It’s easy to miss the point of this episode in the life of Joseph. To see it as a kind of Old Testament soap opera starring a powerful man, a lonely housewife, and a handsome pool boy. It’s easy, and natural I suppose, to want to reduce this story down to a simple morality tale—where the pure-hearted and virtuous Joseph becomes the model for how we might resist temptations that we experience and thereby gain victory over sin.
But while this episode is certainly gripping and full of drama, and while Joseph’s conduct in this sticky situation is certainly praiseworthy—neither of these things is the point of the story.
But if the point of the story is not to entertain us or to teach us a moral lesson—then what is the point?
Well, we don’t have to search all that hard for the answer, because the narrator repeats it four times for emphasis. Four times—twice at the beginning and twice at the end we read this statement:
“The LORD was with Joseph…”
Remember how Joseph had gotten here. Betrayed by his very own brothers. Sold as a slave to foreigners. Taken to a strange land. Alone.
But Joseph wasn’t alone. “The LORD was with Joseph…”
Throughout this entire strange and salacious episode—from his rise to power in the house of Potiphar to his unjust fall into prison—“the LORD was with Joseph.” Despite the separation that sin had put between Joseph and his family. Despite the slavery. Despite the shackles. The LORD was with him. Blessing him. Showering him with favor. Showing him steadfast love.
That’s the point of this story. That, when it comes to God’s love, as Paul tells us: Neither tribulation or distress, nor persecution or famine, nor danger or sword—not death nor life, nor angels or rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is our in Christ Jesus our Lord. The one whose very name—Emmanuel—is both a sign and a promise that—no matter what—The LORD is with us.