“The chief jailer did not supervise anything under Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it to prosper.” Gen.39:23 NASB
When you hear the word prosper, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
I asked that question on social media recently and not surprisingly, many of the responses involved the word success (of varying kinds). Merriam-Webster concurs: “prosper ~ to become very successful, usually by making a lot of money”.
Throughout Joseph’s story, no matter what happened or how bad things became, the Scriptures point out over and over that the Lord was with Joseph and He prospered him…including, when he went to prison.
Wait a minute. Prison. Prosper. Those two words seem incongruent, don’t they? I mean, how can anyone prosper in prison? Obviously, the Lord didn’t prosper Joseph by giving him a lot of money, nor would we think of someone living their life out in a prison as being a “success” by any means.
Here’s where the Hebrew definition gives us a greater understanding of the word prosper: “to push forward”.
I don’t know about you, but that definition makes me stop and say, hmmm.
Consider the following: Potiphar was an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard (Gen.39:1) The prison he oversaw specifically housed the king’s prisoners. Knowing Joseph’s entire story makes it easy for us to draw a straight line from the point he is jailed, to when the king begins to have dreams of his own he’s unable to interpret and “ends up” finding out about Joseph. Think of all the arranging God did to enable Joseph and Pharaoh’s paths to collide.
Several sources also refer to Potiphar as the “chief executioner”. That means he could have easily ordered Joseph’s execution ~ which was the normal penalty for attempted rape. Yet he threw Joseph in prison. Why?
Perhaps Potiphar was merciful to Joseph because he suspected his wife’s role in the matter and his anger was aroused against her, and not necessarily Joseph. After all, he recognized God’s favor on his own household because of Joseph’s loyalty and good work. Potiphar may have saved face with his wife by sending Joseph to prison, while at the same time, actually saving Joseph’s life. Seen from that perspective, the Lord pushed Joseph forward by allowing him to be sent to prison rather than being executed for a crime he didn’t commit.
In prison, Joseph was pushed forward again, when the keeper of the prison made him the chief administrator (Gen.40:23). What precipitates prosperity? Obedience.
“How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.” Gen.39:9b-10
God always rewards our obedience, in due time.
“So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.” Deut. 29:9
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, not sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night…and whatever he does will prosper.” Ps.1:1-3
Have you noticed yet friend, the Bible is rather quiet about the years Joseph spent in prison except that the Lord was with him and prospered him? I think there are two reasons for that.
1) We aren’t usually our best selves when we are hard-pressed and suffering, so God allows us a “time out” if you will, in order to get our heart in alignment with His. I find that comforting don’t you?
2) It puts God in the spotlight where He belongs.
Some of our greatest lessons are learned, not in the open, but in obscurity.
Sometimes we are called to obey or serve in utter obscurity…where we are confined or restrained in some way. Away from the limelight. Apart from the crowd. Alone with the Lord. Because that is where we have to rely on the Lord for our strength, our identity and sometimes, even our daily survival. And while we’re in that place, it probably won’t look like we are successful or prospering by the world’s standards.
Caring tirelessly for that special needs child.
Praying feverishly for a wayward prodigal.
Ministering to the marginalized.
Meeting the needs of the unlovely.
Sidelined with a consuming illness.
Dealing with a great loss.
Advocating for the victimized.
Learning to be, instead of do.
Can you trust friend, that God not only sees you, but that he is prospering you (pushing you forward), right where you’re at?
“Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” Ps.33:18
“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him…” 2 Chron.16:9
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jer. 29:11
One of the ways I have been able to recognize God prospering me, even in the midst of some very hard trials, is by choosing to thank Him for His many blessings ~ His gifts to me ~ no matter how small they may seem at the time. I know of no other author who writes so eloquently and honestly about God’s gifts than Ann Voskamp. Here is a short excerpt from her book, “One Thousand Gifts”…
“To receive God’s gifts, to live exalted and joy filled, isn’t a function of straining higher, harder, doing more, carrying long the burdens of super-Pharisees or ultra-saints. Receiving God’s gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower.”
If you haven’t yet read “One Thousand Gifts”, you’re in for a treat. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you, it’s a life changer. I’d love for you to win this wonderful resource (paper back edition), so I’m giving away 2 of these books. Enter here:
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