Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? Is it possible God is using that situation to prepare you for something great?
Two Responses to Temptation
Here in 39 we see Joseph’s righteous behavior even when tempted in private.
Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.
7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.
How easy it would have been for him to say, “What’s the use? What has doing good gotten me so far?”
And talk about temptation! Here’s this woman throwing herself at him, but he shows honor to his master even in his speech (a proper attitude toward authority). Most importantly, he says, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9).
Joseph realized that sin is first and foremost against God. While our sins can create major problems in other relationships with people, the biggest problem they create is in our relationship with God (Gal. 6.7-8; Heb. 12.7-11). As Joseph said, how then can I do this …?
Sexual immorality, lying, stealing, drunkenness, outbursts of anger, and other sins of commission (what we do) are not the only ways we sin. We can also commit sins of omission, things we should do, but don’t—like forgiving someone who has wronged us or taking full responsibility for our own failings.
James 4.17 says, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
But, after repeated attempts to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, he has Joseph thrown into prison.
Tested & Tried
Why would God allow all this to happen to Joseph? Had God left him? Was He punishing him?
We know that isn’t the case, because the text repeatedly says that the Lord was with him:
2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. 5 So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field. 6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate (Gen. 39.2-6).
20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper (Gen. 39.20-23).
All of God’s servants are tested and tried. Sometimes He uses other people, even sinful people like Joseph’s brothers and Potiphar’s wife, to do it. Abraham was tested as he waited for the promised child and then by the command to sacrifice that child. The “mama’s boy” Jacob was tested as he was forced to flee the home life he loved and as he was betrayed by his father-in-law. Later we’ll see Moses being tested and refined as he spends forty years herding sheep … and David by running from Saul for years.
The Apostle Paul said of himself:
“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness …” (2 Cor. 11.24-27).
We, too, are tested and like the men and women in the Bible. Sometimes He uses sinful people (a difficult spouse, child or other family member). Sometimes He uses our circumstances (financial hardship, sickness, loss, mistreatment, betrayal or some other difficulty). Continue reading