Bible reading for Feb 6: Genesis 39; Mark 9.
"His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands." (39:3)
Sexual integrity. Joseph had the right view of sexuality and marriage. For him sexual purity was not just about his own self-control, but it would be a sin against the woman, her husband, and God. Sexual sin is never truly private. Faithfulness to our marriage vows is not only good for me as an individual, but also good for my spouse, my family, my church, and for the stability of the wider community. Vows kept, healthy boundaries, and the mutual trust that arises from them, are good for society. Above all, being faithful to the marriage covenant honors and glorifies our covenant-making and covenant-keeping God.
The Lord was with him. And this is repeated again in verse 23: "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." We may read this so often that we do not think about it. The Lord had said to Isaac, "I will be with you" (Gen 26:3). And the Lord said to Jacob, "I will be with you" (Gen 31:3). And later to Moses (Ex 3:12), and to Joshua (Josh 1:5). This is similar to, "I will be in your midst" (Deut 7:21). The covenant presence of God is the greatest blessing of our relationship with him. It is not just that he is present with us, but that he is present with us to do us good (Jer 32:40). The prophet would write, "Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 12:6). Christians today are indwelt by God's Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). And God's dwelling with us is the permanent and final destiny for all of God's children: "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God" (Rev 21:3). May we never take this for granted!!
What is success? "And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed" (v. 23). This word for "succeed" is the same word translated "to prosper". Many think that the Bible teaches that all believers can have immediate success and should always be prosperous materially. (Some even spell "success" with a dollar sign!)
But Joseph is in prison, and will be there for quite a while. So, "success" does not mean a speedy deliverance, nor wealth. Joseph was, however, faithful in everything that was given him to do. He was responsible and God used him. He was useful and effective in his new role. For Joshua, later in the Bible, success meant being careful to know and obey God's word so that he might lead God's people into their new land (Josh 1:8). Centuries later, when the Apostle Paul was also in prison he also wrote, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13; compare with Phil 1:20). To be successful, or prosperous, means being effective or useful in bringing something to a good conclusion. In any given passage the context will tell you what kind of success or prosperity is meant. It may include, and often does, material things, what we may call prosperity. We should give thanks for daily bread, every meal we eat, good health, and a roof over our heads! But we should not think material prosperity is the main goal for God's children in this life. Just look at the life of our Lord Jesus as an example. To prosper is to do well the things God gives us to do in the place where he puts us. Phillips Brooks once said, "To find his place and fill it is success for a man." So, when we pray to have success we should be asking God to help us to do well in the place and role he has given us. Instead of praying to be great or rich, we should pray to be useful. For Joseph it meant the favor of those around him which led to a wider role and responsibility, that one day would be used in his position under Pharaoh to lead a nation.
"Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, 'I believe; help my unbelief!'" (Mark 9:23-24)
On the road to Jerusalem. Jesus and the disciples begin the long journey from Caesarea Philippi, the northernmost part of Israel, where Peter's confession ("You are the Christ") took place, and set their faces toward Jerusalem. On a mountain somewhere near Galilee, Jesus is transformed before three of his disciples. This is a preview of the kingdom, a glimpse at the true glory of Jesus which is hidden... "Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see; Hail, the incarnate Deity: Pleased, as man, with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel!" ("Hark, the Herald Angels Sing") The Apostle Peter writes later about the importance of this event (2 Pet 1:16-18).
Help my unbelief! (9:24) I so resonate with this man's cry. Even as God's children we carry about indwelling sin, a sinful nature, right along with our new nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit. I can completely trust God in one situation, and then later in the same day, crumble under another situation. I'm comforted that this is the experience of all believers in this age (see Romans 7; Gal 5:17). "The Lord Jesus does not cast off his believing people because of failures and imperfections." (J. C. Ryle) The father confesses the weakness of his faith, and receives from the Lord a very great blessing, the deliverance and healing of his son. He is an example to me, and there have been many times in my life I have said, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief." We need to remember that even weak faith can receive great blessing from the hands of the Lord.
Image above: photo I took at Caesarea Philippi, looking toward the lower slopes of Mt. Hermon.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. A PDF copy is available here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.