Sunday, 25th April 10.30 am Order of Service

WELCOME

HYMN Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

1 Praise to the Lord, the almighty, the King of creation;

O my soul, praise him, for his is thy health and salvation:

all ye who hear,

now to His temple draw near,

praise him in glad adoration.

2 Praise to the Lord, who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,

shieldeth thee gently from harm, or when fainting sustaineth:

hast thou not seen

how thy hearts wishes have been

granted in what he ordaineth?

3 Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work, and defend thee;

surely his goodness and mercy shall daily attend thee;

ponder anew

all the almighty can do,

if with his love he befriend thee.

4 Praise to the Lord! O let all that is in me adore him!

All that hath life and breath come now with praises before him!

Let the Amen

sound from his people again:

gladly for ay we adore him.

Joachim Neander (1650-1680),

Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

PRAYER

READING Genesis 39

39 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

2 The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, 4 Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’

8 But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. 22 So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

SERMON. Joseph in the House of Potiphar

Our story now takes up once again with the account of Joseph, taking up where ch. 37 left off. As in 37:27, those who have brought Joseph into Egypt are called “Ishmaelites,” while in 37:28, 36, they are known as “Midianites.”

Verse 2 establishes the overall theme of the story, namely: “The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered.” Verses 3-6 relate the theme to the specific series of events to follow: Joseph’s blessing from the Lord is recognized by his Egyptian master, and Joseph is put in charge of his household. Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt, like that of his father, Jacob (30:27), has resulted in an initial fulfillment of the promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:3). So, we are told that “the LORD blessed the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph.

And we are meant to see that there are underlying lessons running throughout the story. This is not a story of the success of Joseph; rather, it is a story of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The last note about Joseph in this introductory section sets the stage for what follows.

In verses 7-20, this story about Joseph reverses a well-known plot in the patriarchal stories. Whereas before it was the beautiful wife (12:11; 26:7) of the patriarch who was sought by the foreign ruler, now it was Joseph, the handsome patriarch himself who was sought by the wife of the foreign ruler. Whereas in the earlier stories it was either the Lord (12:17; 20:3) or the moral purity of the foreign ruler (26:10) that rescued the wife, rather than the patriarch, here it was Joseph’s own moral courage that saved the day.

Also, it is worth noting that in the earlier stories, the focus had been on God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises; in the story of Joseph, attention is turned to his human response.

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob repeatedly fell short of God’s expectations, though, of course, they continued to have faith in God. Joseph, however, is a striking example of one who always responds in total trust and obedience to the will of God.

The Joseph story give expression to that part of the promise found in 18:19: “that they may do righteousness and justice so that the LORD may fulfill what he has promised to Abraham“. There was a human part to be played in the fulfillment of God’s plan. When God’s people respond as Joseph responded, then their way and God’s blessing will prosper.

Significantly, in all the book of Genesis only Joseph is described as one who was filled with the Spirit of God(41:38). In fact, the text is explicit in its emphasis on his total uprightness throughout the attempted seduction by the Egyptian’s wife. He was in jail because of false witness brought against him.

The emphasis of the epilogue (21-23) is clear. God has turned an intended evil against Joseph into a good. God was with Joseph and prospered his way. Lying behind the course of events is the lesson that all the Joseph stories teach: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (50:20).

Like Daniel during the Exile, Joseph suffered for doing what was right, but God turned the evil into a blessing.

PRAYER

Hymn Restore O Lord

1 Restore, O Lord,

The honour of Your name,

In works of sovereign power

Come shake the earth again;

That all may see

And come with reverent fear

To the living God,

Whose kingdom shall outlast the years.

2 Restore, O Lord,

In all the earth Your fame,

And in our time revive

The church that bears Your name.

And in Your anger,

Lord, remember mercy,

O living God,

Whose mercy shall outlast the years.

3 Bend us, O Lord,

Where we are hard and cold,

In Your refiner’s fire

Come purify the gold.

Though suffering comes

And evil crouches near,

Still our living God

Is reigning, He is reigning here.

4 Restore, O Lord,

The honour of Your name,

In works of sovereign power

Come shake the earth again;

That all may see

And come with reverent fear

To the living God,

Whose kingdom shall outlast the years.

Graham Kendrick (born 1950) & Chris Rolinson

Benediction

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