Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
Joseph: Part 2
In the Pit and In the Prison, God is There
Author’s Notes: Last week, we left Joseph at the bottom of a pit, while his brothers enjoyed their lunch, nearby. In today’s lesson, Joseph will be brought up out of the pit, only to be sold into slavery, then thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But through it all, we’re going to find that the Lord was with Joseph, every step of the way.
Can you think of a time when you felt all alone? Really alone…like there was no one else who cared about you or understood what you were going through? Sometimes we can even feel alone when we’re with other people. Feeling like you’re alone doesn’t have to mean there is no one else around. It can mean that there’s no one else around that you can turn to for help or encouragement. You may even feel alone, sometimes, in your own family.
In our last lesson, we met a teenager named Joseph who was loved very much by his father. But the favoritism shown to him led to jealousy and hatred from his brothers. In fact, they grew to hate him so much that they plotted to do something terrible to him, to get rid of him. Does anyone remember what they said they would do, when they saw Joseph heading down the road, toward them? They decided to kill him, and rip up his coat so that their father would think a wild animal had gotten him on his journey.
But Joseph’s oldest brother, Reuben, had kept a cooler head. What did he suggest they do with Joseph? He recommended that they not kill him, but throw him into an empty pit, instead. Does anyone remember what Reuben planned to do later? He thought he would be able to get Joseph back out and return him to their father.
However, we’re going to find that Reuben left the group, for a time. And while he was gone, the brother’s hatched a new plan for Joseph that would not result in his return home. In fact, he was going to find himself heading in quite the opposite direction.
But Joseph is going to learn that no matter where he goes or how alone he might feel, there is someone Who will always be with him. And that is the Lord. Today’s memory verse reminds us that God promises to always be with us, too, no matter where we are or how alone we might feel. We’re never alone…God is always right there with us, and will never leave us.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5
Remind the students that “conversation” here does not mean the way you talk. It refers to their conduct or manner of life…everything they do. If anyone would seem to have reason to want something different in life, it might be Joseph in the situations we find him in, today. But Joseph will teach us that we can be content, no matter what situation we find ourselves put in, and trust that the Lord is right there with us, and that what we’re going through is all in His plan.
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for our new study on the life of Joseph. Help us to learn, from his trusting in You, that we are never truly alone. Give us ears to hear Your Word today, in Jesus name. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: In the Pit and in the Prison, Go is There (Genesis 37:25-36, 39:1-23)
(out of the pit and into slavery)
Last week we left Joseph down in a pit, while most of his brothers sat nearby, eating their lunch. How do you think Joseph felt down in that pit, all by himself? Maybe he could hear his brothers laughing and talking about him. Or maybe it was deep enough that he couldn’t hear anything at all, except for the bugs or other creatures that might have been in there with him. We can be certain that Joseph was not feeling like the favorite son right about then. He was probably feeling very alone.
David, having grown up in a Hebrew family, would have known this story about Joseph, and he started out one of his psalms asking God to rescue him from a pit. Psalm 40:1-2 says, “I waited patiently for the LORD, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Do you think that maybe Joseph was talking to God, too, about getting him out of that pit? God was with Joseph the whole time, and knew he needed to be rescued. But God’s idea for rescuing Joseph might not have been what Joseph had in mind.
Reuben was the one who had recommended the pit as an alternative to killing Joseph. And his plan was to get Joseph out of the pit, and back to their father. But Reuben left the group for a little while. And while he was gone, an opportunity arose that the other brothers just couldn’t pass up.
25And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
26And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood?
27Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmeelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content.
28Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.
What a great deal this was for Joseph’s brothers. Not only was this a way to be rid of the brother whom they hated so much, now they could make a little money on him, too! What did Joseph’s brothers choose to do, rather than leave him in the pit, or outright kill him? They sold his to some traveling merchants, to be a slave.
How horrifying that must have been for Joseph. His brothers had finally pulled him up out of that terrible, cold, dark pit. But not to send him back home to his father. They decided, instead, to sell him as a slave to some strangers. That certainly would not have been the answer to prayer that Joseph had been looking for. He didn’t know that years from now, God would have a great purpose and plan for him in the land of Egypt.
Have you ever been in a really tough situation and prayed that God would help you out of it? If we are His children, He hears when we pray, and answers in whatever way He knows is best for us. Sometimes those answers don’t seem like what we were looking for. Sometimes it looks like we’ve gone from bad to worse. When that happens, we need to rely on God’s promises, like Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God’s idea of rescue might not look like rescue to us. But remember that God can see all the way to the end. And He knows just what needs to be done to bring us there. Don’t forget our memory verse: even if things seem to be going wrong, God will be right there to guide us along. He will never leave us alone.
Now after the brothers had collected their money, and sent Joseph off to be an Egyptian slave, Reuben returned, ready to provide a rescue of his own. But he was too late.
29And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes.
30And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?
How did Reuben react to the empty pit? He tore his clothes. This was often done as a sign of grief or anger. Joseph was gone, and there was absolutely nothing that Reuben could do about it. Now, the question was…what would they tell their father? Do you remember their original plan? They had already come up with an answer for that very question.
31And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood;
32And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son's coat or no.
33And he knew it, and said, It is my son's coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces.
Joseph’s brothers didn’t even have to come up with an explanation. All they had to do was show their father the coat, and he jumped to the very conclusion they had hoped for. What did Jacob assume had happened? That a wild animal had gotten Joseph, torn him to pieces, and eaten him – just the story the brothers had planned to tell.
34And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.
35And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him.
Do you think Jacob’s sons were expecting him to be this upset? Jacob told them that he would never get over this loss. He said he would mourn for Joseph till the day he died, and there was nothing any of them could do to comfort him. We’ll find, in a few weeks, that this tragedy does, in fact, affect him greatly for many years to come. We’ll also see the impact it has on Joseph’s brothers. But for now we’re going to leave Joseph’s father and brothers, and join Joseph as he arrived in a different country, with a different culture, where they didn’t even speak the same language as Joseph.
Can you even imagine how hard that would be? People often travel, today, from one country to another. But if they are going to a country where they speak a different language, they will often study a little of the language so they can communicate with the people, there. Joseph certainly was not planning to go to Egypt, and would have had no reason to learn their culture or language. But he would have to do all that very quickly, and on his own, to survive in this new place.
But he wasn’t really alone, after all. Let’s find out who went to Egypt with him:
36And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard.
1And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.
2And the LORD was with Joseph…
Just as He has promised us in Hebrews 13, the Lord was also with Joseph…even in a new land where the people probably had never heard of the Hebrew God. And not only was He with Joseph, He also helped him to be successful as a servant in the house of Potiphar. Now, Potiphar would have been a very important man. He was the captain of the guard for Pharaoh, Egypt’s king. That meant that Potiphar was in charge of the soldiers who personally guarded Pharaoh at all times. He would have worked right in the palace. This meant he was a rich and successful man in Egypt.
And when he bought Joseph as a servant for his household, Potiphar quickly learned that he had made a very good investment. Let’s continue in our passage to see what became of Joseph, in Potiphar’s house.
(out of slavery and into temptation)
2And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.
3And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
4And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand.
5And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
6And he left all that he had in Joseph's hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.
Scripture doesn’t tell us how long Joseph worked in Potiphar’s house. But we do see, from verse 2, that Joseph is now a “man.” We also see that Potiphar noticed something different about Joseph. Did anyone notice what that was? Potiphar, the Egyptian, noticed that the LORD was with Joseph, and was making everything he did prosper. God was blessing Potiphar and his family because of Joseph and his faithfulness. And because of that, Potiphar promoted Joseph to the head of his household. And God continued to bless him.
Unfortunately, Potiphar was not the only one to notice Joseph’s good qualities. Potiphar’s wife began to notice Joseph, too. But she did not believe in Joseph’s God, or follow His ways. So she did not remain faithful to her husband. Instead, she decided she wanted some extra attention from Joseph that was wrong in the eyes of the Lord. And Joseph knew that very well.
7And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph...
8But he refused [her attention], and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
9There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
It makes us feel good to know that someone likes us. And Potiphar’s wife was probably a very beautiful woman. But Joseph knew that having a relationship with Potiphar’s wife would be taking something that did not belong to him. And not only would that be sinning against Potiphar, Joseph was even more concerned that it would be sinning against God.
Have you ever had someone, maybe even a friend, who tried to convince you to do something you knew was wrong. Maybe it was something you knew would seem really fun or great at the time. Maybe they pointed out that no one else would ever even know. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it probably will someday. And when that happens, it’s going to be important for you to remember what Joseph said: “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God.” Remember that God has promised never to leave us. And not only is that a promise, it can also be a warning that He will be there to see when we are disobeying, too.
Joseph fully understood that God was with him, and that his relationship with God would be hurt if he listened to Potiphar’s wife. But she was not listening to God. And she was persistent!
10And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her…to be with her.
11And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.
12And she caught him by his garment, …and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.
Joseph had tried to reason with Potiphar’s wife. But when she wouldn’t give up, and finally cornered him, Joseph knew he had only one choice if he wanted to please the Lord…he had to get away.
Remember the friend we talked about a minute ago, who wanted you to do something you knew was wrong? Sometimes that person will not take “no” for an answer. They will continue to push you and push you until you think you’ll nearly give in. If you ever sense that happening, and realize that reasoning your way out is not going to work, there may come a point where you will just have to do as Joseph did and get away from that person. If it’s a friend, then it may be very hard to do. You may risk losing that friendship. But if that person was trying to get you to go against what you know to be right, then they aren’t a good friend for you, anyway. That may not make it any easier at the time. But it’s the right thing to do. And God will bless you for it.
And God would bless Joseph for doing the right thing, too. But like He did in rescuing Joseph from the pit, God will bless Joseph in a way that won’t seem much like a blessing right away. Or even for a few years to come.
(out of temptation and into prison)
13And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth,
14That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me… and I cried with a loud voice:
15And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out.
16And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home.
Potiphar’s wife was humiliated and angry to have been rejected by her servant. So she decided to make up a story about what happened, so that her husband would believe that Joseph was at fault, and would punish him.
17And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me:
18And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out.
Have you ever had someone try to get you in trouble by saying you did something that you didn’t do? Maybe it was something so terrible that you would never even consider doing it. How would that make you feel? Sometimes it leaves us feeling helpless, as it becomes their word against ours, leaving others to have to choose who to believe. And sometimes we must even endure the punishment, because others choose to believe the false report.
There is someone who had to die on a cross because of a false report. Does anyone know who that is? Yes, Jesus Christ knows how it feels. He was falsely accused by the Jewish leaders. And because of that report, he was turned over to Roman officials who crucified Him. But it was all part of God’s plan for our salvation. And we can be certain that if we are allowed to suffer for a false accusation, that God can work that out for our good, within His plan, too.
What do you think Potiphar did? Do you think he believed that Joseph would do what his wife claimed? Or do you think he knew Joseph well enough to question what his wife had said. Let’s find out.
19And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.
Potiphar was indeed angry to hear this report from his wife. And since Joseph was just a slave, he had no right to defend himself. If Potiphar chose to, he could have Joseph put to death immediately for such an offense. But perhaps, once he had time to consider the accusation, Potiphar suspected that he didn’t get the full story from his wife, because he chose a much more lenient punishment for Joseph.
20And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison.
Not only did Potiphar spare Joseph’s life, he also put him into the prison where the king’s prisoner were bound. We’ll find, in our next lesson, that this was not like the common prison. Pharaoh would send his servants to this prison when they had done something to displease him. And when his temper would die down, he would then consider whether they were to be further punished, or released back to their position in the palace. That doesn’t mean that the prison was not a miserable place. Being locked up is certainly not the place Joseph would have chosen to be.
But it is the place that God had chosen for Joseph to be, at least for a while. So once again, Joseph had been rescued, only to find himself in a worse place than he was before. But even in the prison, Joseph was not alone. God was still right there with him.
21But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison.
22And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.
23The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.
Just as He had done with Joseph in Potiphar’s house, the Lord was continuing to bless Joseph in everything he did. And as Potiphar had done, the keeper of the prison also took notice of Joseph’s godly character, giving him new responsibility over the entire prison.
And that is where we’ll leave Joseph for this week…sitting in an Egyptian prison, because of a crime he didn’t commit. But remember, he is not alone there. Twice in just these last three verses, we are reminded that “the LORD was with Joseph.” And that same God is the one who has promised to be with us, too.
So no matter where you are this week, no matter what the situation, no matter how tough things might be – remember that same God has promised to be there with you, if you are His child.
Which leads me to a very important question: have you asked the Lord to be your Savior? Do you know that He will be there for you because you have asked Him into your heart? If not, then you can do that this very day. He wants to be your Lord and Savior, and to be there for you all the time. Why not ask Him into your heart today?
And if Jesus has saved you, then remember to call out to Him when you need His strength during those times you are tempted. And remember that His answer for your rescue might mean that you need to get away, right away, from whoever or whatever is tempting you to do wrong, and sin against God. He wants to help you. Just ask and obey!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the story of Joseph. And for the reminder that You are always there to help us through whatever difficult things we might be facing. Help us, when we are tempted, Lord, to look to You for strength; and to have the courage to flee that temptation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. It was Reuben’s idea to sell Joseph as a slave. (false – it was Judah’s. Reuben wanted to rescue him)
2. Jacob suspected that his sons had killed Joseph. (false – he believed a wild animal had killed him)
3. Joseph’s brothers sold him for twenty pieces of silver. (true)
4. Joseph tried to take advantage of Potiphar’s wife. (false – she tried to do so to him)
5. Potiphar had Joseph killed because of his wife’s accusation. (false – he put him in prison)
God is There
In the deepest, darkest pit – God is there.
In the dungeon, where I sit – God is there.
He has promised He will never leave my side.
So, in His unchanging grace I will abide.
And I will trust that through it all – my God is there.
I know that He will hear my call – for God is there.
So I will praise His wondrous love, and holy name.
For God, who was with Joseph, is my God…the same!
Lisa DeVinney, June 2014