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.” (Genesis 39:19–23 (ESV)
I submit to you the following observations from today’s text. Consider them, if you please.
First, why didn’t Potiphar execute Joseph? If he believed his wife enough to place Joseph in prison for attempted rape, why not complete the task of retribution by executing him? Historically, the normal punishment for rape or attempted rape in Egypt was execution. However, this was not the fate Joseph received after being falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:11–18).
Second, even though Joseph was once again a prisoner, the LORD blessed him (Gen. 39:21). Believers in Christ often equate God’s blessings in their lives by their circumstances rather than in spite of their circumstances. Although Joseph was in prison, with seemingly no hope of ever getting out of prison, the LORD not only showed him His sovereign and steadfast love, but also favor with the keeper of the prison.
Third, God’s blessings upon Joseph were in the midst of his prison trial and not the immediate removal of his prison trial. God may choose to place us in trials for our overall benefit and His overall glory (I Peter 1:6-7). The believer in Christ is to count it all joy, even when life is hard (James 1:1-5).
Fourth, Joseph exhibited leadership qualities in whatever situation he found himself. Joseph became in charge of all the other prisoners. The keeper of the prison delegated that responsibility to Joseph. Why did this happen? The text reveals that it was because the LORD was with Joseph and He made everything Joseph did succeed (Gen. 39:1-2).
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Yet we should not think Joseph’s life in prison was easy. In all likelihood, Jacob’s favorite son was confined to a fortress where he would have been subjected to forced labor. Yet again he was persecuted for doing the right thing and serving his master (37:12–28; 39:6b–18), giving us an important theological lesson for our day. Unfortunately, many believers have been deceived into thinking that God never desires for His children to suffer and that to endure a hardship like sickness or poverty necessarily means the victim has a weak faith. The story of Joseph reminds us unjust suffering is often our path to the blessings God wants to shower on us, just as it was for Christ (Isa. 53; Phil. 2:5–11). In many ways, his imprisonment at the hands of his brothers prepared Joseph for his time in the king’s prison.”
Proverbs 24:16 says, “For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” The righteous may suffer many adversities, yet God vindicates them.
One commentator explains, “As God’s holy people, we are not free from suffering and failure, but we alone have the hope the Lord will raise us up again to great blessings, both now and in the age to come. How are you suffering today? Do you face illness, failed plans, or hostility? Trust again in God’s goodness, for He will most certainly raise you up in His time.”
Soli deo Gloria!