Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation: Genesis 39:6-23

how to resist temptation

(Tied for the most popular post of 2014 so far, from the archives)

Read Genesis 39:6-23

Genesis 39:6-23

I don’t know what Joseph’s early responsibilities were when he first began at Potiphar’s house, but they may have been intensely physical, because Joseph was ripped (“well built” verse six tells us). He was also a good looking guy. And because of this, Joseph’s master’s wife notices him, and begins to proposition him, without much in the way of subtlety either.

“Come to bed with me!” she says to him.

But Joseph consistently refuses her. He says, Hey look, my master has such trust in me, he doesn’t concern himself with anything in the house; he’s put everything he owns in my care. I’m the top guy here. He’s kept nothing of his from me, except for you, because you’re his wife. So, with all that in mind, how could I possibly do such a terrible thing, and sin against God?

But in spite of his refusals, she persists. Day, after day, after day she continues to proposition him. But Joseph continues to refuse to go to bed with her, or even to be with her.

One day though, he goes into the house to do his work, and the place is empty. None of the other servants are around. Potiphar’s wife is the only one there. She grabs him by his cloak and says (for the one thousandth time), “Come to bed with me!” But he escapes out of his cloak, leaving it in her hand, and runs out of the house.

When she realizes Joseph left his cloak in her hand when he fled, she calls in her servants and says, Look! This Hebrew is making a joke of us! He came in here to have his way with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he left his cloak laying here beside me and ran.

She keeps his cloak next to her until Potiphar comes home, and she tells him her story: That Hebrew slave guy you brought us came into my room to force himself on me. But fortunately, I screamed, and as soon as I did he left his cloak beside me and ran. This is how your slave has treated me!

After Potiphar hears the story he’s outraged. He takes Joseph and has him locked up in the prison where the king’s prisoners are kept.

But, while Joseph’s in the king’s prison, the Lord is with him again! God shows him kindness and grants Joseph favor with the warden. Eventually his situation is the same or similar to when he was with Potiphar. The warden puts Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and gives him the job of running the place. And like Potiphar, the warden trusts him completely, he pays no attention to anything Joseph’s responsible for, because the Lord is with Joseph, and gives him success in everything he puts his hand to.


Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation

Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in the prime of their life possess, somehow avoids this temptation from Potiphar’s wife.

How’d he do that?

We see from our story, he took 5 steps.

1) Responsibility — Take It

We see in verse 9, Joseph says the words, “How then could I do such a…”

“How then could I…” Joseph said. He took responsibility for his own behavior. How many might have said, “Well what could I do? I’m just a slave and she’s the boss’s wife. I mean, really, I couldn’t refuse now could I?” Or, “Come on, give me a break, this was a situation where an older woman took advantage of a young man. What would you expect someone my age to do, with hormones raging? How could I help it?”

No, Joseph didn’t go there. He took responsibility for his own actions.

2) Recognize Sin

We see in verse 9, Joseph recognizes what Potiphar’s wife wants as something wickedand terrible. Joseph sees it for what it is: sin. The Bible is God’s word for humanity. He loves us enough to define sin in His scriptures and to warn us away from it. He does so not because he’s against pleasure, but because He knows in the long run, sin is disastrous for you. He’s trying to spare you from heartache and pain you’ll experience in the end, though you may experience pleasure in the short term. Today there’s a huge push in our culture to discount what the Bible says about sin as old fashioned and irrelevant. Right now there’s actually a website author offering 1 million dollars for Tim Tebow’s virginity. This person’s stated goal is to bring our culture to the point where adultery is viewed as inconsequential. (see Washington Post article by Esther Fleece) I know that might seem unlikely right now, but many sins that were previously recognized as bad behavior have already been brought a long way toward a perception they’re trivial, or even a perception those who commit a given sin are victims.

Joseph didn’t discount what Potiphar’s wife asked him to do. He saw it for what it was. So should you and I.

3) Respond to God

We see in the last part of verse 9 how Joseph recognizes, if he gratifies his desires, he will sin against God. Joseph has a depth of relationship with God such that it would grieve Joseph to sin against Him. He can’t bear to sin because he can’t bear to disappoint the God he loves. Yes he’s loyal to his earthly master Potiphar, but in the end, it’s God who Joseph is most concerned about. Living your life loving God, and concerned about God and what He thinks is one of the great keys to living the abundant life God has in mind for you. (John 15:11) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37. (See previous post: How to Love Like Jesus — God First)

4) Refuse to be Present

We see in verse 10 he not only refused to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife, but he refused toeven be with her. I wonder how many marriages would still be intact if both the husband and the wife decided to simply avoid putting themselves in situations that might lead to temptation. I’m talking about not friending the old high school flame on Facebook. I’m talking about staying out of bars. I’m talking about never allowing yourself to be alone with another person of the opposite sex, ever.

What a small price to pay if it results in you keeping your family intact.

And what a heavy price to pay if you break your family apart.

Today divorce is so acceptable, our culture has endorsed it so strongly, most are so nonchalant about it, you never hear much concerning its consequences. But five years after divorce more than 1/3 of children experience depression. Kids from divorced families are less successful in life than children from intact families, especially in their careers and their relationships. And the great majority of children from divorced families say they want their original family back together.

After a divorce, custody usually goes to the mother. And about half of all single mothers live below the poverty line — on average for six years. For African American single mothers it’s even worse: 2/3 are still single and in poverty 10 years after their divorce. (The AtlanticMcLanahan-Garfinkel)

No one talks about these things. You never see these findings in the news.

Joseph was a slave and didn’t have control of his own life to the degree you do. Yet he did his best to avoid putting himself in situations where he might be tempted. You can do the same.

5) Run

We see in verse 12, when he was unavoidably confronted with temptation, he fled. He left. He split immediately.

He didn’t stop and use the moment to teach Potiphar’s wife about his faith. He didn’t hesitate and share with her that he’s flattered but must decline, or how it’s nothing personal, or how it might be different under different circumstances. He didn’t spend one moment on one word of conversation. And he didn’t go back for his coat. He bailed, he beat it, he bounced out of there — right away.

Again, how many marriages might still be intact if this were how people responded to sexual temptation.

Next time you’re confronted with temptation: leave, immediately.


Joseph Inprisoned

Of course Potiphar’s wife had no integrity when it came to her marriage, and we see she had no integrity when she gave her account of what happened either. She lied and told her husband the Hebrew tried to rape her, using Joseph’s coat as a false proof of her deception. Interestingly, Joseph’s coat was also central to his brother’s deception before Jacob concerning his death.

We live in a fallen world. You can do everything according to God’s word and still wind up in a dungeon.

But Potiphar’s response is interesting because the punishment for attempted rape was death. And even though Joseph, a slave, was (wrongly) found to have attempted rape against the wife of a powerful official, Joseph is not put to death but put in prison. Verse 19 says Potiphar was angry but doesn’t say who he was angry with. Perhaps he recognized Joseph’s innocence but was forced to do something because of his wife’s insistence. Perhaps he even gave instruction for the warden to show Joseph favor.

Whether it came through Potiphar or not, God was the reason Joseph found favor in prison.

Even in the dungeon God was with Joseph.

Nothing can separate us from His love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

References:

Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway

Matthew Henry

Jon Courson

A Tale Of 2 Sufferings (How Joseph’s dad failed it, and how Joseph nailed it.)

pain suffering Christian

Alex at 7,500 ft. (2,285 m..) above sea level. (3,500 ft. above ground level)

A Tale Of Two Sufferings

I never saw this perspective before, but have you ever considered the difference between how Jacob handled his suffering, as compared to how his son Joseph handled what was arguably even worse suffering? I heard this last Sunday from a 20-something.

Joseph Betrayed

So Joseph’s seventeen, and he has it made. He’s his father’s favorite. He lives in a wealthy family. And he is given special revelation from God in the form of dreams, dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. But without warning, Continue reading

Patriotism, God, and the 4th of July–Does God Want Me To Be A Patriot?

Patriotism and God 4th of July

And they sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9

Not Of This World

“…persons from every tribe and language and people and nation,” they sang. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So patriotism is out right? I mean, Jesus died for every nation so, God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t put our country at the top of His list of nations and say, Yeah, they’re the ones to root for, they’re who I favor in the world, so you should favor that nation too. No, He doesn’t say that. So patriotism is out, right? Continue reading

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham, Evolution, and Doubt: Genuine Seeker (Part 6)

Bill Nye Ken Ham Evolution Doubt

Doubt and Evolution

I know it bothers some Christians that some of their fellow followers of Christ don’t believe in evolution. They’re embarrassed. They hear the new atheists in the media dogmatically insisting that if you’re a Christian who doesn’t believe in evolution you are delusional, or imbecilic, or loathsome. Richard Dawkins and other new atheists encourage people to ridicule and mock those who disagree with their views. (Hamilton, Dawkins: Mock Them. Ridicule Them. In Public. With Contempt.) Unfortunately that approach has trickled down to too many people. The result is some Christians hear disparaging comments from friends or coworkers who have been influenced by Dawkins and other new atheists–and they feel intimidated.

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham Continue reading

Thanksgiving and Noah’s Ark

Thanksgiving and Noah's Ark

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. (Genesis 8:20)

I think Noah demonstrates for us one of the most important keys there is to walking closely with Jesus Christ. The very first thing Noah did after he stepped off the ark was to sacrifice some of the clean animals and birds to God. I can’t imagine doing that. In my own flesh I would have said, “I have just seven sheep here, should I take the seventh and make a sacrifice? I have to populate the whole world from this diminished tiny herd. Doesn’t it make more sense to wait until the animals have multiplied before sacrificing to You Lord?”

But in the words of Matthew Henry, “Serving God with our little is the way to make it more; and we must never think that wasted with which God is honoured.” Obviously Noah had a grasp of this truth.

And Noah had a grasp of the power of thanksgiving. Imagine with me that you’ve been cooped up in an ark with thousands of animals (and with all of the sanitation issues that implies). You’ve been cooped up like this for more than a year! For 377 days! What’s the first thing you want to do when you get out? Celebrate with a party? Go for a long walk just because you finally can? Build a house for yourself? Play some frisbee football? That’s what I’d want to do but that’s not what Noah did. Noah Continue reading

The 5th Day of Creation: The Holy Spirit and Bearing Fruit

5th day of creation Holy Spirit Bear Fruit

From the archives, one of our most popular posts:

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. -Genesis 1:20-23

Scientists are conceding they have grossly underestimated the quantity and diversity of marine life in the ocean. Research scientists from 80 different countries are undertaking a huge census of ocean life around the world. Called the Census of Marine Life, the census effort began in 2000, and ten years later, scientists continue to be amazed at the numbers and varieties of new species they’ve found. In the first three years of the study 160 new species of fish were found each year. That’s about 3 new species discovered every week. As the census has progressed, new species of marine life are being discovered at an even greater rate. One study found 700 new species of crustaceans in an area the size of a small bathroom. (Census of Marine Life) Continue reading

Jesus in the Old Testament (Part 5): Isaiah 53

Jesus in the Old Testament Isaiah 53

Christ’s wounded hand, Unterlinden Museum, Colmar, France by John Kroll – Creative Commons

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. -Isaiah 53:5-6 (You can read Isaiah 53 in its entirety at the bottom of this post)

Isaiah 53 Written After Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?

Isaiah chapter 53 is so descriptive of Jesus Christ it seems out of place. There’s just no way this should be here. It should come after the New Testament, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, not before. Continue reading

Jesus in the Old Testament (Part 3): Genesis 5

They Testify of Jesus

“…they are they which testify of me.” -Jesus Christ, speaking of the Old Testament scriptures.

Genesis Chapter 5 is solely dedicated to a list of Adam’s descendants. (you can read the full chapter at the bottom of this post) Why would God do that? Why devote a chapter to a list of names? We can see why He did it, in Genesis 5 at least, when we look at the first ten names in the order given. Continue reading

Jesus in the Old Testament (Part 2): Genesis 22

Jesus Old Testament Abraham Isaac sacrifice

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me…”  Jesus Christ, John 5:39

In our last post we saw Jesus in the story of Joseph. Today we’ll see Jesus in another Old Testament passage: the story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to sacrifice.

Read Genesis 22

Before Genesis 22, Abraham was last seen together with Isaac when he was celebrating Isaac’s weaning. At that time Isaac was somewhere between three and five years old. Genesis 22 begins in verse one with the phrase Some time later… So fast forward to when some say Isaac is now in his thirties. He’s been the apple of his parent’s eye for thirty or so years now and even as his name means laughter, he’s provided laughter and joy to both Abraham and Sarah. Which as we’ll see makes the next phrase in our story, God tested Abraham, just about as gut wrenching as you can imagine. Abraham is about to hear what to him must have seemed like a very strange request from the Lord. Continue reading

Jesus in the Old Testament (Part 1): Genesis 50:15-21

Jesus in Old Testament
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” -Genesis 50:15

In last Saturday’s post, Looking for the Living Among the Dead, we saw how Jesus talked to the two men on the road to Emmaus who thought He was dead. “…beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27-34)

Here in Genesis we see what I believe is just one example of how Jesus is found in the writings of Moses and all the prophets. Perhaps Christ even shared something similar with the two on the road to Emmaus.

Joseph’s Response to the Sins of His Brothers

Jacob, the father of Joseph and his brothers, has just passed away. The funeral is over, and the family is back at home in Egypt, trying to return to their normal routine. It’s at this time, all the wrongs Joseph’s brothers committed against Joseph, come flooding into their minds: they hated him because he was their father’s favorite, they plotted to kill him, they tossed him into a cistern, they sold him into slavery, then they lied to their father and told him Joseph was dead.

And now Jacob is gone. And they think Joseph has just been waiting for the right time to settle the score. They think he’s angry. They think he’s ready for revenge. So they throw themselves down before Joseph, the powerful Prime Minister, and beg for his forgiveness. Continue reading