Having Nothing But Having Everything.

At the start of Genesis 39, Joseph’s resume isn’t likely to earn him an audience with anyone in power. He was the least popular child in his home, constantly bullied, but lived for truth and was not known as a liar. His resume would tell the story of being a victim of child trafficking, purchased as a slave but maintaining his responsibility before the Lord, before having everything taken away because he resisted temptation to be immoral. Joseph was viewed as a commodity by everyone around him, but hand of the Lord was with him wherever he went.

God used Joseph though he had nothing in the eyes of the world except devotion to God’s word. You don’t need material things, status, or fame to be used by God. Never think that you’re too ordinary or your past is too sordid. God loves to use simple, ordinary, faithful people who are governed by His Spirit and doing His revealed will.

Reverently Resolute (verses 1-6)

The name of the LORD is repeated often at the beginning and the end of this chapter. LORD refers to YAHWEH, the name of God that emphasizes his covenant-keeping and hearkens back to His promises to Abraham. Joseph wanted God to use him to fulfill those promises – and He was doing just that. His faith was strong enough to keep believing even when he was sold as a slave.

In ancient Egyptian culture, the Pharoah was believed to be a god, and other political leaders were revered as demi-gods. Joseph served Potiphar, Pharoah’s chief bodyguard. Potiphar recognized the Lord’s favor on him and used Joseph’s success for his own gain. Joseph remained a hard worker even though he was being exploited.

Perseveringly Resistant (verses 7-14)

In order to withstand daily temptation from Potiphar’s wife, Joseph had to walk daily with God. The temptation to compromise one’s morals in order to advance in position is familiar to us even today. Joseph stated his position clearly, flatly rejected her proposition, and avoided compromising situations so even he wouldn’t be found even with the appearance of wrongdoing.

“It is unfortunate that a young man of Joseph’s caliber should have been at the mercy of such an unscrupulous and unprincipled woman, but it has always been so, and it will continue to be so because God has not excused his people from living in a sinful world, but neither has he deserted them in their struggles.”

A Physical Reward (verses 19-23)

Though Joseph was imprisoned for doing the right thing, it could have been far worse. In Egyptian culture that revered political leaders as demi-gods, an accusation of assault on Potiphar’s wife should have resulted in immediate beheading. Instead, Joseph is sent to a royal prison where he’ll receive better care. Potiphar wasn’t a dumb man; he knew his wife and knew that Joseph would never do what he was accused of.

Joseph had a clear testimony in his culture and in his workplace. In attitude and action, he mirrored the Lord’s disposition who would “not open His mouth” even before unjust punishment (Isaiah 53:7).


We endure less opposition than Joseph faced. How does your disposition compare to his? How are you known at your workplace? Our mission should be to reach a lost and dying world that surrounds us, and in order to do that we need to be real light before others. Like Joseph, we need the humility to know that we don’t deserve anything – without God’s mercy, we would all be consumed (Lamentations 3:22). Is there anything in your attitude or actions at work that you need to repent of? Who do you need to make things right with?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • Acts 4:13 – God used “unlearned” men to spread the Gospel.
  • Hebrews 11:22 – Joseph’s faith commended.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 – God uses simple things to bring Himself glory.
  • John 17:14-18 – God’s people are to be sanctified in an ungodly world.
A Hymn to Encourage: “The Steps of a Good Man”

Though dark be the night and long be the day,
Lord, make me follow in Thy perfect way.
Though cometh sorrow, though great be my pain,
Lord, make me serve Thee, come sunshine or rain

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
and He delighteth in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down:
For the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.

O Thou art almighty; I am so small.
Lord, make me trust Thee whatever befall.
Thou art all holy; You make no mistake.
Lord, make me Christ-like whatever it takes.