Genesis 39:2, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man.”
What does it mean to be successful? To have a nice home? Nice cars? Stable job? For your children to be in the right schools? The world tells us one thing about success; but the Bible tells us something altogether different. In short, the world focuses on things external (home, cars, job, friends, status, financial security, etc); but the Bible’s notion of success focuses on the heart!
Genesis 39 illustrates this truth in a clear and striking manner. Joseph had been sold by his brothers into slavery; and as v. 1 tells us, “Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.” And then the text tells us in v. 2, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.” But what is especially noteworthy for our purposes is that not only does this chapter begin with a statement of Joseph’s success, but also it closes with a statement of Joseph’s success: “And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed” (v. 23b). In other words, the chapter is bracketed with statements of Joseph’s success (vv. 2, 23). Given that, let’s (1) consider Joseph’s circumstances in the chapter; and (2) draw some conclusions for our lives. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37); he had been separated from his home and taken to a pagan land; he had been falsely accused of sexual immorality by Potiphar’s wife (vv. 7-14); and because of his Biblical convictions, he had been thrown into prison again (vv. 9, 12, 19-20).
Suffering. Trial. Falsely accused. Put into prison because of moral convictions. Does this sound the resume of a successful man? But the text tells us that Joseph was indeed successful. But here’s the key: in both v. 2 and v. 23, we are told that the Lord was with Joseph! That is to say, it was Joseph’s communion with the Lord that was the determining factor to his success. Joseph’s experience serves to re-define what we mean by success! To be successful – according to Scripture – is to walk close with our Lord! It is to live in close communion with the Lord! It is to live according to Biblical truth and convictions! To summarize: one’s success is not determined by things external (whether I receive this raise or that job); but rather one’s success is determined by one’s walk with Christ! Dear reader, are you successful according to the Bible’s understanding? Is your heart close to Christ? Do you spend time with Christ in prayer each day? Is your life lived according to the standards and truths of the Scripture? Oh may this be true of you and me!!
– Rev. Robert Arendale