Joseph's Example - Part 2
As if it was not already bad enough that Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery just when things seem to be working out really well for Joseph we see another twist. Potiphar’s wife starts to lust after Joseph (Gen 39:7) and entice him to commit adultery with her. Day after day she tries to seduce him to sleep with her (Gen 39:10). Joseph shows the great faith that he has in God when he tells her that he could not commit this sin, not against Potiphar (although he mentions Potiphar’s trust in him), but ultimately against God (Gen 39:8-9). Joseph shows that even with all he has been through up to this point he still trusts and loves his God. He does not allow circumstances to change or challenge his faith.
Finally on a day when Joseph was alone with Potiphar’s wife she grabs ahold of his cloak and makes one last aggressive attempt to get him to sleep with her. Joseph does not even hesitate and pulls out of his cloak and runs out of the house.
Here again I stop to contemplate how I react to sinful temptation in my life. Joseph does not stay to make sure he has his cloak, he immediately flees the situation. Some times when we are tempted we tend to stay around the sin and allow it to entice us more and more, using excuses to do this. Joseph could have easily used the excuse that she had hold of his cloak to stay in this bad situation. He could have told himself “I can’t leave my cloak behind”. This would have given her more time to work on building up lust within him, but instead he leaves his cloak and runs from sin. We should all take notice and be willing to do the same in our own life. We should be willing to abandon those things that could keep us in a bad situation and flee from the sin no matter the cost!
After Potiphar’s wife sees that her advance has been denied she is enraged against Joseph. She then turns to destroy him. She calls for the servants of the house to tell them a vicious lie (Gen 39:14-15), she says that Joseph tried to rape her. She uses the cloak he left behind, in her hands, as evidence of her lie. We see Satan at work here as we know that Jesus told us that he is the father of lies (John 8:44). Although Satan is never mentioned in this story we have no doubt that behind the scenes he has been at work to try and cause Joseph to fall. He was at work with his bothers plan to kill him (which turned into selling him), he was at work in Potiphar’s wife to try and cause Joseph to fall into adultery, and now he turns to lies to try and destroy him. When Potiphar returns home his wife recites the same lie to him which sends him into a rage (Gen 39:16-19). He is blinded by his anger at Joseph for what his wife has told him. We know from James warning, in James 1:19-20, that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to wrath because our anger will not work out the righteous purpose of God in our lives. Unfortunately for Potiphar he is not a believer and does not follow these instructions. Potiphar takes Joseph to the jail and has him imprisoned.
How would we react to a wrongful imprisonment like this? Would we succumb to grief, pitying ourselves, because we feel abandoned by God? Would we be spiteful to the jailer in charge of us? Would we try to escape or fight our way out feeling we are justified by our righteousness? Would we complain against God asking “why have you put me here”? Joseph does none of these things. Instead he becomes the model prisoner in the jail, continuing to live out his faith and continuing to trust in God. God gives him favor in the eyes of the jailer, so much favor that he is put in charge of the whole prison! Through this whole story we see that Joseph continues to trust that God has him right where he is supposed to be, he trusts that God is working out his purpose in his life. Many times we look at our circumstances and we lose trust, we focus on what we see around us instead of what we do not see. If we would only focus on the unseen, eternal purposes of God, we would grow stronger in our faith instead of growing weary (2 Cor 4:17-18).
I want to pause here to point something out. Joseph was given a dream as a young man in which God showed him he would rise to a position of great authority. What he was not shown was God’s road map of how he would get there. We know that, as Christians, we are promised a great salvation, we are promised we will be sanctified in this life and perfected in the next. God does not show us our full road map either. He does warn us in many places in scripture that this sanctification and glorification will involve suffering (Phil 1:29, Rom 8:17-18, just to name a couple). Let us face our road map with the same faith and trust that Joseph showed in his life. Let us live out our faith no matter what the circumstances around us look like, looking to the unseen purposes of God and trusting His promises to us!