Character Before Career

Genesis 39:21-40:23


Intro: These questions were asked by elementary children and appeared in a
newspaper article: others were sent to me in an e-mail

Dear God, Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident? -Norma

Dear God, Who draws the lines around the countries? -Nan

Dear God, I went to this wedding and they kissed right in church. Is that okay?    -Neil

Dear God: How come you only have 10 rules and our school has
millions? Joy

 Dear God: Why did you make people talk foreign languages? It would
be easier if everybody could talk English like you and me. Alice

 Dear God: Where does yesterday go? Do you have it? Stanley

Dear God,
We read Thomas Edison made light. But in Sunday school they said you did it. So I bet he stole your idea. Sincerely, Donna

 Dear God: There was no clouds Saturday so I think I saw your feet.
Did I really? Kenny

 Dear God: I'm afraid of things at night more than in the day. So if
you could keep the sun on longer that would be a good thing. Joanne


Interesting how many questions people can have for God – many times those questions are born out of the difficult times / situations

The hardest questions to deal w/ are the unanswered ones of what are you doing Lord – what is happening here.

A)    The Story of Joseph is filled w/ many such situations /


We have seen him go from being his fathers favorite son to his bros. favorite target –

1)                 Their hatred for him is so great that they throw him into a pit / talk about killing him & then – eventually selling him into slavery instead


Then he ends in a foreign country – huge city – totally different from the rural surroundings of his upbringing


Ends up as a slave working for the Captain of the  guard / by the way: Forgot to mention last week

1)                 Alfred Edersheim – the scholarly Jewish Historian tells us that Potiphar was the Head of an elite & courageous  group of rugged men


According to Edersheim – Potiphar's title would have been - “Chief of the Executioners”


So Joseph was working for an important man but he was still a slave


Things went well for him in that position – he flourished to the point where Potiphar put him in Charge of his whole house

A)   But that ended when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him & when Joseph continued to resist her advances she got mad, accused him of rape


B)   For that Joseph ended up being placed in prison – falsely accused – he was doing the right thing - / working hard making most of situation

1)                 Withstood temptation – and what did it get him ? Back in a PIT / this time in the form of an EGYPTIAN  PRISON CELL.


A)   That is where we left him last - Now in light of Joseph’s situation – one might be prone to ask – Where was God in all this ?

1)                 We are given the answer to that question in v. 21 of Ch. 39

21  But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Where was God ? When Joseph was in the Pit – God was right there w/ him / and when Joseph was in the prison cell – God was there too

What he was doing Joseph would find out later


B) Reminded in such times Isa. Words in Ch. 55

8  "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.

9       "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.


God’s ways are so different from our ways / HIGHER / more profound / deep & Mysterious


At Stony Brook High school in Long Island NY – they have a great school motto /  CHARACTER BEFORE CARREER

1)                    That means it is far more important to develop integrity – morality & godliness in student than to merely equip them for outstanding careers


B)     That is what God is doing in Joseph’s life – shaping His Character – that in turn is going to make him ready for OUTSTANDING CAREER

1)                 Joseph is in another test & He passes it w/ flying colors /


C)    In a situation that many would have been prone to wine & moan & complain WHY ME LORD – There is no hint Joseph did any such thing



Note several things about Joseph Character tonight –

1st – Because Joseph was not focused on self he was able to serve

22 The keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing.v.23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the LORD was with him; and whatever he did, the LORD made it prosper.


A)   Joseph is in this place where he seems to decide in his heart – God wants me to be a slave I will be the best slave I can be .


B)   He wasn’t going about things half hearted / he was crying the blues / & the keeper of the Prison saw in Joseph a man he could depend on / trust

1)                 This is the 2nd time that we read of Joseph having someone – entrust him w/ great responsibility


A)   Potiphar put Joseph over his whole house & didn’t look into anything that was in his hand – and the keeper of the Prison does the same thing.

1)                   Puts Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners



There is a Biblical idea that many today seem to ignore / Matt. 25:23

He who is faithful in many little things make ruler in many things

A)   Problem w/ many in ministry today – not faithful in little things

Some wonder why never given more responsibility –


a)    Answer is they were not faithful w/ the little responsibility that they had

Couldn’t count on them -


B) All these visions of grandeur – Guy came in preach in this pulpit

1)                           Struggle w/ a heart for little congregation


A)   Not just in ministry – also in work force -  not faithful in little things / not servants & for that reason – no advancement

1)                 As Believers – I think we should have reps for being faithful in the Little things


A)   Joseph was a man who was faithful in the Little things / given more & more .




2nd thing to note about Joseph’s Character is Because He wasn’t focused on self He saw the needs & hurts in others – Ch. 40:1-5

Notice first of all who these guys were – not lowly servants – this is the Food & Bev. Director of the Palace –


They were in charge of what the King ate & Drank – very important figures / they were ones made sure / wasn’t poisoned


Butler – cup bearer – means he tasted the king's drink for him – poisoned he would die.

1)                 Historically cup bearers were often one of the Kings most trusted advisers -  they were men of Nobility


Now we are not told – why these guys are put into prison - / wasn’t because too many Jalepinos in burrito

1)                 Many scholars have suggested that – a plot to poison the king was uncovered & one of these guys was responsible





So these guys are thrown into prison & are placed in Joseph’s care They both have disturbing DREAMS /

A)   Here is where we see Joseph's character – Because he was not focused on self – he was able to see the needs & hurts in others v6 /


6       And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad.


A)   He saw that they were sad



B)   How many never see the needs & hurts in others because they are so focused on themselves their needs ?

C)   Today you would almost think that Joseph would have been  too busy to see the needs in others


D)   How much do we miss out on because we have our agenda - 



Be honest I wrestle w/ this all the time – Busy – pack my days / hate it when people say BUSY PASTOR

A)   OXYMORON – two words that don’t go together – busy & Pastor




C)   Something to watch out for – How many Divine appointments do we miss because we were too into our thing.


D)   Last week – morning work out – gym – staff meeting – security guy

1)                 Drove away thinking – I just missed a Divine appt.


A)   Humbled even more a couple days latter at soccer practice – my son …



Pray for me in that area – work hard – but struggle


So because Joseph wasn’t focused on his self he was able to see  the needs & hurts of others –


3rd thing –Because he wasn’t focused on himself /  He didn’t just see the need – he inquired / v.7 first recorded words in prison.v.7

6       So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of his lord's house, saying, "Why do you look so sad today?"


A)   Interesting that this word sad is used some 600 times in O.T. – 400 times translated evil / 100 times wicked / ) 21 times mischievous



B)    These guys were not just bummed out – they were disturbed – they had looks on their faces that were evil – TROUBLED


C) Now how many of us see people like that everyday?   Wonder why is he so bummed – what happened to him


C)    We see the need but that is all that we do – shoot up a prayer – Joseph inquired


Guys here me on this – what would happen tomorrow if you suddenly said to that person in the coffee shop / at work / school / grocery store

A)   Hey you look kind of BUMMED OUT is everything OK?


B)   I wonder what would happen ? How many doors would open ? what kind of conversations would RESULT /


C)   This I believe is an important part of ministry & Evangelism / because people need to see that we really care .


D)   That you are interested in their lives /  not just a Potential convert / but a human being that God loves -  wants to meet needs

1) See that love in us



4th Because he wasn’t focused on self – he was available for the super natural – v. 8  8  And they said to him, "We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it." So Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please."


A)   Here we see his 2nd recorded word in Prison – Joseph wasn’t seeking to advance his own cause -  but was AVAILABLE FOR God’s work


B)    God can interpret dreams !!!!!!!!

                                  He was available for supernatural -  


Again let me indulge my imaginations – what if -  someone had a dream & we didn’t just say – that’s weird – Lord is there any spiritual benefit

A)   Not suggesting that God is going to start having us go around & be dream interpreters


B)   But More so / can we see the spiritual significance to a situation that may occur – are we open to the SUPERNATURAL


C)   For God to work & move to see his hand in the everyday affairs of life & be able to share that w/ others


So we see that Joseph was used & rewarded because of his not being focused on self -  

A)   Well that was Joseph – special – type of Jesus & all / that is not me – I am just AVERAGE BELIEVER


B) Listen – Jeremiah was put in prison /   still preached from his cell /

          1) John banished to Island of Patmos -  REVELATION


B)   Paul & Silas – singing worship / Praise service in Prison at midnight


C)   Men of like passions – as we are / guys just like us – same emotions same make up -  same struggles / men who kept eyes on the Lord


SO they tell Joseph their dreams – read v. 9-19 


A)    Joseph pulls no punches – doesn’t candy coat


v.20- 23




Now some have viewed Joseph's actions ( in calling on the Butler to remember him)   as a lack of faith – quit trusting in the Lord

A)   I disagree w/ that – I am sure that Joseph presented his case to God


B)   But I don’t think that there is anything wrong w/ doing all that you can humanly speaking to change your condition .


C)   Lose your Job – Pray – God I need a new Job !!!!! – Pound pavement


D)   If Joseph had access to an Egyptian court he would have been entirely justified in appealing to the court for his unjust imprisonment

1)                 That is what Paul did in appealing to CEASER



Joseph was not wrong in seeking that his deliverance might come through the help of the butler

A)   But his DELIVERANCE was not to come in that fashion.


B)   Maybe in your life you are in a situation that you have been seeking to extricate yourself from by every possible means – to no avail


C)   In your case as it was w/ Joseph –God has another plan



A woman – church -  testimony time – so blessed by Luke 2:1 /

That verse got her through the week .

A)   Puzzled the Pastor because he knew that Luke 2:1 is the verse that mentions -  Decree going out from Caesar all the world taxed


B) What Comfort did you find in that - /   I only read the first part / AND IT CAME TO PASS ……


B)   All our trials suffering come to pass

1) Shad. / Mesh. / Abendego -   Able to Deliver from fire / but even he will deliver us from your hand

C)   God has a way &  a time -  THE BUTLER FORGOT JOSEPH – but God didn’t !!!!!


2yr gap v. 23 / ch. 41 –


3 lessons in closing

1st Don’t trust in men –



3  Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.

4  His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.

5  Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God,

6  Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever,

7Who executes justice for the oppressed, Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD gives freedom to the prisoners.


Jer. 17:5  5  Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD.

6  For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.

6       "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD.


Listen we will let you down .


2nd – Allow Disillusionment w/ man to turn you to the love & faithfulness of God

A)   God those guys have shortcomings / glad you are faithful


3rd – lesson – Don’t grow impatient but wait for God