The Joseph we encounter here seems different from the Joseph of the previous chapter of Genesis. Perhaps the altercation with his brothers, being taken against his will to Egypt and working in Potiphar’s household has knocked off some rough edges and caused him to change and see things differently. The Apostle Paul speaks of the transformation God brings to us, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17–18) Transformation inwardly and outwardly is part of God’s work in our lives.
God’s favour plays a significant role in this story. Despite his difficult circumstances Joseph has the favour of God, which results in him finding favour with his master and later with the warden of the prison. However, God’s favour does not mean we have no difficulties in life.
An angel told Mary she was highly favoured by God and would have the child Jesus (Luke 1.30). Yet Mary faced difficulties because of this favour. We read of Jesus growing in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52) but he faced difficulties in life. Jesus said part of his mission in life was to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Lk 4:19). Jesus was telling us - God favours you. This favour includes peace with God, forgiveness of sin, spiritual birth into new life, adoption into God’s family, purpose and direction in life, and an eternal inheritance with Christ.
Joseph may have been put in charge of Potiphar’s household, but he is still a slave. Potiphar’s unnamed wife is a woman of power and status who is used to having whatever she wants. And she wants Joseph! This story seems so current, given recent sex scandals where people in power have tried to manipulate others and made sexual advances towards them. Joseph resists and finds himself accused of sexual assault, then thrown into prison and held captive.
Part of our human problem is that not every dungeon has obvious bars and walls. Often, we are in a dungeon of our own making, held captive by chains we have helped to form. There can be chains of generational poverty or chains forged through addictions, resentments and anger. We can be held captive by spiritual powers.
Another aspect of this human problem is how we make ourselves comfortable in the dungeon. It may be a dungeon with a view, fitted out with modern luxuries, so nicely decorated that we and others might fail to recognise that despite the baubles, it is still a dungeon. The chain that holds us may be so long and so light that we never notice, but still it holds us captive.
The grace and favour of God was revealed when Jesus said, God … has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners. (Lk 4:18) and, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)
What holds you captive?
What does God’s favour look like in your life?
Has Jesus set you free?
How can we work to set others free, both spiritually and those held as modern day slaves?
Rev John Malcolm