A Miniature Portrait of Joseph
Genesis 39:1-6
And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian…

Scripture frequently sums up a man's life in a single sentence. Here is the biography of Joseph sketched by inspiration: "God was with him," so Stephen testified in his famous speech recorded in Acts 7:9. Observe, however, that the portraits of Scripture give us not only the outer, but the inner life of the man. Man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh upon the heart; and so the Scriptural descriptions of men are not of their visible life alone, but of their spiritual life. Here we have Joseph as God saw him, the real Joseph. Externally it did not always appear that God was with him, for he did not always seem to be a prosperous man; but when you come to look into the inmost soul of this servant of God, you see his true likeness — he lived in communion with the Most High, and God blessed him: "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man." This striking likeness of Joseph strongly reminds us of our Master and Lord, that greater Joseph, who is Lord over all the world for the sake of Israel. Peter, in his sermon to the household of Cornelius, said of our Lord that He "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him." Exactly what had been said of Joseph. It is wonderful that the same words should describe both Jesus and Joseph, the perfect Saviour and the imperfect patriarch. This having the Lord with us is the inheritance of all the saints; for what is the apostolic benediction in the Epistles but a desire that the triune God may be with us? To the Church in Rome Paul saith, "Now the God of peace be with you all." To the Church in Corinth he writes, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen." To the Thessalonians he saith, "The Lord be with you all." Did not our glorious Lord say, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"?

I. First, we will run over Joseph's life, and note THE FACT "The Lord was with Joseph."

1. God was gracious to Joseph as a child. Happy are those who have Christ with them in the morning, for they shall walk with Him all day, and sweetly rest with Him at eventide.

2. "The Lord was with Joseph" when Joseph was at home, and He did not desert him when he was sent away from his dear father and his beloved home and was sold for a slave. I think I see him in the slave market exposed for sale. We have heard with what trembling anxiety the slave peers into the faces of those who are about to buy. Will he get a good master? Will one purchase him who will treat him like a man, or one who will use him worse than a brute? " The Lord was with Joseph" as he stood there to be sold, and he fell into good hands. When he was taken away to his master's house, and the various duties of his service were allotted to him, the Lord was with Joseph. The house of the Egyptian had never been so pure, so honest, so honoured before. Beneath Joseph's charge it was secretly the temple of his devotions, and manifestly the abode of comfort and confidence. That Hebrew slave had a glory of character about him, which all perceived, and especially his master, for we read: "His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight."

3. Then came a crisis in his history, the time of testing. We see Joseph tried by a temptation in which, alas, so many perish. He was attacked in a point at which youth is peculiarly vulnerable. His comely person made him the object of unholy solicitations from one upon whose goodwill his comfort greatly depended, and had it not been that the Lord was with him he must have fallen. Slavery itself was a small calamity compared with that which would have happened to young Joseph had he been enslaved by wicked passions. Happily the Lord was with him, and enabled him to overcome the tempter with the question, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" He fled. That flight was the truest display of courage. It is the only way of victory in sins of the flesh. The apostle says, "Flee youthful lusts which war against the soul." When Telemachus was in the isle of Calypso, his mentor cried, "Fly, Telemachus, fly; there remains no hope of a victory but by flight." Wisely Joseph left his garment and fled, for God was with him.

4. The scene shifts again, and he who bad been first a favoured child at home, and then a slave, and then a tempted one, now becomes a prisoner. The prisons of Egypt were, doubtless, as horrible as all such places were in the olden times, and here is Joseph in the noisome dungeon. He evidently felt his imprisonment very much, for we are told in the Psalms that "the iron entered into his soul." He felt it a cruel thing to be under such a slander, and to suffer for his innocence. A young man so pure, so chaste, must have felt it to be sharper than a whip of scorpions to be accused as he was; yet as he sat down in the gloom of his cell, the Lord was with him. The degradation of a prison had not deprived him of his Divine Companion. Blessed be the name of the Lord, He does not forsake His people when they are in disgrace: nay, He is more pleasant with them when they are falsely accused than at any other time, and He cheers them in their low estate. God was with him, and very soon the kindly manners, the gentleness, the activity, the truthfulness, the industry of Joseph had won upon the keeper of the prison, so that Joseph rose again to the top, and was the overseer of the prison. Like a cork, which you may push down, but it is sure to come up again, so was Joseph: he must swim, he could not drown, the Lord was with him. The Lord's presence made him a king and a priest wherever he went, and men tacitly owned his influence. In the little kingdom of the prison Joseph reigned, for " God was with him."

5. Joseph was made ruler over all Egypt, and God was with him. Well did the king say, "Can we find such a man as this is in whom the Spirit of God is?" His policy in storing up corn in the plenteous years succeeded admirably, for God was evidently working by him to preserve the human race from extinction by famine.

6. God was with him in bringing down his father and the family into Egypt, and locating them in Goshen, and with him till he himself came to die, when he "took an oath of the children of Israel, saying God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence." The Lord was with him, and kept him faithful to the covenant, and the covenanted race, even to the close of a long life of one hundred and ten years.

II. We shall next review THE EVIDENCE OF THE FACT that God was with him.

1. The first evidence of it is this: he was always under the influence of the Divine presence, and lived in the enjoyment of it.

2. The next evidence is this: God was certainly with Joseph because he was pure in heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God"; no other can do so. What fellowship hath light with darkness, or what concord hath Christ with Belial? The intense purity of Joseph was a proof that the thrice holy God was ever with him. He will keep the feet of His saints. When they are tempted He will deliver them from evil, for His presence sheds an atmosphere of holiness around the heart in which He dwells.

3. The next evidence in Joseph's case was the diligence with which he exercised himself wherever he was. God was with Joseph, and therefore the man of God hardly cared as to the outward circumstances of his position, but began at once to work that which is good.

4. But notice again, God was with Joseph, and that made him tender and sympathetic. Some men who are prompt enough in business are rough, coarse, hard; but not so Joseph. His tenderness distinguishes him; he is full of loving consideration. He loved with all his soul, and so will every man who has God with him, for "God is love." If you do not love, God is net with you. If you go through the world, selfish and morose, bitter, suspicious, bigoted, hard, the devil is with you, God is not; for where God is He expands the spirit, He causes us to love all mankind with the love of benevolence, and He makes us take a sweet complacency in the chosen brotherhood of Israel, so that we specially delight to do good to all those of the household of faith.

5. Another mark of God's presence with Joseph is his great wisdom. He did everything as it ought to be done. You can scarcely alter anything in Joseph's life to improve it, and I think if I admire his wisdom in one thing more than another it is in his wonderful silence. It is easy to talk, comparatively easy to talk well, but to be quiet is the difficulty.

6. "God was with him," and this is the last evidence I give of it, that he was kept faithful to the covenant, faithful to Israel and to Israel's God right through. Joseph stuck to his people and to their God: though he must live in Egypt, he will not be an Egyptian; he will not even leave his dead body to lie in an Egyptian pyramid. The Egyptians built a costly tomb for Joseph: it stands to this day, but his body is not there. "I charge you," says he, "take my bones with you; for I do not belong to Egypt, my place is in the land of promise." "He gave commandment concerning his bones." Let others do as they will; as for me, my lot is cast with those who follow the Lord fully. Yes, my Lord, where Thou dwellest I will dwell; Thy people shall be my people, and Thy God my God, and may my children be Thy children to the last generation. If the Lord is with you that is what you will say, but if He is not with you, and you prosper in" the world, and increase in riches, you will turn your back on Christ and His people, and we shall have to say as Paul did, "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world."

III. Thirdly, let us observe, THE RESULT OF GOD'S BEING WITH JOSEPH. The result was that "he was a prosperous man"; but notice that, although the Lord was with Joseph, it did not screen him from hatred. "The Lord was with him," but his brethren hated him. Ay, and if the Lord loves a man, the world will spite him. Furthermore, "The Lord was with Joseph," bat it did not screen him from temptation of the worst kind: it did not prevent his mistress casting her wicked eyes upon him. The best of men may be tempted to the worst of crimes. The presence of God did not screen him from slander: the base woman accused him of outrageous wickedness, and God permitted Potiphar to believe her. Nay, the Divine presence did not screen him from pain: he sat in prison wearing fetters till the iron entered into his soul, and yet " the Lord was with him." That presence did not save him from disappointment. He said to the butler, "Think of me when it is well with thee"; but the butler altogether forgot him. Everything may seem to go against you, and yet God may be with you. The Lord does not promise you that you shall have what looks like prosperity, but you shall have what is real prosperity in the better sense. Now, what did God's being with Joseph do for him?

1. First, it saved him from gross sin. He flees, he shuts his ears: he flees and conquers, for God is with him.

2. God was with him, and the next result was it enabled him to act grandly. Wherever he is he does the right thing, does it splendidly.

3. In such a manner did God help Joseph that he was enabled to fulfil a glorious destiny, for if Noah be the world's second father, what shall we say of Joseph, but that he was its foster nurse? The human race had died of famine if Joseph's foresight had not laid by in store the produce of the seven plenteous years, for there was a famine over all lands.

4. Also it gave him a very happy life, for taking the life of Joseph all through it is an enviable one. Nobody would think of putting him down among the miserable. If we had to make a selection of unhappy men, we certainly should not think of Joseph. No, it was a great life and a happy life; and such will yours be if God be with you.

5. And, to finish, God gave Joseph and his family a double portion in Israel, which never happened to any other of the twelve sons of Jacob. Those who begin early with God, and stand fast to the end, and hold to God both in trouble and prosperity, shall see their children brought to the Lord, and in their children they shall possess the double, yea, the Lord shall render unto them double for all they may lose in honour for His name's sake.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.

WEB: Joseph was brought down to Egypt. Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the hand of the Ishmaelites that had brought him down there.

A Lesson to Servants and Masters
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