“This Great Wickedness Against God” (Part 3)
Victory Over Sexual Temptation
Not only can one learn about the great wickedness of adultery from the story of Joseph and the nature of sexual temptations, but Joseph also teaches us how to overcome the temptation to sin.
✓ Identify Adultery as Sin
The first thing Joseph did was to reason with the woman. He identified her proposal as a sin. He said, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). In order to dampen the heinous nature of wickedness, man will often rename the sin of adultery: “having an affair,” “cheating,” “sleeping together,” enjoying an “open relationship,” “a liaison,” “an office romance,” etc. This is not just true of adultery. Sin is renamed as an “alternate lifestyles,” “personality quirks,” “bad habits,” or “by-products of one’s environment”. Pardon me Shakespeare, but a sin called by any other name is just as ungodly and soul-damning.
✓ Be Faithful To God
Remember the covenant you made with your God when you obeyed the Gospel. Paul reminds us, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Theses 4:3). The commandments found in God’s will are what lead to a life of sanctification or holiness. Sex is from God and is holy. It is not dirty or inherently immoral. It is set apart for marriage between one man and one woman for one lifetime with one exception which allows for divorce: sexual immortality. This is what God the Father knows is best for His Children.
✓ Don’t Violate Trust of Others
Another argument Joseph used was that he would not violate the trust of His master. He told Potiphar’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife” (Gen. 39:8,9). Potiphar was able to leave everything in Joseph’s care out of great trust. He would only show up when they rang the dinner bell. We need to honor the trust placed in us by our spouse, children, friends, family, brethren.
How often is heard the excuse: “I am not hurting anyone” when a man or woman engages in sexual immorality? There is no such thing as a “victim-less” sexual sin. Sexual sins hurt a vast multitude of people both socially, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. AIDS, babies born out of wedlock, abortion, STDs, damnation of one’s soul are just a few of the ways others are taken advantage of by one’s sexual promiscuity.
✓ Remember the Sacredness of Marriage
Joseph pointed out the sacredness of marriage: “because you are his wife”. Potiphar had a right to keep her from Joseph. Notice when his wife lied about what Joseph did and implied she was raped, Potiphar became angry. Sometimes jealousy in marriage is good. God was jealous of the spiritual adulteries of Israel.
✓ Stay Busy
Another thing Joseph did was continue to stay busy with his work (39:11). He was faithful to his work even when his boss was absent (Colossians 3:23). The Bible warns against idleness leading to too much time to be tempted into sin (1 Tim 5:13). Staying busy with the Lord’s work will leave less time to entertain wicked propositions.
✓ Don’t Give It Opportunity
Joseph refuses her advances four times in our text. Potiphar’s wife tempted him saying “‘Lie with me.’ but he refused and said to his master’s wife,..So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her…she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Gen. 39:7-12). Joseph never gave sin a chance (Rom. 13:14). So, make a covenant with your eyes, give your body to God, and control your thoughts.
When the temptation turned to molestation, Joseph “left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Gen.39:12). “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). Sometimes victory in the battle over temptation is found in an orderly, quick retreat. Remember, no matter how powerful and persistent the temptation might be God has left you an avenue of escape. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). We sometimes like to see how close we can get to sin; Joseph was interested only in getting as far away as possible from it.
The Consequences of Doing the Right Thing
Potiphar’s wife brings a false accusation resulting in a trumped-up accusation of rape (Gen. 39:13-14; 18-20) and Joseph is unjustly imprisoned (Gen. 39:19-20). William Congreve said, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned nor hell a fury like a woman scorned” (Swindoll 6).
Have you ever noticed that no matter how good you are and how often you do the right thing at the right time, that life is just not fair. Joseph’s life was just not fair. He reported on his brothers per his father’s request, and they sell him to Midianite traders (Gen. 37). He rejects adultery and is cast into prison. He interpreted the butler’s dream, and the butler forgets all about him (Gen. 40). He is not the only one. Jeremiah was imprisoned for preaching the truth (Jer. 37,38). John the Baptist was imprisoned and executed for the truth (Mt. 14:3-12). The apostles were beaten and threatened for their preaching (Acts 5:40,41). Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the truth (Ac. 7:51-60). Last but not least, the sinless and perfect Son of God was crucified between two thieves (1 Pet. 2:20-22). Come to think of it every Lord’s Day during the Lord’s Supper, I thank God life is not fair. If life was fair for Jesus, He would not have had to come and die for a sinner like me.
Joseph is very popular now for his convictions. However, this time he had no one. He did the right thing and was not rewarded. As it seemed at the time, God allowed him to be punished instead of rewarded.
“Was it any use, then being good? You only end up suffering more than before.” Faithful obedience does not always bring success and prosperity. Sometimes it brings temptation and testing. Look at the life of Job. Suffering builds faith, patience, and endurance. As the old fatherly advice, “do this son, it is hard work, but it builds character.” Joseph’s trials prepared him starting at age thirty to lead the nation of Egypt through seven years of prosperity and seven years through famine. Most of all it allowed God to use him as an instrument for His divine plans to bring salvation to mankind.
A beatitude of comfort for those who need comforting is found in 2 Cor. 1:3-4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” Those who experience suffering and trouble are those who are so blessed. Think about this, suffering has a way of causing us to long for heaven. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Joseph did not know it at the time, but God had plans for him. He would tell his brothers later in life “…for God sent me before you to preserve life…a posterity for you in the earth…So now it was not you who sent me here, but God… God has made me lord of all Egypt..” (Gen. 45:4-9).
The story of Joseph teaches us two great lessons about life. First, God has a plan. And second, the plan requires us to be faithful, not necessarily successful or free of suffering.
– Daniel R. Vess