for him.
  • No one was there for him.
  • And the only thing that He could depend upon was the faithfulness of his Father, trusting in His promises, trusting in His steadfast love, and walking by faith in the power of the Spirit.

The weight of the world was put on Him.

  • And He successfully overcame it. Take heart He says, I have overcome the world.
  • But you see he didn’t just overcome the world for Himself, He did it for everyone who will call upon Him.

He did it not just to set people free legally or in a way that we know about from only a distance.

  • But He overcame the world, he was made like us in all things, so that being like us He could come to our aid in time of need, he could give us His strength in our time of need, so that we by faith and in His power press through anything the world can give us.

You see if Christ has overcome death, and even that cannot take us captive, then whether we live or die we are the Lord’s, we have the victory.

  • We can know the end right now, and we can press on toward the goal to win the prize for which He has called us heavenward.

The way of faithfulness is the hard way.

Joseph is taking the hard way in our passage. And Jesus took that way as well.

  • He humbled himself all the way,
  • pressing on through hardship,
  • learning obedience through the things that He suffered,
  • having no place to lay His head,
    • having no one to stand by Him at the trial,
    • being betrayed by the friend that He loved,
    • and yet for the joy set before Him he endured the cross and won the victory.
    • Now He has been made Lord and Christ and is reigning and He is for us.

That is good news.

  • That is news that is better than the news that Joseph understood.
  • And because of that we have a better hope.
    • A more sure hope.
    • A hope that does not fade but grows.

You see as we enter and experience the trials that God has for us, we have our eyes fixed on a living hope that is so much more clear.

Joseph here is walking through every trial by this hope, remains steadfast by this hope, and our hope so much more clear. Christ is raised from the dead!

  • And because of that, we should be that much more unshakable.
  • You should be that much more stable when your world is falling apart.
  • You should always possess even joy in the midst of your troubles.

Is that the way it is for you? It often is not for me either. But the reality is that we have a much greater gift and with that comes much greater ability to overcome, as He is training us as well. 

Do not despise the discipline of the Lord but look to Jesus. 

Consider Paul and Silas in prison. They were like Joseph and were not overcome by their circumstances. They were singing hymns. Their joy was unshakable. Paul says I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to keep what I have entrusted to him for that day. 

And he says I have learned to be content in every circumstance. 

How can Paul say that?

  • His life is built on the rock.
  • His faith is attached to Christ and not to the things of this world.
  • He knows that whether he lives or dies, he is a rich man.
  • Whether he is attacked or beaten or shipwrecked, the end is sure—eternity with Christ.
  • He knows that nothing can separate him from His Lord, and that with his eyes fixed there, by clinging to Christ, there is nothing that can stand against the victory that Jesus has won for His sheep.

There is no doubt that God’s promises are absolutely sure.

The doubt is within us.

  • Set it aside and trust Him!
    • He Who calls you is faithful, and He will never leave or forsake you.
    • He promises to be with you to the end of the age.
    • He promises that no one can snatch you out of His hand, that nothng can separate you from His love.

He tells you this: Do not fear, take heart, I have overcome the world.

  • If that is really true, (and it is), your walk should not be bounced around but be straight down the line.
  • He has given His Spirit that you would walk in His power.

Yes, we know that there will be stumbling until we are made perfect, but even so, get up, have your feet washed by humbling yourself and confessing and being restored, and continue to run the race that He has won for you.

Press on toward the goal to win the prize for which He has taken hold of you. 

Rejoice always, and do not let your circumstances even rob you of that.

  • Know the prize and the things of earth will grow strangely dim. Your problems will pale. You will say with Paul “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
  • This was the hope set before Joseph that got him through his brothers throwing him in a pit to die, that got him through slavery, false imprisonment, and chains, and it is the hope that will enable you to press all the way through as the same God is with you, and shows you His steadfast love.
  • Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Phil Hodson, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Phil Hodson

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