JOSEPH AND SUCCESSFUL OBEDIENCE
This section is a continuation of Joseph’s tenure in the house of Potiphar, as well as his continued success. Success in this instance will not be measured in financial or circumstantial prosperity. Instead, Joseph is successful in three areas that relate totally to his character. He illustrates by his response a man who desires the Lord more than anything else.
I. SUCCESS IS OBEYING THE LORD REGARDLESS OF TEMPTATION 6b-12
Joseph was approached by Potiphar’s wife to engage in immorality. We do not know what she looked like, but we do know Joseph was at the time of his life as a young man when hormones could have moved him to give in to this temptation. Instead, we see three aspects of his resisting temptation.
A. He Was Persistent in His Resisting Temptation v. 6b-10
It is one thing to refuse a temptation which comes once in a while and quite another to say “no” to a specific sin daily. Joseph is diligent in resisting the same sin every day. Notice how this young attractive man refused to give into desires and overtures from this woman.
1. Refused to Lie with Her 7-8
First, he refused her initial invitation. He did not even entertain her proposition. Herein lies part of his victory, refusing to engage at any level. This is where we lose, giving into sin in a small way or thinking that it really will not matter if we give in just one time.
2. Refused to Listen to Her 10
This is really the most important part of resisting temptation. Joseph refuses to even listen to her suggestive enticement. The battle is won or lost at this point. We are defeated many times because of entertaining thoughts or looking the first time. Many of the battles can be ended by simply refusing to consider to even allow the thought to rest in our mind. Joseph did not sit there with her talking things over. He refused to even listen to her. How do we respond to temptation? Do we try to figure out where it came from, why it happened, or to deal with it through some kind of human effort? Or are we like Joseph, refusing to even listen to it?
B. He Was Pious in His Resisting Temptation v.8-9
Piety is another word for “godly.” Herein lies the secret to Joseph’s resolve to resist the temptation. Joseph does not sit and reflect on the consequences of what would happen if he gave into the sin, but instead listed the reasons why he should not sin. His character is revealed in that he refused to engage Mrs. Potiphar, because of the relationship he had with her husband. Next, he moves to the most important ingredient to his refusal, that of his relationship with the Lord. Verse 9 sums it up, “How could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
The core issue of obedience lies in our relationship with the Lord. When temptation arises we should immediately refuse on the basis of our responsibility to the Lord. This settles everything when it comes to sin. The issues of relationships and responsibilities should take second place to our fellowship with the Lord. The temptations can be refused if I want the Lord and His pleasure more than sin.
C. He Was Practical in His Resisting Temptation v. 11-12
When Mrs. P asserted her intentions on Joseph he did not try to stand against evil, argue with her, or preach to her. He fled! Two Scriptures point to this practice as being appropriate, 2 Timothy 2:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:18. Both use the word “flee” in relation to dealing with sexual sin.
Our lack of victory can sometimes be attributed to an unwillingness to take practical steps. It may be not watching TV alone, not going to a place where temptation could arise, putting guards on the computer, or getting exercise that can expel lustful energy.
II. SUCCESS IS OBEYING THE LORD REGARDLESS OF REPUTATION v. 13-20
Joseph has walked through a difficult temptation with success. His resisting sin pleased the Lord, but it will cost him. Mrs. P, in realizing that her scheme failed, called her servants and told them Joseph had tried to seduce her. When Potiphar arrived home she repeated her lie to him and he believed her. Potiphar placed Joseph in prison because of what his wife told him. So, in the eyes of Potiphar, Joseph appeared as a liar and a criminal. He trusted him with his house and Joseph let him down, or so it appears.
Consider how Joseph’s reputation was affected. First, he looked like a weirdo for not being interested in Mrs. P. Joseph did not worry about whether or not he fit the description of a vibrant male. Secondly, he now looks like an immoral liar. No doubt he may have shared his side of the story, to no avail. So, he ends up in prison and that will be on his record forever.
We may lose face by obeying the Lord. At work you may lose your job for refusing to be a “team player,” which translates into a refusal on your part to lie or cheat. You may look like a strange Christian to other believers because you refuse to compromise your convictions. Are we willing to have a “bad” reputation in order to obey the Lord?
III. SUCCESS IS OBEYING THE LORD REGARDLESS OF COMPENSATION v. 19-20
If you obey God will bless you. This is the statement made week after week from the pulpit. Imagine Joseph’s response if he heard that from a preacher at the prison chapel service. “God I obeyed You and this is the blessing?” could have been Joseph’s cry. He had stood in the face of immorality and he lands in jail. This is not the kind of information you would want to get out if you are trying to reach the world.
This is a great test of motives. Anyone can obey on the reward and punishment method. Thus, our obedience is lowered to that of mice in a maze. So, God allows us to go through times of everything going wrong in the midst of our obedience. This is where we find out why we are obeying. In Matt. 20:1-16 Jesus shares a parable which illustrates this point. The Master recruits workers for his vineyard and enters an agreement with each as to what their wages will be. At the latter part of the day He hires those to work for the same wages as the ones who had worked since early in the day. The point of the story is to teach about our motives for service. We could ask ourselves, “Why do I obey or serve the Lord? Is it to receive from Him, or is it to please Him?” God’s desire for us is to drive us to the place where His glory is our only motive.