“They were a happy little family, living in a small town in North Dakota, even though the young mother had not been entirely well since the birth of her second baby.
But each evening the neighbors were aware of a warmth in their hearts when they would see the husband and father being met at the gate by his wife and two small children. There was laughter in the evening too, and when the weather was nice Father and children would romp together on the back lawn while Mother looked on with happy smiles.
Then one day a village gossip started a story, saying that he was being unfaithful to his wife, a story entirely without foundation. But it eventually came to the ears of the young wife, and it was more than she could bear. Reason left its throne, and that night when her husband came home there was no one to meet him at the gate, no laughter in the house, no fragrant aroma coming from the kitchen—only coldness and something that chilled his heart with fear. Tragedy had struck as the mother could not handle it if this affair was indeed true. She took her life and her children’s as well.
In the days that followed, the truth of what had happened came out—a gossip’s tongue, an untrue story, a terrible tragedy.”
Lies, gossip, mistreatment and false accusations about people always end poorly. Granted most do not end the way this tragic story does but they rarely have positive impact.
Have you ever had someone say something untrue about you? Have you ever been accused of something falsely? How did you respond? How did it make you feel? What did you do, if anything, to clear your name?
We are continuing through the life of Joseph and this is a man who understood all too well the injustice of life but he never let that drag him down.
Last week we looked at Joseph’s temptation. I talked about the difficulty of facing and resisting temptation and how we have the power through the Holy Spirit to effectively resist temptation. We, like Joseph, do not need to give in to temptation.
As Joseph’s life story continues it does seem as though this man cannot catch a break. It all starts with a coat and a dream ends with betrayal, slavery, serving in a foreign country, being promoted to head of Potiphar’s estate (things were beginning to look up), and facing his bosses wife’s sexual advancements. Joseph continually responds in the proper ways he should; showing he is man of integrity. One would think he would be rewarded for this… yet once again trouble is lurking in the darkness. Joseph has been mistreated over and over again. It doesn’t seem fair but he moves on and trusts God.
Vs 13: Joseph’s garment – Once again Joseph’s garment is causing him a world of pain. This is not the coat from his father but it is another cloak, it is a cloak of status. Joseph was a man whom God used mightily. God had given him much authority and this made him a perfect target for spiritual attack. Satan loves to wreak havoc on the lives of men and women whom God has appointed for his purposes. Many, when faced with spiritual attacks, remain faithful but many have fallen prey. Joseph was one who trusted God and allowed him to work during all of these difficulties. It is here that in Joseph fleeing his cloak was left behind. He had to get out of the situation as fast as he could so he ran and left his cloak behind; which was very smart of him. It was at this moment Mrs. Potiphar seizes the opportunity to either get revenge for not accommodating her advances or to cover her tracks and fabricate a story before Joseph could tell her husband the truth.
Vs 14: She calls on the other servants and falsely accuses Joseph of attempted rape. It is interesting to note that early on she is putting the blame on her husband for this supposed act. “See, HE (Potiphar) has brought among us…” My husband is bringing in shady characters (if he had not brought him in this would never have happened)… this Hebrew (not a term of endearment) into his household and he “laughs at us”. The words used for “laugh at us” means to humiliate or hold something up for ridicule. It also means to toy with something harmfully and attempted rape would certainly fit in this category. So she blames her husband for this predicament and accuses Joseph of a horrendous crime. For Mrs. Potiphar it certainly seems a lot easier to blame others for her sinful actions. Isn’t this true today and throughout history? The blame game is continual. Humans do not like to take responsibility for their actions. We can be so stubborn and prideful that we would rather accuse, blame or indict others for sin issues than take responsibility for our actions.
Vs 19: When Potiphar hears the news from his wife he is furious… and rightly so. If these accusations were true then he would have every right to be angry. But I wonder how much of it he believed? If indeed Joseph had done what he was accused of then Potiphar could and would have had him executed, in fact that would have been the proper response. Instead of execution Potiphar has him thrown into prison… Why is that? Maybe because he knew the claims were false. He felt he needed to respond to the accusation to appease his wife but he didn’t believe in his heart of hearts that Joseph was guilty. Maybe he knew that since God was with Joseph and if he had him killed then God would bring ill will to his household. Whatever the reason; Joseph is put in jail when he should have been executed.
Vs 20: Joseph is sent off to prison for a second time. God remains with him during his difficult time. Joseph is a natural born leader because he is given a position of leadership in the place where he dwells. This has become the cycle for Joseph. Wherever he goes he rises to the occasion and is put in charge. Here in prison he is appointed head of all the prisoners. The prison guard lets Joseph do whatever he wanted. He trusts Joseph and even in the dungeon Joseph meets success.
Once again we conclude one part of Joseph’s story with a common theme… A righteous man is treated unjustly, sent to prison and God remains with him. These are comforting words for us to read because even in our times of despair we know God is with us. God was molding him for the future. Joseph didn’t know it yet but God was preparing him for leadership. In the mean time Joseph is a falsely condemned man. Tried and falsely convicted of attempted rape, Joseph sits behind bars in prison and waits for God’s next move.
What lesson can we learn from today’s account in Genesis? I asked earlier if you have ever been mistreated or falsely accused of something. Maybe you are on the receiving end of an accusation right now… OR maybe you are the one falsely accusing someone. Here are a few things we should know and take with us today.
- God despises a lying tongue – Proverbs 6:16 – 19. This is a very strong sentiment…God despises… This word has been translated as hate. God hates lying tongues. He doesn’t hate liars but the untruths they speak. Here is the deal…liars may get what they want now but in the end God will judge for the words we speak to and about others. God despises deception, lies and falsity because there is nothing constructive about these they are destructive. God is serious about the words we speak about others. The ninth commandment specifically prohibits people from speaking falsely against one’s neighbor.
- God desires we do what is right regardless the outcome. It is better to suffer for doing good (if it is God’s will) than doing evil – 1 Peter 3:13 – 17. Sometimes we take the easy route in life, even when we know what we are doing is wrong. Why? Because we do not want to be ridiculed, blacklisted, or persecuted. I think of the student in school who gives in to peer pressure because he does not want to be made fun of. I think of the adult who speaks harshly about others because they want to feel good about themselves. I think of the person who may not be upfront with their friends, co-workers and families because the truth could potentially cause a rift in the relationship. We need to be reminded often that even though doing what is right may not be the popular thing it is what God wants us to do.
- We are blessed when people speak against us when we stand for the truth - Matthew 5:11. The treasure we receive in the kingdom to come far outweighs anything we can receive in this life. When people mock, threaten or persecute you for you faith, as hard as it may seem, we should rejoice and considered ourselves blessed.
 Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (112–113). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.