In Control in an out of Control World

Joseph – Gen. 39:7-20

Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob. His favored position, plus his prophetic dreams, caused great envy and jealously among his eleven other brothers. One day they cast him in a pit and were going to kill him, yet instead sold him into slavery to a passing caravan of Ishmaelites.

To conceal their nefarious deed, the brothers of Joseph took his coat of many colors, tore it, and dipped it in animal blood. Whey they showed it to their father, Jacob, he thought that his favorite son was dead.

Joseph was eventually sold in Egypt to Potiphar. As captain of the guard, Potiphar was an important officer in Pharaoh’s army.

Joseph was betrayed by his own brethren, sold into slavery, and carried to a distant land. However, he displayed self-control by not whining, no defeatism, not being bent on revenge or forsaking God. Instead he worked hard as a household slave. Joseph was put in charge of all of Potiphar’s affair’s.

Potiphar’s wife took notice of this well-built, handsome young man. Mrs. Potiphar set out to entice the handsome Hebrew slave into adultery. She did not possess self-control. “But he refused and said to his master’s wife. “Now it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand.”(vv. 7,8).

Joseph not only said no, but he gave her several good reasons why he would not lie with her (vv. 8,9). He refused to violate Potiphar’s trust in him. It is good to be trusted by God to do what is right even when you are alone. Joseph’s second reason is that he would not disobey God. “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. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (v. 9). Joseph lived with a constant awareness of God’s powerful presence “Jehovah was with Joseph” (39:2,21). He could have given in by saying: “no one would know”.

Notice Potiphar’s wife’s persistence: day after day she tried to seduce him. “And 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” (v. 10). Joseph’s resistance could not be worn down. We could call to memory the seventh command: “Do not commit adultery.” Or Paul’s admonition to “flee fornication” (I Cor. 6:18). Joseph did not have a Bible at all to guide him. Neither did Joseph have friends or family to encourage him to continue to resist.

Joseph made every effort to avoid contact with Mrs. Potiphar (v. 10). He was surrounded by sexual immorality. Egyptian society was corrupt. He could not control the Egyptian environment, but we can control our environment. We need to use self-control to avoid situations that could lead to fornication, drinking, drugs, etc. We are subject to both verbal and visual stimuli. Remember, sin such as fornication is not produced by an inherently sinful desire, but instead, it results from a failure to control one’s own flesh. Joseph kept his fleshly desires under control.

One day when no other men were in the house, Potiphar’s wife “…caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me'”(v. 12). Surely this was too much temptation for any man. What was he to do? Joseph could have made many excuses for committing fornication with her. Joseph was not in Potiphar’s house by choice or alone with the woman by choice. Mrs. Potiphar was his superior. She all but forced him. He is only human. His action is that of I Corinthians 6:18: “flee fornication.” Sometimes, temptations seem almost overwhelming, but God has promised that there is a way 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” (I Cor. 10:13).

His resistance brought imprisonment rather than reward (See vv. 11-20). He had gone from favorite son in Canaan to common slave in Egypt, to trusted steward to convicted criminal, and then to the most powerful political figure next to Pharaoh. When we leave Joseph at the end of Genesis, he had risen to the pinnacle of political power in Egypt.

Self control involves three SELF related areas: 1) Control over lusts of the flesh and selfish desires. This stands opposed both to the “fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,” and to the “drunkenness and reveling” mentioned in Galatians 5. 2) Abstaining from certain lawful things to help reduce temptation to yourself and others. 3) Moderation in lawful things such as eating, sleeping, certain leisure time activities, etc. We need to learn where self-control ends and self-indulgence begins.

Remember that story about the little boy running down the street. Somebody asked why he was in such a hurry. He said he was rushing home to get a whipping. When asked if he was that anxious to be punished he replied, “No, but if I don’t get there before Dad gets home, he’ll give it to me instead of Mom!” There’s a deep message in that story. If I discipline myself…God won’t have to? Discipline literally means to save the mind. If you don’t save the leader, you’ve automatically lost the follower. But how do you save such a mind? By letting Christ’s mind replace ours! (Phil 2:5). The little girl who paraphrased the 23rd Psalm as, “The Lord is my Shepherd, that’s all I want” might not have had the exact words, but …she had the right meaning.

– Daniel R. Vess


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