Since the beginning of recorded history humanity has struggled with the temptations of sin. In just a short time after God creates humanity they are faced with the temptation to sin and unfortunately they give in. From that point on many men and women have been faced with temptation and the struggles to resist has been continual. Each one of us has faced temptation to sin in our lives. For many it is a daily struggle. Sometimes we face temptation with success and at other times we fail miserably. The truth is temptation to sin has a strong desirous magnetic pull to it and one of the most important things we need to know is how to face it, resist and come away from it victoriously. So many people view or face temptation as though it is something that cannot be resisted or overcome. For some the temptation to sin is so overwhelming that they feel they are not able to resist because the struggle and desire is too great. There are a number of stories in regards to infidelity in marriage because of a temptation that seemingly could not be resisted. There are countless moral failures people face. It seems that wherever there is a situation to gain power, wealth, self advancement, self fulfillment and/or recognition sin is quietly dangling its tempting fruit for humanity to consume.
Today we are continuing in the life of Joseph and more specifically his temptation. Up to this point Joseph has been dealt a pretty crumby hand in life having been sold by his brothers into slavery and forced to serve in a foreign land under a foreign leader. However we are reminded that God has been with him all along. God has brought success to his life and to the household of his master Potipher. He is given a place of high authority and respect by his master and he entrusts his household to him. Things are beginning to go well for Joseph once again… until Potipher’s wife enters the picture.
Vs 6b: Joseph was a handsome man. If you recall his mother (Rachel) was beautiful and he must have inherited her good looks. The text states that Joseph was good looking and well built. He was the Hugh Jackman of his time. I am sure he would have been in Egypt Today Magazine’s list of top 100 Sexiest Men Alive. He was the full package… good looking, well built, smart, and successful.
Vs 7: Potipher’s wife would concur that he was a “hottie”. She had clearly been watching him. She had looked longingly after him and desired to have him for herself. This is where the downfall begins. There is a chance that Mrs. Potipher was unhappy in her marriage, maybe she felt her husband wasn’t giving her the attention she needed, or maybe she just wanted more than she already had. Possibly she wasn’t feeling fulfilled. We do not know why she desired Joseph other than it began with her eyes and desire. The eyes and the heart are always where lust and temptation take root. In the Garden Eve SAW that the fruit was a delight to the eyes and desirable to make one wise… she ate. She looked longingly at the fruit. She desired the fruit. King David saw Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop and longed to have her for himself. Jesus was taken to the mountain top and shown the land that could be his if only he bowed down to worship the devil. The eyes are where sin and temptation begin. Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Was it Joseph’s fault that he was a great looking man? No, the problem came with the heart and eyes of Mrs. Potipher.
Eventually her longing stares prompted her to act on her lust. She approaches Joseph and told (maybe asked) him to sleep with her. What may have started with an innocent glance turned into full blown lust which turns into her physically acting on her lust.
Vs 8: But he refused. These three words tell us that Joseph was a man of integrity. He probably knew his refusal to oblige Mrs. Potipher could get him on her black list. He knew she could make his life miserable. If Joseph were only looking out for himself he probably would have been better off sleeping with her. But he knew this would be wrong. He responds by telling her that her husband was very explicit in telling him what he did and did not have charge over and she was not his for the taking.
Vs 9: Joseph says he will not sleep with her because her husband has been good to him, trusts him and she is his wife. Then we see the true heart of Joseph in his next few words, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Wow! These words hit straight between the eyes. Notice he didn’t say, “I can’t sin against Potipher.” Nor did he say, “I can’t sin against you.” He says, “I can’t sin against God.” He gives her the truth up front. He states that it would be wickedness for him to take another man’s wife for himself. Why? Because it would be a sin against God. This is interesting because the laws of God had not been established yet. We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments and even more so with Commandment seven “Do not commit adultery”. Before the Law of God was even established among the nation of Israel adultery was considered wrong in the eyes of God. How did Joseph know this? I think it is a testimony of his relationship with God. It wasn’t about keeping rules or finding out what he could get away with and still be good with God. He more than likely had a genuine relationship with God.
It’s kind of interesting how many Christians worry so much about what they can get away with and not be considered sin than they do about doing what is right in the eyes of God for the sake of being pleasing to Him. Certainly Joseph could have slept with her and then quickly asked God for forgiveness and went on with his life. He could have justified pushing the limits and fooled around with her or lusted after her all the while not actually having sex with her. He could have said, “Hey, I didn’t actually sleep with her I just…” But this was not Joseph’s heart. He couldn’t do this wickedness against God.
Vs 10: So everything went back to normal in the house. Mrs. Potipher said, “Ok, I’ll respect your wishes. I have seen the error of my ways and now I will leave you alone.” Uh, not exactly. She was persistent. She continually approached him. She was not going to give up. Her lust was driving her and her advancements became more and more forward. Day after day he refused. I am sure this was not an easy thing for Joseph. I am sure he was praying often for the advancements to either stop or the strength to refuse.
Vs 11: One day the two were alone… Whoa horsey! The situation just became even more dangerous. Why they were alone we are not sure. But here they were... nobody is around. The workers are nowhere to be found. Eventually this DOES become a problem for Joseph because he has no accountability for his actions.
Vs 12: Apparently not taking “No” for an answer she grabs him violently and demands she has sex with her. Mrs. Potipher’s advances just became violent. Joseph’s response is one that we should all learn from… He got out there faster than you can say “Run!” Joseph fled! He high tailed it out of there as quick as he could, so much so he left his cloak in the clutches of her hands. Joseph removed himself from the situation and did not look back.
I cannot think of a more relevant story in Genesis than this one. This is an account of lust, desire and temptation. However it is not like many other stories in Genesis, our main character does not have a moral failure; he does not use deception and trickery to get what he wants and most of all he shows us how to overcome temptation and sin through the power of God. I mentioned earlier that we all face temptation in our lives. Some of us face it on a regular basis. It may or may not be similar to Joseph’s temptation to sin. Maybe someone at work, school or in a place you frequent is pursuing you to sin against your spouse. Maybe you are a teenager struggling with lustful thoughts. Maybe you are faced with the temptation to cheat on your school work or at your place of employment. Maybe you are faced with the temptation to lie, deceive and trick people into giving you what you want. Maybe you are facing the temptation to look at certain web sites that are not honoring to God. I don’t know what temptation you may be facing today or tomorrow but Joseph gives us all hope. If we look at his response in this passage I think we can all benefit in resisting temptation when we come face to face with it.
- Guard your eyes. As I noted Mrs. Potipher’s first problem began with her eyes. She allowed her lustful looks and desires to control her. This is the case for many people. Most people do not set out to give in to sin. People don’t wake up and say, “I am going to sin today and I am going to sin big!” No, usually sin begins subtlety and begins with the eyes. Job writes, “I have made a covenant with my eyes that I will not look lustfully at another woman.” (31:1) Clearly Job knew his issues and he gave them over to God. The covenant signifies a promise to God. This promise carries over as allowing him to see others with God’s eyes. To have the purity of eyes.
- Submit and Resist. James tells us to submit ourselves to God, resist the Devil and he will flee. Joseph refused Mrs. Potipher. I do not believe he was able to do this without the assistance of God. His relationship with God enabled him to live his life for God. God has equipped all of us to resist temptation through the power of his Holy Spirit. We are not slaves to it and we can have victory over it. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Did you hear that? God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability. He will provide a way of escape. The power of the Holy Spirit in your life enables you to resist. Jesus resisted by using God’s Word. We can resist by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
- Don’t put yourself in a compromising position. In other words don’t invite temptation in. Joseph and Mrs. Potipher were alone. This was dangerous. It is dangerous for anyone to face temptation alone. Whatever temptation you are faced with can and should be faced with another person who can provide accountability and support. It is not wise for a person struggling with pornography to surf the internet when he is alone. It is not wise for a person struggling with substance abuse to hang out in bars or shady places. Accountability is important.
- RUN! If you are past the point of no return or one small step from giving in to the temptation… Run! Get out! Do not worry about anything but getting out. Just RUN!