Summary: Joseph maintained his integrity - suffered but God glorious plan for him won through

SMB/NR and SMM 05-09-04

Genesis 39:1-23 - The cost of integrity

My wife Maddy challenged me the other day when she said: "In our churches we only seem to preach from the New Testament, yet there are wonderful stories in the Old Testament that we are danger of losing"

This week I would like to look the story of Joseph who maintained his integrity in spite of the advances of Potiphar’s wife. And by keeping his integrity, he lost his freedom.

It seemed as if Joseph was destined to a life of failure - at least in the eyes of the world?

He had started off as the apple of his Father’s eye - yet his brothers took him and sold him into slavery

And just as things were beginning to work out for him in Potiphar’s house - he runs up against what many of us would term ’bad luck’.

But actually it is all in God’s plan for Joseph’s life

Life must have seemed so unfair to Joseph.

How would you feel, for example, if someone came and stole everything you had?



Why me God?

Story: Matthew Henry, the famous Bible Commentator was once held up by a highwayman who stole everything Matthew Henry had. Do you know what Matthew Henry wrote in his diary that evening? He thanked God for four things:

1. That the highwayman had not taken a lot of

money (MH wasn’t rich)

2. That the highwayman hadn’t taken MH’s life

3. That it was after all - just money

4. That he, Matthew Henry had not been the one carrying out the robbery (in those days the sentence for highway robbery was hanging)

Even when bad things happen to us, we can take a positive approach.

In our Old Testament reading today, we can see that unfair and bad things happened to Joseph. But Joseph didn’t give up on God, despite the pressures on his integrity.

Joseph experienced three pressures - that we too can experience when our integrity is put to the test.

The first of these pressures was the pull of the world’s standards

The second was the power of physical attraction and

The third was the peril of loneliness.


Joseph was living in a society that is very much like ours. It was polytheistic.

The Egyptians believed in many gods - including the pharaoh of the day.

So far as we know, Joseph was the only one in Potiphar’ house who worshipped the One True God of the Israelites. We too live in such a polytheistic society - society that tells us that all religions lead to God.

If we are going to maintain our Christian integrity, we are going to have to swim against the flow ¨C to be countercultural - nd to stand up and say. "No - Jesus is the only way to God."

In business we hear the same old story: "Everyone is cheating the system so why shouldn’t I?

The eleventh commandment of business is: "Thou shallt not get caught!"

The world’s standards stand in stark contrast to God’s.When I as in business I cannot remember any of my bosses ever asking me to do something really ethically wrong.

But there are others who have been put in ethically untenable positions and it has cost them their career -o stand up for what is right.

Joseph was put in an impossible position. Would he lose his integrity - or risk the wrath of his boss’s wife

Look at what Joseph said when Potiphar’s wife asked him to sleep with her:

"How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God" (Gen 39:9)

Joseph was, I would suggest to you not the epitome of tact. He could have profited from reading Dale Carnegie’s book "How to make friends and influence people"

But he took a stand - full of integrity.

I wonder how we would have reacted.


The second pressure on Joseph’s integrity was the power of physical attraction. As Michael Ross-Watson so nicely put it: "Joseph was a hunk!"

He was good looking and Potiphar’s wife fancied him.

We live in a society where good looks are held in high esteem. Many of the stories in our boulevard press are about stars- not admired for their brains but for their good looks

But God thinks otherwise:

Story: When Samuel was sent by God to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king in place of King Saul, he thought he was being sent to anoint Eliab - Jesse eldest a man of good physique. But God said this to Samuel:

"Do not consider his appearance or his height - for I have rejected him. The Lord does not loom at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Sam 16:7)

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