Today's Lectionary Text
Genesis 39:1-23When Joseph had been taken down to Egypt, Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief officer, the commander of the royal guard and an Egyptian, purchased him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man and served in his Egyptian master’s household. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful. Potiphar thought highly of Joseph, and Joseph became his assistant; he appointed Joseph head of his household and put everything he had under Joseph’s supervision. From the time he appointed Joseph head of his household and of everything he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household because of Joseph. The Lord blessed everything he had, both in the household and in the field. So he handed over everything he had to Joseph and didn’t pay attention to anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome.
Some time later, his master’s wife became attracted to Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.” He refused and said to his master’s wife, “With me here, my master doesn’t pay attention to anything in his household; he’s put everything he has under my supervision. No one is greater than I am in this household, and he hasn’t denied me anything except you, since you are his wife. How could I do this terrible thing and sin against God?” Every single day she tried to convince him, but he wouldn’t agree to sleep with her or even to be with her.
One day when Joseph arrived at the house to do his work, none of the household’s men were there. She grabbed his garment, saying, “Lie down with me.” But he left his garment in her hands and ran outside. When she realized that he had left his garment in her hands and run outside, she summoned the men of her house and said to them, “Look, my husband brought us a Hebrew to ridicule us. He came to me to lie down with me, but I screamed. When he heard me raise my voice and scream, he left his garment with me and ran outside.” She kept his garment with her until Joseph’s master came home, and she told him the same thing: “The Hebrew slave whom you brought to us, to ridicule me, came to me; but when I raised my voice and screamed, he left his garment with me and ran outside.”
When Joseph’s master heard the thing that his wife told him, “This is what your servant did to me,” he was incensed. Joseph’s master took him and threw him in jail, the place where the king’s prisoners were held. While he was in jail, the Lord was with Joseph and remained loyal to him. He caused the jail’s commander to think highly of Joseph. The jail’s commander put all of the prisoners in the jail under Joseph’s supervision, and he was the one who determined everything that happened there. The jail’s commander paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s supervision, because the Lord was with him and made everything he did successful.
As much as I love my country, I also recognize that the system is set up in a way that justice isn’t really assured for all in this country.
I present two examples: the Rev. Darryl Burton, an elder on staff at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, and Lamont McIntyre. Darryl served 24 years in prison and Lamont served 23 years for murders that evidence eventually proved they did not commit. It took that long for them to get the help they needed — and for the painstakingly slow wheels of justice to turn — for them to regain their freedom. Rather than stay bitter at the world, they launched a public service ministry known as the Miracle of Innocence. You can hear their stories and learn about Miracle of Innocence in the archived episode of my podcast, “In Layman’s Terms.”
I thought of Darryl, Lamont and others like them when I read this story from Genesis about Joseph.
Joseph is serving Potiphar, captain of the Egyptian Pharoah’s guard. It turns out to be a great gig. This powerful man in the hierarchy of Egypt basically turns his household over to Joseph to run. Instead of being a slave, Joseph has power by virtue of being trusted by Potiphar.
Unfortunately for Joseph, Potiphar’s wife is looking for Joseph to do more than serve drinks and run errands. When Joseph spurns her advances, she takes advantage of the situation one day when he flees her and leaves his garment behind. She reports to her husband that Joseph tried to defile her, causing Potiphar to be enraged and to throw his trusted assistant, Joseph, in prison.
Joseph is framed and serves time for a crime he did not commit.
I think it’s important that we understand that God didn’t sanction this wrongdoing to Joseph, just as God didn’t sanction the wrong done to Darryl and Lamont. But God did turn a deceitful act into a situation to glorify the Lord.
If we were to continue reading, we would learn that God will use Joseph to warn the Pharoah of impeding famine. Joseph is put in charge of storing food during times of plenty and then distributing that food during times of drought so that many people survive.
In more recent times, God used the injustices done to Darryl and Lamont to call for the ordination of a pastor to continue the work of preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and to form a partnership that crafted an organization dedicated to bringing justice to men and women who have been wrongfully incarcerated.
Our lesson in these stories of distant past and closer to the present is that truly terrible things may happen to us, but God will remain loyal to us to ensure the glory of our Creator shines in the darkness.
It’s up to all of us to do what we can to be the light.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
God of glory, we thank you for the opportunities we have to share your light in the world. We don’t pretend to understand how injustices continue to happen, but we know your Holy Spirit is present amid any and all circumstances. Please let our lives bring glory to Your holy name. Amen.
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