Oh the pile of sermons that has been preached on Genesis 39! Joseph the Hard Worker. Joseph the Chaste. Joseph the Honest.
How about Joseph the “Does All The Work for Your Group Project and You Get an ‘A’?” Seriously, that guy is like a slacker factory. He shows up and everyone else gets to take a break!
But after studying this chapter a bit, I can see why it is such a popular favorite.
God Was With Him
We are told four times that the LORD is with Joseph, and twice that the LORD causes all he does to prosper.
This is all well and good until we remember the context in which this takes place. Joseph has been sold into slavery by his own family and later is unjustly thrown into an Egyptian rapist prison.
Now, I don’t know about you but if that happened to me, my first thought would not be that God was with me. I would probably be wondering what the heck he was doing up there while the world was taking a dump on me.
So how exactly is God with him?
God shows up in the places Joseph can control. In his day to day actions. In his relationships. The big stuff will come later. Right now it is about how Joseph sweeps the floor or how he milks a cow or how gooey the chocolate chip cookies he makes are.
Maybe we need to look for God there first.
We are never told why God was with Joseph. For that matter, we are never told why he has been with anyone yet.
He. Just. Is.
I want to try and make sense of it. I want to find a reason. I want to say that Joseph was a hard worker and God saw it so he was with him but that isn’t what the text says.
Joseph worked hard because God was with him.
But Maybe . . .
But maybe there is a reason. Joseph is the victim of injustice, lies, and oppression. And God chooses to be with him.
Even then, it wouldn’t be something that Joseph did that got God’s attention, it would be something that happened to him. There have been hints of this throughout the Genesis stories. Clues that this God has a special place in his heart for those who have nothing.
He cares about the women who are taken advantage of.
He cares about the ones who have no power.
Yes, he is with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. And yes, those guys use their own power in less than honorable ways. But even then, he is with the messy and selfish.
And he will work through them all despite their best efforts.