You don’t have to go to church to know story of Joseph. Popular Broadway musicals have familiarized Americans with the main characters of the story. Last year, we attended a local production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I remember having to hide my 7-year-old’s eyes during the scene with Potipher’s wife. No doubt, the story is anything but boring. As we come to chapter 39 this week, we delve into the real life circumstances of Joseph. While he finds himself in an advantageous situation as a caretaker in Potipher’s house, he is challenged with the advances of Potipher’s promiscuous wife.
While it is easy to see the pitfalls of engaging in an adulterous relationship with your boss’s wife, one could argue that it was in Joseph’s best interest to meet her demands. In fact, Joseph was a slave. He could have easily justified giving into the owner’s wife’s orders. But Joseph had other reasons for rejecting her advances. It wasn’t simply that she was unattractive. Joseph was primarily concerned with his relationship with God. His response was,
(Genesis 39:9 NIV) How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?
Joseph was solely concerned with how his actions would measure up to God’s standard. His chief consideration was to remain obedient and faithful to God. Even so, you might think that such high moral standards would be rewarded. Perhaps Potiphar would promote Joseph for his impeccable judgment. Maybe God would grant Joseph freedom for continual obedience, day after day. After all, Joseph was doing the right thing. How could anything go wrong?
As you read the story, you find that Joseph actions land him in prison. Potiphar’s wife accuses Joseph of rape and when it is Joseph’s word against hers, Potiphar believes his wife.
As we consider the story, we often find ourselves in similar lures. Maybe our temptations are not so direct (we probably don’t have someone asking us to sleep with them every day). But we face temptations nonetheless. Fudging an expense report or relating a couple of mistruths might be considered “just part of the job.” And when we refuse to participate, we are penalized. How do we deal with similar enticements?
While it is not always easy, we have to go back to Joseph’s focus. He wasn’t considering how his behavior might impact his job or standing in Potiphar’s house. He wasn’t weighing the reaction of Potiphar’s wife. He was simply focused on God, on God’s Word. And when he measured his potential behavior against God’s standards, the choice was easy. He was not willing to sin against God. In this case, it cost Joseph dearly. For the next several years, he may have wondered what life would be like if he had made a different choice. But in the end, God was faithful to reward Joseph’s action (or in this case, lack of action). As we face our own decisions, our own temptations, may we remember that the right decision doesn’t always produce favorable outcomes (at least initially). But as we follow God’s leading, we can be certain that God will be faithful to those who faithfully follow his commands.