Broken and Spilled Out

Broken and Spilled Out

Genesis 30:22

Dr. Jim Denison

Today is Mother’s Day. Every one of us has had a mother, obviously; however, we don’t all see her in the same way. For instance, there was a little girl who, when shown the wedding pictures of her parents, asked her father, “Daddy, is that the day you got Mom to come and work for us?”

Then there was the teacher who had just given her second-grade class a lesson on magnets. She asked a little boy, “Now, my name starts with an ‘M’ and I pick up things. What am I?” The boy replied instantly, “A mother?”

But my favorite story has to do with a poor mother who was concerned about her eldest son’s use of profanity. She asked her pastor for advice, and he told her that each time her son cussed, she should slap him. Bad advice, to be sure.

The next morning as her sons came to the breakfast table she asked them what they wanted to eat. The eldest said, “I want some ‘blankety, blank Post Toasties.’” His mother slapped him as hard as she could. As he sat dazed on the floor, she turned to the younger son and asked what he wanted to eat. He said, “Well, I sure don’t want any Post Toasties!”

This is a good day, for mothers need all the encouragement they can find. That’s what Anna Jarvis thought when she decided upon her mother’s death in 1905 to make a day in her memory. She copyrighted “Mother’s Day” with the U.S. Patent Office, then wrote governors, state legislators, congressmen, and even the president. Finally, in 1914 President Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day a national observance.

Upon her death in 1948, a wreath of 43 carnations was placed on Anna Jarvis’s grave, because in that year 43 countries celebrated Mother’s Day. Why carnations? Because they were her mother’s favorite flower.

Anna Jarvis had the right idea for our culture, but also for our souls. For mothers have the single greatest influence on their children’s eternal souls. That is the simple point I want to make today.

The contents are what matters

Our text finds Rachel in dire straits. Her husband loves her, but she has borne him no children. Her sister and even their maids have given him ten sons together; she has none. So she prays, and prays more fervently, and prays still more intently. And finally her prayer is answered.

Fourteen years after she and Jacob were married, she gives him a child, a son. She knows immediately the source of her blessing, for she names him “Joseph,” which means “The Lord adds.” God gave her this child. And she would love him until the day she died giving birth to his brother, Benjamin. The Jewish people venerate the place of her birth to this day.

Rachel’s story illustrates well the relationship of motherhood to pottery. The first fact: the contents of the clay vessel are its value.

A clay vessel is a means to an end. The contents of the pot are what matters, not its form or appearance. Pots are as valuable as they are useful.

We are to judge them by their function, not their appearance. They may be beautiful, but cracked or dirty on the inside, and thus of no value. Or they may be common on the outside but clean and holy on the inside, so that their contents are valuable and pure.

So with mothers. Your eternal value lies in the souls of your children. Not in your status in the eyes of your society, your possessions or appearance or achievements. Your greatest value as a mother is the soul of the child given to you.

The second fact: the vessel seldom knows the ultimate result of its work.

Water poured from the clay pot grows flowers the pot never sees. It helps thirsty people the pot never knows. Its use extends far beyond the pot which held it.

Rachel never knew that her oldest son would one day save his brothers and his nation. She died never knowing that he would be second in all of Egypt, and the most famous son of her family and people. She never knew the eternal significance of the life she gave to the world.

You will likely never know the eternal significance of the souls entrusted to your care, either. But God does.

And the third fact: the vessel is the first influence upon its contents. Its purity or contamination is directly transmitted to that which it holds. So with mothers and their children.

Rachel was faithful to God, and God was faithful to her. She was Joseph’s first spiritual influence. She prayed to have Joseph, a fact we never find about Jacob or the rest of his family. She loved him when his brothers were jealous of him. She was his first model of spirituality. Mothers usually are, for better or for worse.

Mothers have the single greatest influence on their children’s eternal souls. That’s my point. Let’s see if it holds up across biblical history and life today.

A pattern across time

First, some biblical stories.

Consider this text: “On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist’” (Matthew 14:6-7). Her mother implicated her daughter in one of the worst crimes in Scripture.

Consider Ahaziah, the ancient king of Israel, and this statement: “He too walked in the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him in doing wrong. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done” (2 Chronicles 22:3-4). This mother’s son suffered a violent, ignominious death for the sins she taught him.

But there are good examples of our point as well. Moses, for instance, was raised in the pagan culture, traditions, and religion of Egypt. And yet because of his spiritual mother, he never forgot his God or his people, and one day led them to their Promised Land.

Samuel’s mother, Hannah, was fervent in prayer, trusting God for a son. She gave that son back to the Lord. And he became Israel’s last judge, first prophet, and great spiritual leader.

Mary was but a teenage girl, probably in the seventh grade today, when the angel Gabriel asked her to risk her family, her future, her marriage, and her life in becoming the mother of the Messiah. She said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). And it was.

Paul said to young Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5).

Is it not true that what their mothers were, their children became?

Does the pattern continue across history?

The mother of Nero was a murderer, as was he.

Of the 69 kings in France’s history there have been only three who were truly loved and respected by their subjects—the only ones reared by loving mothers.

Sir Walter Scott’s mother was a woman of education and a great lover of the arts. So was he.

The mother of George Washington was known for her integrity of character, as was her son.

The mother of John Wesley was remarkable for her intelligence, piety, and abilities, so that she has been called the “mother of Methodism.” Through her son, she was.

Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Dwight Moody testified, “All that I have ever accomplished in life, I owe to my mother.” Charles Spurgeon agreed: “I cannot tell how much I owe to the solemn words of my good mother.”

W. R. Wallace said, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Was he right spiritually?

Lincoln said, “I remember my mother’s prayers, and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all of my life.” Later he observed, “No man is poor who has a godly mother.”

G. Campbell Morgan was one of the greatest preachers of the last generation. He had four sons, all of whom were preachers. The youngest son, Howard, was considered a great preacher as well. Someone once asked him, “Howard, who is the greatest preacher in your family?” Howard had a great admiration for his father and looked right at him; then, without a moment’s hesitation, he answered, “My mother.”

John Newton’s mother prayed for her wayward, sinful son every day. Finally he came to Christ, and later wrote Amazing Grace, the most beloved hymn of all time. We have it because of his mother.

Do you believe that mothers have the greatest spiritual influence in their children’s lives? Lincoln, and Morgan, and Newton did.

The poet made our point well:

Because she understood me better farThan I myself could understand;Because her faith in me, like a guiding star,Steadied my feet, and strengthened heart and hand;Because her cheer and tender sympathyWere strewn along the stony path she trod;Because of her underlying love for me,I better comprehend the love of God.


Does your mother today deserve your gratitude for her spiritual influence upon your life? Not all do across Scripture and history, of course. Does yours? Have you thanked God for her? Have you thanked her?

Have you been given the privilege of being a mother? On this Mother’s Day, would you renew your commitment to the spiritual life and eternal soul of the one entrusted to you? Would you pray for him or her right now? Would you ask God’s help and wisdom in shaping the eternal clay put into your hands? Would you make that eternal soul your highest priority as a mother?

There’s a metaphor from our potter series which seems especially appropriate for us today. It is taken from the wonderful story of Jesus’ last days, when Mary “took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair” (John 12:3). This was actually twelve ounces of one of the most expensive perfumes of their day. To do this with our perfumes today would cost in excess of $450.

She broke the clay vessel and poured its contents out unto her Lord. In the very same way, God has given every mother the privilege of pouring out the child given to her, unto God. Listen to this song about that event—may this be your commitment to God this day. Would you give your most precious treasure, that which God has given to you, back to him, right now?

One day a plain village woman,Driven by love for her Lord,Recklessly poured out a valuable essence,Disregarding the scorn.And once it was broken and spilled out,A fragrance filled all the roomLike a pris’ner released from his shackles,Like a spirit set free from the tomb.Broken and spilled out just for love of You, Jesus;My most precious treasure lavished on Thee.Broken and spilled out and poured atYour feet in sweet abandon;Let me be spilled out and used up for Three.Lord, You were God’s precious treasure,His loved and His own perfect Son,Sent here to show me the love of the Father;Yes, just for love it was done.And though You were perfect and holy,You gave up yourself willingly.You spared no expense for my pardon;You were used up and wasted for me.Broken and spilled out just for love of me, Jesus;God’s most precious treasure lavished on me.Broken and spilled out and poured atmy feet in sweet abandon;Lord, You were spilled out and used up for me.In sweet abandon, let me be spilled outand used up for Thee.

The Cure for Cracked Pots

The Cure for Cracked Pots

Genesis 39

Dr. Jim Denison

Families and relationships face brand-new challenges these days. This week’s Dallas Morning News reported that the ten-year project to decode the human genome, the operating manual for how human beings are constructed, will be completed next month and available to the world over the Internet. We will be able to cure diseases, but also to design offspring and change human nature.

The Internet is fast becoming the “Evernet”—anything with electricity is having chips embedded in it, from pagers to toasters to cars, and connected to networks. As a result, the new Mercedes 500 has more computing power than the 747-200.

And you will be able to surf the Web everywhere, but the Web will also be able to surf you, to know where you are and what you are consuming, what your family is doing, all the time.

Technology presents great challenges to our homes and relationships. But these are not the greatest problems we face. Our gravest problems have not changed since the Garden of Eden, because human nature does not change. Joseph’s relational problems were exactly our problems. Joseph’s relational solutions will still work for us today.

Let me show you what I mean.

The story of strong clay

Our metaphor for this series on relationships is taken from Jeremiah 18, where God is the Master Potter who molds the clay of our hearts and homes. From this analogy we discover that the clay the potter uses must be pure, or it will crack under pressure. It will collapse under the fire of the kiln or the weight of use. The integrity of the clay determines the strength of the vessel.

So it is with our souls and relationships.

When we last left Joseph, Rachel had just given him life and his name, “The Lord adds.” Joseph drops out of the Genesis narrative for the next six chapters, but resurfaces as a teenager in Genesis 37. Here we watch Jacob honor him above the other brothers, and Joseph brag about his dreams of future superiority. And you know the result.

This teenage boy with dreams of greatness becomes a slave in Egypt, sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharoah’s guard. These are Pharoah’s elite personal troops, and Potiphar is their leader. Alfred Edersheim, the Jewish historian, says that he was “chief of the executioners.”

But God is still with him, for he “gave him success in everything he did” (v. 3). Indeed, “The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (v. 5). God is redeeming Joseph’s suffering for his own glory.

Now the test comes. It came for Jesus; it came for Joseph; it comes to us all. Everything is going so well, but this is typically when the enemy strikes: “Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’” (v. 7). If this were a Hollywood movie or television show, we all know what would happen next.

But it’s not—it’s the story of a man of great moral courage and personal integrity. Listen to Joseph’s response: “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife” (v. 9a). He will not sin against the master who has been so loyal to him.

And he will not sin against the Master who has so blessed him: “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (v. 9b). He continually defends his heart and his integrity: “Though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her” (v. 10).

Unfortunately, Joseph must pay for his integrity. Potiphar’s wife accuses him of attempting to seduce her, and he moves from Potiphar’s home to a prison cell. But all is not as it seems, as we’ll see in a moment.

Put your integrity first

Webster defines “integrity” as “the quality or state of being of sound, moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.” This Joseph demonstrates in abundance. If he were preaching this sermon today, he would say to every one of us: put your integrity first. Why is it so important?

Integrity enables us to withstand temptation. Joseph’s character gave him the strength to withstand perhaps the greatest temptation a man can face. We’ll see how in a moment.

Integrity enables others to trust us.

According to Egyptian law (and Jewish legal statutes as well), Potiphar would have executed Joseph for this crime if he had believed his wife. Jail was never the result of such sin by a slave against his master, especially when that master is the chief of Pharoah’s executioners. Potiphar put

Joseph in jail because he knew he didn’t deserve to die, but he couldn’t have him in his house around his sinful wife.

His integrity saved his life, because Potiphar believed him. It enables others to believe us as well.

Most of all, integrity enables God to use us. Joseph’s character was the reason God could use him. The Holy Spirit can only use a vessel yielded to him in godly integrity.

Four times this chapter says, “The Lord was with him.” Why? Joseph didn’t earn or merit such blessing; he simply received it because the integrity of his heart could. A cracked pot cannot contain much water.

And so even at the end of the chapter, God is still blessing Joseph: “while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:20-23).

The world condemned Joseph, but God celebrated him. And soon the world would know the truth, on that day when Joseph became Egypt’s Prime Minister and Potiphar’s boss, and his wife had to honor the slave she had condemned. All because of the hand of God on his life.

A potter can best use clay which possesses integrity. The same is true with God.

Guard your heart

So we must put integrity first. How do we do it? How do we guard our hearts from the “Potiphar’s wives” who surround us? First, refuse to be alone with someone who tempts you.

Look at verse 10: “He refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.” The latter made the former possible.

It was only when he was alone with her through no fault of his own that the situation becomes a crisis. If others had been in the house, she could never have made her accusations and cost him his position. Refuse to be alone with anyone who tempts you.

Second, never say “maybe.”

Proverbs 5 is a chapter-long warning against the adulterous woman (or man). It offers this excellent advice: “Keep to a path far from her; do not go near the door of her house” (v. 8). Stay away.

Paul agrees: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Never say “maybe.”

Joseph kept this advice. The text is clear—he never considered her offer. He didn’t even stay and talk with her. He left immediately.

And notice how he left: “he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (v. 12). The “cloak” was actually his undergarment. He fled unclothed, at great dishonor and yet with his honor completely upheld. He refused to compromise with sin, whatever his courage might cost him.

The late United Nations leader, Dag Hammarskjold, said it well: “He who wants to keep his garden tidy doesn’t reserve a plot for weeds.”

Say no, now.

Third, fear the results of failure.

If Joseph had failed here, how different would the rest of Genesis be? The rest of Scripture? No Hebrew nation; no Messiah. The future of God’s plan to redeem all of humanity was at stake.

Count on it—if the enemy thinks this issue is worth tempting you over, it’s worth resisting. It’s graver than you know. Satan is a great economist. He always tempts us at that place which will cause the greatest devastation. That’s why government officials are tempted at the point of character and leadership, bankers at the point of financial integrity, and preachers at the point of morality. If you’re being tempted, know that the enemy is up to something disastrous. Every time.

We’ve said it so often: sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, cost you more than you wanted to pay, and keep you longer than you wanted to stay. Joseph knew it. Do you?

Last, trust the results of integrity. Joseph’s refusal of Potiphar’s wife cost him dearly, but God redeemed his integrity for an even greater purpose.

Notice the little phrase in v. 20: “Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. This was a special jail, where Joseph would meet prisoners who knew the king.

What if Joseph had not gone to jail, and specifically this jail? He would never have met Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker, and interpreted their dreams. He would never have been known to Pharoah. He would never have become #2 in the nation, saved Egypt from starvation, and restored his family. He would simply have died the faithful slave of an army captain.

And we would never have heard of him.

When we pay the price of integrity, God redeems our character for a far greater purpose than we can know.


Now, who is “Potiphar’s wife” in your life? Is she a person? A job? Possessions? Goals? Anything which wants you to compromise your integrity is your enemy, and the enemy of your home, family, and ministry as well.

Seeking the help and leading of the Spirit for character and integrity is essential to a life well lived and blessed of God.

In 1948 crusade evangelism was just beginning to become a major movement in this country. Many such evangelists were active, and a number of them had already begun committing the sins and experiencing the failures we associate with this work.

So it was that a little-known evangelist asked the three members of his team to meet with him in his hotel room during a crusade in Modesto, California in November of 1948. The four resolved to handle their offerings with integrity and draw only a salary; to count the crowds based on the lowest numbers produced by objective sources; never to criticize local clergy or leaders.

And they determined most of all to maintain absolute moral integrity. They would never meet alone with a woman; they would never get on an elevator alone with a female; the evangelist would even send an associate into his hotel room first to be sure no women were present.

As I said, this evangelist was just one of many active in the country, and little-noticed. But the next year, I believe as a direct result of his integrity and character, his Los Angeles crusade catapulted him to international fame. You know his name, of course.

By the way, that evangelist has broken his rule never to be alone with a female only once, when Hilary Rodham Clinton and he met for lunch at a table in the middle of a Little Rock restaurant.

Could he or the Joseph he emulates speak to us today, they would have the same message: guard your heart. Whatever it costs to do it. Your integrity is your greatest possession. This is the warning, and the promise, of God.