Is the Success for Joseph’s Sake, or for Potiphar’s?

Daily Scripture readings for June, set #18:

– Genesis, chapters 39-40
– Psalm 18:1-24
– Matthew 7:15-29
– Acts 10:24-48

Genesis 39 tells of Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt under Potiphar, and the text describes Joseph’s success as being from the Lord. Clearly the passage intends to communicate God’s ability to make someone prosper, but when I read this I immediately wonder why God chose to make Joseph so successful. Was it merely to bless Joseph? Verse 3 caught my eye in my reading just now:  “His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands.” I wonder if Potiphar NOTICING that Joseph’s success was the Lord’s doing was at least part of God’s intention in making him successful. Anybody agree or disagree?

David has an interesting statement in Psalm 18, as he poetically describes the way God has heard his prayer and delivered him: “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me” (vs 20). David continues on in verse 21 to describe his own guiltlessness. Is this the same David from Psalm 14? “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps 14:3).

Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:15-29 contains a few more familiar phrases from the Sermon on the Mount, including the analogy of the man who built his house on rock instead of sand. The verses immediately preceding the rock vs sand house are really startling to me, including this: “In that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you'” (vs 22-23). Prophesying and casting out demons are great things to do, but can apparently be done in a way that leaves the person doing them still without Christ and without salvation.

Without getting specific on verses in the second half of Acts 10, I will say that this text seems to relevant in addressing the accusation that Scripture propagates slavery or racism.

Reading set #19 for June:

– Genesis, chapter 41
– Psalm 18:25-50
– Matthew 8:1-13
– Acts 11:1-18

God made Joseph great in his successes with Potiphar, and now in Genesis 41 he again rises to power with Pharaoh. I think it’s worth noticing that the moment that Pharaoh compliments him on his reputation for interpreting dreams, Joseph immediately gives all credit back to God:  “It is not in me, God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (vs 16).

Psalm 18:25-26 is another example of an attribute of God that I don’t necessarily understand; a description of him that somewhat surprises me: “With the merciful you show yourself merciful… and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.”

Another surprising text is in Matthew 8, where Jesus, marveling at the centurion’s faith, says this: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into outer darkness” (vs 11-12). Who are the “sons of the kingdom” Jesus refers to? The context makes me think it’s the Jews, God’s chosen people, who reject Christ while “outsiders” like the Roman centurion exhibit faith in Christ. I’ve just never heard Jews referred to as “sons of the kingdom.”

Along these lines of true “sons of the kingdom” and God’s true chosen people, Acts 18:9-10 seems noteworthy: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” Who is God referring to here? People in Corinth who are already Christians? People who will become Christians because of Paul’s preaching?




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