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God’s Presence with Joseph

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
March 20, 2023 12:01 am

God’s Presence with Joseph

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 20, 2023 12:01 am

Sold into slavery and then imprisoned on false charges, it seemed the whole world was against Joseph. But the Lord was with him. Today, Derek Thomas reminds us that God is present with His people to work every trial for our good.

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If you believe that every event and circumstance in your life is part of God's plan and purpose for you, then would you not, even in the midst of a great trial, praise Him?

When you and I face trials and difficulties in our life, are we quick to agree with Joseph, who says, You might have meant it for evil, but God meant it for good? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us this week on Renewing Your Mind. This week, Ligonier Teaching Fellow, Dr Derek Thomas, is beginning a new series, Imprisoned, Faith in All Circumstances, and today he's looking at the life of Joseph to help us learn lessons for when we face challenges and difficulties in our life.

Here's Dr Thomas now. Well, hello, and we are going to spend 12 sessions together looking at events that have a connection where someone is imprisoned, and I want to ask the question, what did they learn? How did they cope?

How did they view this devastating, shocking experience? We're going to begin in Genesis, and we will end in the book of Revelation, and I've chosen 12 characters, biblical characters, who found themselves behind locked doors. And I want us to think of it in terms of maybe a season of trial, difficulty.

How do we respond? What are the lessons that these biblical characters teach us when we find ourselves perhaps metaphorically locked up with nowhere to go? My first character is Joseph in Genesis chapter 39, and I'm not going to read all 23 verses of Genesis 39, but I'm going to pick out one verse, but I'll be alluding to the entire chapter as we study this together. And verse 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. In the middle of the 17th century, in 1660, John Bunyan, the great Baptist preacher, was imprisoned.

He would be imprisoned for 12 years and released in 1672, and then some six months later was imprisoned once again for several months. He found himself at odds with the law, and the law in 1660, the Puritan movement had collapsed, and Charles II had been restored as king, and it was time to reverse what had been happening in England. And Bunyan and his likes were forbidden. Bunyan was an unordained Baptist preacher, and unordained preachers were not allowed to preach in established churches.

And because Bunyan refused to heed that law, he was imprisoned for 12 years, and he told the magistrates he could have simply recanted and give a promise that he would not do this anymore, but he told the magistrates that he would rather see moss grow over his eyes than to live in disobedience to God. God was with Bunyan, and God was with Joseph, and it's like a tolling bell here in Genesis 39. In verses 2, 3, 21, and 23, we are told that God was with Joseph.

I want us to see three things. First of all, that God was with Joseph in providential preserving, in providential preserving. Now, we meet Joseph.

We'll pick it up when he is 17 years of age. He is at home, a self-absorbed mother's boy, somewhat selfish, perhaps a tad arrogant, but God is going to change him. And he is one of Jacob's twelve sons. There were four different women in Jacob's life, but Joseph is the son of Jacob's old age and dotage. His mother, Rachel, for whom Jacob worked fourteen years for his tricky uncle Laban.

It's a dysfunctional family. Joseph is given this multicolored coat, garment. He is exempt from hard labor and farming, and he is somewhat ostentatious and somewhat lacking in wisdom. The text tells us that he is a tale-bearer. In Hebrew, he told untrue stories, the folly perhaps that arises from favoritism that had been shown to Joseph. Then came the moment that Joseph could dream, and he dreamt that one day his family would bow down to him. A reference, of course, to the time when Joseph would be in Egypt and the family would come at a time of famine, and Joseph was the second most important person next to the Pharaoh in Egypt.

Well, this didn't go down well, and even Jacob, his father, was incensed by this, and it stoked the revenge of his brothers. Reuben and Judah intervened when the brothers on a journey to Midian decided that it was time to kill Joseph, but Reuben and Judah intervened and they sold him into slavery instead. And instead of dying, he becomes a slave, and Jacob is shown the multicolored coat now drenched in blood, and as far as Jacob is concerned, Joseph is dead according to the children. Twenty years pass by, and Joseph lands on his feet. He is in Potiphar's house as a servant, as a slave. Potiphar is the captain of Pharaoh's army, and we are told that he was successful. Verse 2, the Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man.

Tyndale, in his wonderful translation, said Joseph was a lucky man. And we can take that in a Calvinist sense. The lot is cast into the lap, but the outcome thereof is of the Lord.

And then everything goes south. He is falsely accused. Joseph is the victim in this instance, not the woman, but the man is the victim.

Potiphar's wife grabs hold of him, and he escapes, leaving the outer garment in her hands, and she accuses him of rape, and he is imprisoned. But again, in verses 21 and 23, the Lord was with Joseph. Stephen, in Acts chapter 7, just before his death, quotes this statement that the Lord was with Joseph. It's a summary of Joseph's life. Moses uses this phrase of Joseph's grandfather, Isaac, three times. He uses it of Joseph's father, Jacob, twice, and here of Joseph himself, four times. It's a statement of God's providence. It's a statement of God's taking care of Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph. And despite his awkward and difficult teenage personality, there was a task for Joseph to do. Palmer Robertson tells us that there's an Emmanuel principle, he calls it, an Emmanuel principle in Scripture.

I am with you. Emmanuel, God with us. And the echo here in the patriarchal narratives of that Emmanuel principle, God with His people. God is preserving Joseph for a task that will ensure the promise made in Genesis 3.15, that the seed of the woman would crush the seed of the serpent, and the promise that God had made to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 15 and 17, that he would be the father of a multitude of people. Well, in order for that promise to be fulfilled, Joseph must be in a position to help these patriarchs in the future when this drought and imminent starvation befalls the land of Israel.

But in a more narrow sense, in the details of Joseph's life, he was a successful man. God was with him, and God blessed him in providential preserving. God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm, deep in unfathomable minds of never-failing skill.

He treasures up His bright designs and works His sovereign will, so wrote William Cooper. Well, secondly, God was with Joseph in persistent temptation. Let's go back to that moment when Potiphar's wife asked that he lay with her. I can only touch on it here.

It deserves a fuller treatment in and of itself, saying no to temptation, and it deserves a detailed examination. It's interesting, having mentioned John Bunyan earlier, that John Bunyan himself was accused of a very similar thing with a woman called Anne Beaumont. Apparently, he was on his way to church on his horse, and it was raining, and Anne Beaumont, a member of the church, he gave her a ride on the horse. People saw it, they drew conclusions.

Anne Beaumont eventually died, and the funeral was delayed because her father suspected that John Bunyan was involved in her death. He was eventually cleared in a court of law, but a very similar incident to that of Joseph. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, or deliver us from the evil one. And Joseph, young as he is, and he would have now been in his late thirties perhaps when this incident occurred.

And notice, let's notice three things about this. First of all, that the temptation took place in the course, in the pathway of duty. He was doing what God wanted him to do. He was a servant. He was a slave.

He was a slave in the household of the general of Pharaoh's army, Potiphar. And it's while he is doing his duty, not in the course of disobedience, but in the course of obedience, temptation came his way. We're told in verses 6 and 7 that Joseph was a handsome man, and she says to him, "'Come, lie with me.'"

And in that moment, Joseph now must decide what to do and to decide in a godly manner what to do. Notice, secondly, the power of temptation. She was, after all, a very powerful woman.

She was the wife of one of the most powerful men, military men in Egypt. And notice the persistence of this temptation. In verse 10, as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her to lie beside her or to be with her. This wasn't just a one-time event.

This was something that persisted day after day. What did Joseph do? And I think it's instructive for us as a way of understanding what we should do in any kind of temptation, not simply sexual temptation, but that too, but in any trial, in any temptation that comes our way. Notice, first of all, that Joseph reasons. Well, let me go back to verse 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. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?'" He reasons. He reasons, first of all, that this would be an abuse of the phenomenal trust that Potiphar has placed in Joseph, trusting him to the extent that Potiphar was not greater than Joseph in terms of the running of the house. Secondly, it would be an offense to Potiphar as a husband.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it would be a sin against God, a sin against God like David in Psalm 51 with Bathsheba, against you, "'You only have I sinned and done this evil in your sight.'" Notice, too, how decisive Joseph was. He didn't hesitate.

He reasons, but he's also decisive, and when she eventually laid hold of him, she grabbed him, he ran, leaving his cloak in her hands. The lesson here is simple, to say no to temptation, to say no to sin, to run from it. Ralph, the two brothers Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine, but Ralph Erskine in the 18th century in Scotland, once said that we need to implement the fight or flight attitude to personal temptation.

The fight or flight, when you can't fight it, you flee from it, you run away from it. You remember the words of the Apostle Peter, "'Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.'" Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.

I have in one of my rooms in my current house a statement. It was painted on canvas by the wife of a teaching assistant that I once had, and it's a quotation from John Owen, "'Set faith at work on Christ for the killing of your sins, and you will in God's good providence live to see your lust dead at your feet.'" And I think that's exactly what Joseph did. He set faith at work on Christ for the killing of his sin, and he saw in God's good providence.

He saw that sin dead at his feet. Well, thirdly in this passage, God was with Joseph for a purpose he did not yet know. It was while he was in prison, and he would be in prison for a decade or so until he would be in his late 40s and perhaps nearing 50. But he discovered in prison that he had a talent, a gift.

It was the gift of interpreting dreams. And you remember from the patriarchal narrative in the closing chapters of the book of Genesis that Joseph interpreted the dream, first of all, of the jailer and then the dream of Pharaoh himself. And it led to his elevation. He was released from prison having effectively interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. Pharaoh made him the second most important person in the whole of Egypt. It's a phenomenal story.

He was in a position of profound influence over the political and economic success that was Egypt. And why did this happen? Well, it happened because of the mystery of providence. John Flavel, the Puritan in the 17th century, wrote a book. It was a series of sermons on the doctrine of providence, and he called it The Mystery of Providence. And in one of those chapters, he tells us that the best way to read providence is to read it backwards, like Hebrew, to read it backwards. From the front end, Joseph had no way of understanding why he had been betrayed by his brothers.

He had no way of understanding why he would be the victim of a false sexual allegation, why he would have to be imprisoned for ten years. But at the end of the book of Genesis, we see the reason for all of this, because he was in a position to read the dream of Pharaoh that predicted that there would be seven years of famine. And he was in a position to make sure that there was plenty of grain for Egypt, but not just for Egypt, but for his brothers, and for his father, and for his friends who would come to Egypt looking for grain in their great need, and Joseph would be there. And you remember the words of Moses that as he records Joseph speaking to his brothers when he finally, you remember, reveals himself to his brothers, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. If you believe that every event and circumstance in your life is part of God's plan and purpose for you, then would you not, even in the midst of a great trial, would you not bless God even in the midst of that trial that you would praise Him? This is the first of a series of twelve studies on providence that we see someone imprisoned and we learn these wonderful lessons that would apply to us in our trials and difficulties and problems. Well, that's Joseph.

We'll see a second character in the next session. What a great comfort that is and a wonderful truth for us to remember as we go through various trials and difficulties in our life. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was Dr. Derek Thomas with a message from his new series Imprisoned, Faith in All Circumstances.

And today was just one truth, one lesson that we learned from this series. It's twelve messages in all across two DVDs, and we'd love to send you a copy today for your donation of any amount. You can give your gift at or by calling us at 800-435-4343. Not only will you get access to all twelve messages in the series, we'll also give you access to the digital study guide, so make your gift today at Tomorrow, Dr. Thomas will be looking at Samson, one who lived a very different life than Joseph, a life filled with vices and sins. So we'll see you tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. Bye. Dr. Thomas, thank you so much for joining us today, and we'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-20 02:18:35 / 2023-03-20 02:25:57 / 7

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