This chapter starts with Joseph being sold in to Potiphar’s household and ends with him in prison. But the most striking thing is how the chapter is topped and tailed with almost identical words.
“When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned…. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” (39:3-6)
“The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” (39:21-23)
Clearly Joseph was capable, but more than that we read that the Lord was with him and whatever he put his hand to prospered. This does not mean that God blesses all of his followers with worldly success, nor that Christians are more skilled than others – that is patently untrue.
The bible teaches very clearly that we all have different gifts and that the level of gifts we have varies. But God does not judge us on the quality of our gifts (some people are better musicians than others, for example), but on our faithfulness in their use. The master’s commendation in the Parable of the Talents was not “well done good and skilful servant” but “good and faithful” (Matthew 25:23)
This is an account of Joseph’s faithfulness over many years (both as slave and prisoner) not his gifts and the blessing from God came as a result of his faithfulness, as Proverbs 28 v 20 tells us:
“A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”
Paul writes that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful (1 Corinthians 4:2). As believers we have been given two trusts; firstly as fellow workers with God (2 Corinthians 6:1) to be his witnesses and secondly as members of his body, the church we are to serve one another humbly and in love (Galatians 5:13).
Finally notice the effect of Joseph’s faithful service; “Potiphar did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate”, while “The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care”. These are not comments on Potiphar’s obesity nor the Jailer’s negligence, but rather the relief they found in Joseph.
We can often look at faithful service as a duty but there is a beautiful phase in Proverbs
“Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.” (Proverbs 25:13)
Our faithful service is a pleasure to our master and a tonic to those around us