Genesis 38 is… strange. My first reaction is, “Why is this in the bible? And why is it right in the middle of Joseph’s story?” The scandalous story just seems out-of-place… until you read the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, and Judah, Tamar and Perez are all mentioned as being in the family line. We learn that Judah is the one son out of Jacob’s 12 sons by which the promised savior would come. If we were to choose, we would probably have chosen Joseph, but we don’t get to choose! Judah’s story is sandwiched in the middle of the story of Joseph. It makes the contrast between the brothers crystal clear. Again, God’s ways are not our ways (and we should be thankful for that!)
Genesis 39 is our first glimpse of Joseph in Egypt. Remember, he is now a slave. Three times we read that “the Lord was with Joseph” in this chapter. I think the writer wants us to notice that the Lord was with Joseph!
The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands (Genesis 39:2-3).
Joseph was wrongly accused by his slave master’s wife, and put in prison.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison (Genesis 39:21-22).
And the third time:
The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed (Genesis 39:23).
Think about how difficult life must have been for Joseph. It was bad enough that he was a slave, but now he’s in prison! But, I love this part of the story of Joseph… It is the middle of his story, and typically the middle of a story is the hardest. My daughter, Anne, suffers from a brain injury. We have no idea how much Anne will recover, if she’ll ever be able to walk, read or take care of herself. Our dream is for her to make it to college. Right now, that dream seems impossible – but we are in the middle of her story. And what makes living in the middle of a story difficult is that you don’t know how the story will end…
The Lord was with Joseph in the middle of his story. And God is with our family as we live in the middle of Anne’s story. This is a great comfort to me.
In Genesis 40, we start to see how God will use Joseph’s difficult circumstances for good. Pharaoh became angry with two of his servants and threw them in the same prison as Joseph. Joseph interpreted the dreams of these two men. This detail will become very important in tomorrow’s reading… But who knew Joseph would be referred to Pharaoh through someone he met in prison? God knew, so he made sure Joseph was in prison at just the right time to meet a servant of Pharaoh! I love the way God works.
Turning to Matthew, I’m thinking that I need Joseph to interpret all of the difficult passages found in today’s reading! I’m not even going to try to comment on Matthew 12:22-50 except to say that the context of this section of Scripture is that Jesus begins to face opposition in his ministry, specifically from the Pharisees and other religious leaders. And we’ll see later in Matthew that Jesus has little patience for the hypocrisy and hard-heartedness of the Pharisees!