top of page

Jan 24: Gen 39, | Psa 44 | Matt 26

Reading 1 - Gen 39

Why did Joseph have to suffer?

"Meanwhile, the lesson of Joseph's life is unmistakable. It is... that God works when His hand is not apparent, and often when it would seem as if He must be taking no notice, and by means that seem to exclude the possibility of His being at work. The conclusion is comforting to those who commit their way to God. It may seem to them that God is not only not working with them, but actually working against them. Let them remember the agony of Joseph in the pit, in slavery, in false imprisonment, and learn that the darkest paths of their life may be the ways appointed for them to reach liberty and life, wealth and honor -- yea, a throne in the kingdom of the antitypical Joseph, who himself had to tread the dark and tearful valley of humiliation, and who, in the days of his glory, will introduce all his brethren, amongst many bright stars, to the most interesting of Jacob's sons" (Robert Roberts, "Ways of Providence" 70).


"Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, 'Come to bed with me!' 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. 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?" (Gen 39:6-9).

BUT HE REFUSED: "Joseph's chastity was an expression of [his character and faith, in several ways]:

  1. His compliant spirit for righteousness -- he knew about suffering and death and forbidden sexual activity; the punishment for pride, jealousy, and deceit. He knew how not to imitate those that had caused family dysfunction and pain amongst his own kith and kin. He was sensitive to the dignity of others in such matters.

  2. His overcoming of the overpowering temptation, like that of Adam and Eve over the fruit of the tree, to know good and evil.

  3. Potiphar's wife may have seen the seduction of Joseph as an accustomed thing but Joseph did not see it as a usual practice.

  4. His knowledge of his inferior slave status to Potiphar's wife, his superior in every way (except in his love for God). He could not have a relationship with a superior, where he would have to be passive, and do her bidding, in a master/slave, power situation, not a loving one.

  5. His recognition of his own family's need to keep pure from idolatrous peoples, for he would know of other occasions when the seed line was threatened, and he would not wish to be party to that.

  6. His knowledge of his father's hatred for the land of Egypt, in which he found himself -- his father loathed Hagar's land, where they worshipped the dead, and animals. He knew his father loathed, also, the notion of market sex, where both boy and girl prostitutes practised freely, and daily, and where the gods blessed it all. 'He would not go awhoring after the gods of Baal.' He had seen enough of that in Canaan.

  7. His wish not to shame the father. Even though Joseph had not contacted his father for so long, his need not to shame him would be a paramount consideration. Noah's shame by his son, the shame of Lot by his daughters (to raise up seed), the shaming of Jacob by Reuben, with Jacob's concubine (Bilhah) were known to him. Nakedness and sex, in their right place, are innocent and unsuspect, but when they acquire a transferred significance, as Baal folly, it is sin. So Joseph, knowing that sex has a price tag for the unmarried, is influenced by what shame he might cause his father, or his God.

  8. His understanding of sin, 'against thee only would I sin.' Joseph, like David, knew that sin, ultimately, is sin against God, and Joseph's sense of rightness kept him from sin.

  9. Joseph saw it as a denial of the promises to Abraham.

  10. His knowledge and understanding of the blessings given by God to the fathers. He knew that with the covenant blessings came responsibilities as well, that is, to witness about Yahweh to those about him" (Bev Russell, "Kith and Kin").

Reading 2 - Psa 44:23

"Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself!" (Psa 44:23).

This little verse is plainly echoed in Mar 4:38 (and Mat 8:24 and Luk 8:24): It is the appeal of frightened disciples in the midst of an awesome storm at sea: "They awake him, and say unto him, 'Master, carest thou not that we perish?' " Of course he cared, and he would act -- at the proper time, but not before.

Reading 3 - Mat 26:40

"Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?' " (Mat 26:40).

Jesus was praying during his last evening with his loved ones. He very much needed his Father's support and that of his disciples. His Father was awake and listening, but his friends fell asleep for "their eyes were heavy" -- as undoubtedly were their minds. It had been a long, hard day and all were weary.

To "watch" is defined as "the act or fact of keeping awake, especially of keeping awake and alert, in order to look after, protect or guard". There are other meanings also, but none that are relative to these verses.

We all spend a lot of time "watching". We might be clock watchers at school or work; we might be watching children at play; we might be watching TV; we might be watching traffic. The examples could go on and on. We spend a lot of our time watching (and waiting).

One hour... a mere 60 minutes of 60 seconds each... not much of our "threescore years and ten". But what a long time that hour can be if you're watching the time and patients ahead of you at the doctor's office; or it could seem a LONG time if your loved one's flight was delayed and you are left watching (and waiting).

And yet how short one hour can seem if you're cramming for a test... or saying goodbye to a loved one.

We know that our Father in heaven has spent countless days and years, watching. He watched "in the beginning" as creation proceeded... for He saw everything that He had made... and it was very good. He watched probably with sadness as Adam and Eve disobeyed and then tried to cover their sin; He watched as wickedness grew upon the earth and Noah and his family were the only ones righteous enough to be saved; He watched as the floodgates of heaven and earth opened up. Yes, He watched throughout countless times... and He watches over us and His land even now.

And there are many examples in Scripture of those who have watched:

  • Abraham watched as the smoke of the Sodom/Gomorrah area went up as the smoke of a furnace.

  • Joseph watched his brothers... and his brothers watched him; later Joseph watched over the house of Potiphar and then over the prison house and then over the entire land of Egypt (and the world).

  • Moses and Israel watched as the Egyptians were destroyed in the Red Sea.

  • Eli sat watching... his heart trembling for the ark of God.

  • Saul watched for David... and David watched for Saul.

  • King Belshazzar watched as the finger of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall... and his knees knocked together in fear.

The examples continue on down to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who watched John the Baptist and then Jesus. They watched him constantly even as he hung on a cross.

But in Mat 26:36-45 Jesus asked his disciples, his friends, to watch with him as he struggled with his humanity there in sad Gethsemane. But they couldn't and didn't... not even for just an hour.

And what of us, brothers and sisters? How well do we watch? for an hour? how often do our minds wander during this meeting... during this exhortation... as the emblems are passed?

Can we... do we... give an hour a day for readings? prayer? contemplation of our hope? Or are our thoughts and prayers only fleeting? How many times have we fallen asleep as we said our prayers? An hour isn't much... indeed, as Duncan Heaster says, "The 6,000 years of humanity is an absolute pin prick in the spectrum of eternity. And our 70 years is even less significant."

One day soon our 70 years... our brief hour... will be complete, and the kingdom we have prayed for since childhood will be a reality.

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back -- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch" (Mar 13:32-37).

(Barbara Booker)


For additional comments: