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?
Genesis 39 & 40
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).
We don’t always “pass the tests,” the first time around. And we don’t always understand or like what He allows. But God keeps patiently working because His goal is for us to become like Christ (Rom. 8.29).
His promise is that He “… is able to keep [us] from stumbling and to present [us] faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy …” (Jude 24). But that requires times of softening, molding, and shaping.
The testing wasn’t over yet for Joseph either. In chapter 40 Pharaoh’s butler and baker are thrown into prison with him.
5 Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man’s dream in one night and each man’s dream with its own interpretation. 6 And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in the custody of his lord’s house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?”
8 And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it.”
So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please.”
When the butler shared his dream the Lord gave Joseph the interpretation:
12 And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. 13 Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler. 14 But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. 15 For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon.”
The interpretation for the baker’s dream was quite different:
18 So Joseph answered and said, “This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you.”
20 Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21 Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
You might expect that if a man had interpreted your dream and a co-worker’s, the interpretation turned out to be true, you were miraculously pardoned, and your co-worker was beheaded, you would remember. If the butler did, he kept silent! His silence sentenced Joseph to more time in prison. Because …
God had not finished His work in Joseph. He had a great assignment for him. Joseph would soon be exalted and used mightily, but he was not ready yet.
A Note about Dreams
“Do not interpretations belong to the Lord?” (Gen. 40.8).
God has given us His Word, spoken by the prophets, illustrated through the lives of the Old Testament saints, explained and expanded in its application in the Epistles and throughout the Bible, and lived out in the sinless life of Christ. We are not lacking in the availability of truth and understanding. If God is trying to show you something, He will confirm it through His Word. Nothing that is truly from God will ever contradict His Word either in principle or in fact. So if you are in need of God’s wisdom in some area of your life, look for answers first and foremost in the pages of Scripture.
Today’s Other Readings:
A Day of Accounting
Like the Psalmist we sometimes look at ungodly people and say:
“Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (v. 1).
Sometimes it looks to us like the wicked are getting away with murder. The psalmist lists the ways that seems to be true, including, verse 11 which describes the attitude of the wicked. Their lifestyles seem to say, “God, if there is one, won’t do anything about it!”
But there will be a day of accounting either in this life or the next.
The Importance of Wisdom & Understanding
“Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you” (vvs. 5-6).
We need God’s wisdom, not only to avoid sinning in our actions, but in our attitudes, as well.
He Who Has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear
Here in this chapter Jesus talks about that day of accounting where the wicked will be judged.
“The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (vv. 41-43).
Have you been tempted with discouragement or anger because you are experiencing some test or trial? For what might God be preparing you? If we are to become like Christ who perfectly manifested the fruit of the Spirit (read Gal. 5.22-23), what characteristics of that fruit could He be developing in you?
Lord, help us to not envy the wicked, to trust You when we face trials and suffering, to see You in the favor and blessings which You give, and to stay faithful in any and all circumstances, in Jesus name, amen.
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