In John 10, Jesus gives an encouraging sermon about being the Good Shepherd:
“I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved,
and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture” (9).
“The thief cometh not, but that he may steal, and kill,
and destroy: I came that they may have life, and have it
Almost 1,000 years earlier, David wrote what would become arguably the most famous chapter of the Bible—Psalm 23, with its infamous opening:
“Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want…” (1).
Let us take a moment and go back long before the Lord spoke the words of John 10—even long before David wrote that smash hit 23rd psalm—all the way back to Genesis 39, and look at some examples of the Good Shepherd in the life of Joseph.
1. God Provides for His Sheep (Gen. 39:2-5)
By the time we get to chapter 39 of Genesis, Joseph is already in the midst of sore trials.
In ch. 37, Joseph had gone out to meet his brothers at Shechem, where they were tending their flocks. Finally, they had found their golden opportunity to be rid of him for good—and they capitalized on it. Joseph was betrayed by his own flesh and blood.
At this point in Joseph’s life, one might think he would have lost all faith. But Joseph was about to learn something about Jehovah, the Good Shepherd:
“Jehovah was with Joseph…and made all that he did to
prosper in his hand” (39:2,3).
“And Joseph found favor in his [master’s] sight…
and he made him overseer over his house” (4).
“…and the blessing of Jehovah was upon all that he had” (5).
Despite his adverse circustamces, God provided for He sheep Joseph.
2. God Provides for His Sheep (Gen. 39:7-12)
The temptations that would be involved in Joseph’s—a seventeen year old boy’s—new life far from home, in one of the world’s greatest cities, full of sinful pleasures, would be legion. But it was worse than that—for in addition to those temptations that may “come to him” in a typical, indirect way (i.e., come to mind), Joseph actually had temptations directly thrown at him!
You see, Joseph was apparently somewhat of a studly young chap, and his master’s (Potiphar) wife had the hots for him (Gen. 39:6b,7a).
What’s worse, she wasn’t the least bit concerned with keeping it secret (7b). Day by day, she relentlessly and shamelessly threw herself at Joseph (10).
Joseph seemingly staved off her attacks without difficulty (8-10b), but such was not necessarily so. Keep in mind:
- Joseph was about 17 years old (!);
- He was far from family and home;
- He was in a city where fornication was nothing but a fancy word;
- Also, he was 17 years old!
- He was alone, and may have been tempted to reason that such would help him to gain favor;
- Oh, and did I mention that he was 17 years old?!
All this, and things were about to get worse—Potiphar’s wife was about to go “all in.”
“And it came to pass about this time, that he went
into the house to do his work; and there was none
of the men of the house there within” (11).
It is a general (and wise) “rule of thumb” in most professions never to be alone with the opposite sex, if such can be avoided. How much more would that rule apply in the case of a good looking young man and a woman who has unabashedly claimed to want—and has already attepted—to sleep with him!
Well, whether or not Potiphar’s wife was behind these ultra-convenient circumstances, she certainly pounced on them, and all but pounced on Joseph! She grabbed hold of his cloak, and tried to pull him into bed (by the way, did I mention that he was 17 years old?)!
Amazingly (17 years old), he shook off his cloak right there in her hand, and he ran like a swarm of bees was on him!
“FLEE fornication…” (1 Cor. 6:18).
“FLEE these things…” (1 Tim. 6:11).
“FLEE youthful lusts…” (2 Tim. 2:22).
“…a stranger will they not follow, but will FLEE…” (John 10:5).
However, “resist the devil, and he will FLEE from you” (James 4:7)!
“But wait,” someone says, “Sometimes temptation is just too much! Resisting the devil is hard work!” It is, indeed, not easy. But faint not! For God provides for His sheep!
According to 1 Corinthians 10:13, when it comes to various temptations, God provides for His sheep in two ways:
- By mitigating the temptation itself—never allowing them to be greater than our own ability to withstand them.
- By throwing us a “lifeline”—always providing an escape hatch.
“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he
hath been approved, he shall receive the crown of life,
which the Lord promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).
3. God Provides for His Sheep (Gen. 39:13-23)
So what happened next? Did Joseph live happily ever after, because he made the right choice, and did the right thing? Did God give him immediate, easily perceivable and perfectly understandable blessing(s)?
Um… not exactly. He was thrown in prison.
See, Potiphar’s wife made up a whole story to save her own hide. She accused Joseph of trying to rape her, and had the evidence (i.e., his cloak + his absence/flight) to “prove” it. So now Joseph has been seized and incarcerated (Gen. 39:13-20)—and all, we might add, for doing the right thing out of love for his master and his Master!
“Now wait a minute,” someone opines, “what was all that, ‘Blessed is the man who endures temptation,’ talk (cf. James 1:12)?” Patience, young padawan—don’t be hasty.
Joseph had now been betrayed by family, taken from home, falsely convicted, and abandoned by all. Abandoned by all, it would seem—but nay, not all, for…
“Jehovah was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him,
and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…” (21).
Years later, when ol’ Jacob would bless his sons on his death bed (Gen. 49), he would say this to Joseph:
- The God of your father will Help You
- The Almighty will Bless You:
- with blessings of heaven above
- with blessing of the deep that crouches beneath
- with blessings of the breasts and of the womb
- Jehovah had Blessed Joseph’s Parents Far Beyond the Blessings of Jacob’s Parents
- with blessings up to the bounties of the everlasting hills
- And May they be on the Head of Joseph, who was “Set Apart” from His Brothers
This does not mean as it may sound in some English translations (“…who was separate from his brothers” | ASV/KJV/NKJV), i.e., a reference to the forced physical separation from his brothers in their betrayal. Rather, as the ESV captures, it is a reference to the willful spiritual separation of Joseph from the manner and conduct of his brothers. This is, in fact, the true meaning of the word “holy” (i.e., “set apart”).
Thus, in a sense, Jacob was declaring that Joseph was “holy” among his brothers, and, as a result, the boundless blessings of Jehovah would be upon him!
What mustard seed can we take from this?
How about this: God provides for His sheep!
- When they are attacked by goats (brethren);
- When they are attacked by the Lion and his wolves (i.e., Satan and vessels of temptation);
- When they are abandoned or neglected by all others (family, peers, protectors, etc.).
As Joseph would later tell his brothers:
“Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant
evil against me, but God meant it for good…” (Gen. 50:19,20).
God is able, through His providence, to use even the evil purposes of man to bring about good and blessing, for those who are His through Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28; 1 John 5:3).
And so, regardless of any and all circumstances, let us never forget this:
When “Jehovah is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psa. 23:1).