Favoritism had a long history in Jacob’s family (Isaac’s preference for Esau, Rebekah’s for Jacob, and Jacob’s preference for Rachel). In every case it created major problems. Jacob, of all people, should have understood this.
His father loved his brother more than him. While Jacob should have been sensitive to favoritism, he repeats the sin of his parents. Parents, learn from the mistakes of Jacob’s family: Do not show favoritism toward any of your children. Favoritism in a home is deadly. It will change the entire dynamics of your home and will affect your children for years to come.
Let me make some suggestions to parents. In order to convey our love to our children:
- We must look for the praiseworthy attributes of our children and then celebrate those traits. In other words, talk about and be proud of who God made them to be and what they do well.
- We must affirm an unconditional love that is not based on whether or not our child “produces.”
- We must be alert to those sensitive areas in our children and be careful not to attack them in those areas when we are angry with them.
- We must strive to be consistent from one child to the next.
- We must present adverse consequences of misbehavior ahead of time and then follow through if tested. (Sometimes the best way to say, “I care” is to discipline…to not discipline is to be seen as not caring.)
I hope this passage encourages you to build a relationship with a child, grandchild, niece, or nephew that may feel unloved. These suggestions may help you to do that.
- Write them a note telling them what you appreciate and cherish about them…be specific.
- Give them a call and tell them you were thinking about them. One of the best things we can do for our children is to let them know that we love them.
- Ask them about their life and look them right in the eye while they are talking to you!
- Spend a day together doing something with them.
- Let them hear you pray for them.
Maybe your parents made (or are now making) some mistakes in dealing with you. You can get mad and bitter at them (or even at God) for all the wrongs they’ve done.
You can blame them for not protecting you from things that damaged your life or for showing favoritism to your brothers and sisters or for being passive parents.
Or, you can trust that God has sovereignly placed you in your family. Even though you don’t understand everything taking place, you can thank God because you know that He will use all these hardships for ultimate good. You can ask Him to take away your bitterness and make you the channel of His love.
But no matter what our family background or circumstances, we’re responsible to obey the Lord. Even if you come from an appalling background, God expects you to deal with your sin by confessing and forsaking it as you obey Him in response to His grace and love as shown to you in Christ.
Sharing God’s blessing – Genesis 39:1-6 (NIV)
1 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.
2 The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.
3 When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did,
4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.
5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.
6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome,
When he was at home in Hebron, Joseph’s brothers considered him to be a troublemaker, but in Egypt, he was a source of blessing because God was with him. God promised Abraham that his descendants would bring blessing to other nations (12:1-3), and Joseph fulfilled that promise in Egypt.
Joseph is a good example of a believer who trusted God and made the best of his difficult circumstances. Joseph would rather have been at home, but he made the best of his circumstances in Egypt, and God blessed him.
The blessing of the Lord was very evident to the people in Potiphar’s household, and they knew that Joseph was the cause. Potiphar gradually turned more and more responsibility over to Joseph until Joseph was actually managing the entire household, except for the food Potiphar ate.
Joseph was well liked by the people in Potiphar’s house; and in pagan, idol-worshiping Egypt, Joseph was a testimony to the true and living God. He was an honest and faithful worker, and the people he lived and worked with got the message. God took note of Joseph’s character and conduct and made him a blessing; and unknown to Joseph, God planned to fulfill the dreams He had sent him.
But his faithful service wasn’t only a blessing to the household, it was also a blessing to Joseph himself. Had he stayed home with his pampering father, Joseph might not have developed the kind of character that comes from hard work and obeying orders. The description of Joseph in Genesis 39:6 prepares the way for the episode involving Potiphar’s wife. Not only was Joseph godly, dependable, and efficient, but he was also handsome and well favored, qualities he inherited from his mother (29:17, kjv).
Overcoming great temptation Genesis 39:7-20 (NIV)
7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.
9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside.
12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house,
14 she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed.
15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home.
17 Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me.
18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”
19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger.
20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison..”
Joseph had suffered in a pit because of the hatred of his brothers, but now he would face an even greater danger because of the lust of an evil woman.
Potiphar’s wife treated Joseph in a humiliating way by inviting him into her bed. She may have reasoned, “After all, isn’t he a Jew and a slave at that? And doesn’t he work for my husband and therefore also work for me? Since my husband isn’t here, I’m in charge; and Joseph is my employee. It’s his job to take orders.” She treated Joseph like a thing, not like a person; and when her advances were rejected, she turned against him.
No matter how much people talk about ‘love” and defend sex outside of marriage, the experience is wrong, cheap, and demeaning. What begins as “sweetness” soon turns into poison. Joseph wasn’t about to sacrifice either his purity or his integrity just to please his master’s wife.
It took a great deal of courage and determination for Joseph to fight this battle day after day, but he succeeded. He explained to her why he wouldn’t cooperate:
(1) She was another man’s wife, and that man was his master;
(2) he was trusted by his master and didn’t want to violate that trust;
(3) even if nobody else found out about it, God would know it and be displeased. All she asked for was a moment of pleasure, but to Joseph, this was a great wickedness against God (Gen. 39:9).
Potiphar’s wife probably arranged for the other servants to be out of the way on the day she launched her greatest attack, but at the same time she saw to it that they were near enough at hand for her to call them to see Joseph’s garment.
Self-control is an important factor in building character and preparing us for leadership.
For the second time in his life, Joseph lost a garment (Gen. 39:12; see also 37:23); but as the Puritan preacher said, “Joseph lost his coat but he kept his character.” Since Potiphar was involved in the Egyptian judicial system, we wonder why he didn’t try to put Joseph on trial or even execute him. Of course, God was in control, working out His wonderful plan for Joseph, Egypt, Joseph’s family, and the world.
I want to remind you again of the temptation that this must have been to Joseph. Consider the full picture:
- Joseph came from a dysfunctional family (37:3).
- Joseph was hated and betrayed by his brothers (37:4-5, 8, 27-28).
- Joseph was sold into slavery (37:36; 39:1).
- Joseph’s brothers Reuben and Judah were immoral (35:22; 38:18).
- Joseph was a young man with hormones in full force (37:2).
- Joseph’s family would never know.
- The Egyptian culture was filled with sexual immorality.
These factors would have led almost any man into sin…but not Joseph.
Enduring injustice (Gen. 39:21-40:23)
Once again, it was the Lord who made the difference. Whether Joseph was a steward in Potiphar’s house or an accused criminal in the prison, “the Lord was with Joseph” and gave him success.
Learning to wait (39:21-23). “…the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. 22 So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
In prison, it would have been very easy for Joseph to wallow in self-pity. He could well have said to himself, “What’s the good of trusting God and doing what is right? So far, it has only gotten me into trouble.” Instead, Joseph set out to minister to others, and before long, the hand of God was once again evident in Joseph’s life. The warden gave Joseph a free hand, putting him in charge of all the prisoners. He virtually ran the prison (39:21-23). It was during this time that two prisoners were added to those under Joseph’s care. One was Pharaoh’s butler (literally, his cup bearer), and the other his baker. Both were paying the price for offending their master. Moses makes a very interesting comment about Joseph’s relationship to these men:
God permitted Joseph to be treated unjustly and put in prison to help build his character and prepare him for the tasks that lay ahead. The prison would be a school where Joseph would learn to wait on the Lord until it was His time to vindicate him and fulfill his dreams. Joseph had time to think and pray and to ponder the meaning of the two dreams God had sent him. He would learn that God’s delays are not God’s denials.
God often removes our “crutches” so we’ll learn to walk by faith and trust Him alone. Two years later, God would use the cupbearer to help deliver Joseph from prison. Thus Joseph’s request wasn’t wasted. During those two years of waiting, Joseph clung to the dreams God had given him, just the way you and I would cling to His promises. God had promised that people would bow down to Joseph, and he believed God’s promise. He didn’t know how God would accomplish it or when it would happen, but he knew that God was faithful.
Learning to interpret (40:1-13, 16-22). Since the king’s prisoners were put into this prison, Joseph met some men who held high offices and had access to Pharaoh, among them Pharaoh’s chief butler (cupbearer) and the royal baker. The cupbearer’s job was to protect the king by making certain the king’s wine was prepared and safe to drink (Neh. 1:11-2:1). Since he served in the very presence of Pharaoh, he was a powerful man with access to the king’s ear. God brought these two men into Joseph’s life so that He could ultimately set him free and give him the throne He had prepared for him.
Dreams played a very important part in the life of leaders in Egypt, and the ability to interpret dreams was a highly respected skill. So far, Joseph had pondered his own dreams, but this is the first time he interprets the dreams of others. The fact that he noticed the looks of dismay on the men’s faces shows that he was a caring and discerning man; and the fact that Joseph gave God the glory (Gen. 40:8) shows he was a humble man.
Joseph’s interpretations came true: The cupbearer was restored to his position, and the baker was executed. While Joseph was no doubt sorry for the baker, it must have encouraged him to see that his interpretation was accurate and that Pharaoh did reconsider cases and set people free.
Learning to trust (vv. 14-15, 23). Knowing that the cupbearer would be released and have access to Pharaoh, Joseph asked him to speak a good word for him and get him out of the prison. Joseph didn’t mention his brothers or accuse them of evil. He only said he was “stolen” (kidnapped) from home and therefore was not a slave but a free man who deserved better treatment.
After his release and restoration, the cupbearer not only said nothing to Pharaoh about Joseph, but also he forgot Joseph completely! It was a full two years before the butler brought Joseph’s name before Pharaoh.
The Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him greatly. The first dream was of seven fat cows, which were eaten by seven very skinny and ugly cows. The second dream was of seven healthy heads of grain that were swallowed up by seven thin heads of grain. None of Pharaoh’s diviners were able to interpret the meaning of these dreams, but the butler remembered the young Hebrew who had interpreted his dream, along with that of the baker, while both were in prison. Pharaoh called for Joseph, who made it clear it was God who gave the interpretation of dreams.
Joseph’s words were of great comfort and encouragement to Pharaoh, who must have sensed something ominous about his dreams. The dreams referred to the same events. There would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of severe famine. The years of famine would consume the abundance of the years of plenty. The fact that there were two dreams confirmed that this would most surely come to pass.