(Genesis 39, Mark 9; Optional Psalm 28, Proverbs 8:1-5)
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GENESIS 39 – Joseph likely grew up hearing stories of how God met with Jacob in a vision when he was fleeing for his life and promised that He would be with Jacob and would bless him (Gen 28:12-17). In Joseph’s hard and lonely time, we never read of God speaking openly to him, but God’s presence IS definitely with him, blessing both Joseph and those around him (Gen 39:2-5, 21-23). Note that BOTH times (Gen 39:2-5, 21-23) God inspires the narrator to remind us of His presence and favor are just after Joseph has been horribly wronged and things look even darker and more hopeless.
Gen 39:2, 23 – “success” – Compare Ps 1:1-3, where the godly man prospers / succeeds in “all that he does”. We sometimes forget that GOD chooses the venue and the timing of our “success”! Joseph DID succeed in all that he did – he was the BEST servant in Potiphar’s household. When he was lied about and wrongfully imprisoned, he became the BEST prisoner.
Gen 39:5-6 – Joseph worked for the good of his owner / captor! Compare Jer 29:4-7 where God tells His people whom He had exiled to Babylon to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you”. And 1 Pet 2:18-24 where servants are told to be subject to their masters, “not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust.” How? In 1 Pet 2:18-24 we see Jesus as our example, continually entrusting His case to His heavenly Father, the Righteous Judge who will ensure full and complete justice one day. We see Joseph in Gen 39 with a similar God-consciousness. In Gen 39:9 his foundational reason for not giving in to temptation is that he would be sinning against God (see also Ps 51:4 – though David had committed adultery then murder in attempted cover-up, he also knew that sin is ultimately and fundamentally against God).
Gen 39:12-13 – “fled” – This is the picture I get in my mind when I read other Scriptural commands to flee sin, like 1 Cor 6:18a – “Flee from sexual immorality…” Bible study tip: You might want to pause and write a note next to 1 Cor 6:18: – “see Joseph in Gen 39:12-13”. Beside Gen 39:9 you could circle “sin against God” and write “Ps 51:4”.
Gen 39:19 – We’re not told whether Potiphar was angry at Joseph, his wife (did he suspect that the constantly trustworthy Joseph may have been lied against?), or the situation. Whatever Potiphar’s motivation, Joseph WAS lied about and the situation SEEMS to get even worse. Then v 21: “But the LORD was with Joseph…”
Here’s the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible summary: [“Christians today can take heart in reading Genesis 39. Like Joseph, most of us will experience great highs and great lows in life. Through all the ups and downs, those who are in Christ can always draw comfort from the presence of God, even when it is unfelt or unseen (Heb. 13:5). Indeed, the coming of Jesus Christ in the incarnation is the very proof that God has drawn near. The Savior’s very name, Immanuel (Matt. 1:21–23), means “God with us.” Having ascended to heaven, Jesus then left his presence with us even more profoundly through his Spirit (John 14:16–17). Felt or unfelt, seen or unseen, in sin or success, God is with us.”]
MARK 9 – Normally the glory and power of King Jesus was thoroughly veiled while He was on this earth. But the glimpse of the Transfigured Jesus in His glory sustained these men in later tough times.
Mk 9:5-8 – Peter wanted to freeze this glorious moment, and spoke even though he didn’t know what to say (we’ll see in Prov it’s always best to stay quiet in those moments 😊). And it looks like the disciples were maybe getting a bit too distracted by amazement that Moses and Elijah (two of their Bible heroes) were there, but God the Father mercifully focuses them on JESUS and listening to HIM.
Mk 9:9-13 – My go-to Scripture for why we should ALL be humble about our end-time view. Everyone agrees that much of prophecy is symbolic, but we DON’T agree on how MUCH is symbolic, and how much is more literal. In this ONE conversation, Jesus’ very closest followers (who have already spent much time with Him) are BOTH not literal enough (v 10) AND too literal (v 11-13). Because the last words of inspired prophecy in the OT were written 400 years before this about Elijah returning in connection with the Messiah and the end of all things (see Malachi 4:5-6), there was LOTS of Jewish focus on looking for Elijah (see Mk 6:15, 8:28, 15:35-36). In Mk 9:11-13, Jesus is letting the disciples know that John the baptizer fulfilled this prophecy (this is VERY clear in Mt 11:14, Lk 1:17, though John himself wasn’t fully aware of this, or maybe just wanted to keep them from looking for the actual Elijah – see John 1:21ff). So in this PART of the conversation, the disciples were being TOO literal.
Mk 9:14-29 – Off the mountain top spiritual high and into the messiness of life in this fallen world! The disciples weren’t prepared to help the demon-possessed boy(see v 18, 28-29), but Jesus said “Bring him to me.”
Mk 9:22-24 – Notice the man struggling to believe – “IF you can do anything…” And I love his response (I pray this SO often myself) – “I believe; HELP MY UNBELIEF!” He recognized he had definite gaps and weakness in his faith, but he recognized that Jesus was the ONLY one that could help, even with his weak faith (compare Eph 2:8-10, where we find that even the faith to believe is a gift from God)!
Mk 9:30-35 – Jesus again prophesies His death and resurrection (see also Mk 8:31-38), and AGAIN the disciples have an awful response. In Mk 8:32, Peter rebukes Jesus! Here they were discussing who was the greatest among them. It’s clear in v 31-32 that they didn’t understand what Jesus meant by “rising,” and I wonder if this got them think about the rising up of the kingdom of God, and if they were jockeying for high positions. Jesus does NOT squash their ambition to be leaders and to be great in His kingdom, but He DOES patiently teach them what real greatness and leadership in His kingdom looks like. God’s leadership and greatness school looks SO DIFFERENT from the world’s! God let teenage Joseph know by dreams that he would be a leader, then takes 13 years to develop him, teaching him to be a servant that notices the needs and hurts of others. God lets Moses have leadership desires as a young man, then spends 40 years teaching him to be a shepherd in the desert. God lets a young David know he’ll be the next king, then has him spend years running and hiding for his life from the current king. Mk 9:35b – “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Mk 9:33-38-41 – The disciples are being OVERLY CAREFUL about who helps in God’s kingdom. That’s one ditch we can easily fall into. But Mk 9:4248 is another ditch – being CARELESS about sin, and treating it lightly.
Mk 9:42-48 – Picking up on v 36-37 on how we must be child-like (humbled by our recognition of our absolute need for help in every area of life) in His kingdom, Jesus continues talking about “little ones”. He’s talking about physical children and those who are His “little ones” by faith. AGAIN, notice Jesus’ VERY clear and terrifying warnings of hell – He repeatedly warns of eternal torment (“unquenchable fire”).
Mk 9:49-50 – Bible study tip: I have “??” written in my margin besides these verses, because after all these years of reading through the Bible, I’m not fully satisfied that I really understand what Jesus was saying. So I keep reading and prayerfully searching. There’s PLENTY in Mk 9 that I fully understand but don’t get close to fully applying! But here’s my best attempt…
I think (after going through LOTS of interpretive options 🙂 this is something like the following: Choose your fire! Everyone is either headed for the ETERNAL fire of hell OR the TEMPORARY fire of trials and the tough life of fighting sin and treating each other in a Kingdom way that is necessary in the life of a real disciple. Remember that in Mark 8, 9, & 10 Jesus 1) talks about His death, 2) the disciples respond in a wildly inappropriate way, then 3) He teaches them about true discipleship. This is the close of His 2nd round of teaching on what true discipleship looks like.
Optional Psalm 28 – ANOTHER prayer song (remember that Psalms is the inspired songbook of the Bible) where David FEELS unheard by God in his hard time (note how he pleads with God to hear him in v 1, 2). But by the end, he rests on what he KNOWS is true about God – He DOES hear His people when we cry out to Him (v 6-7). And so David trusts, praises, and thanks God. And notice how his prayer BROADENS near the end. At the beginning it’s about him and his rough time and his enemies. But by the end, he’s praying for ALL the people of God. This is what should happen when we bring our needs to God. We bring our honest feelings to God, but then meditate on what we KNOW about God. Then we’re enabled to trust God with our concerns AND expand our prayer outward to the wider people of God.
Optional Proverbs 8:1-5 – Wisdom is crying out to be heard amongst all the busy-ness and noise of life. What are you doing to make time to quietly listen to the call of wisdom through God’s Word? Our lives are easily filled with noise and distraction. We need to intentionally turn aside to grow in wisdom.