Summary: Red (passion) Joseph shows he handles well the passionate advances of Potiphar's wife because he had a passion (deep love) for the one true God.
Last week we started a sermon series on Joseph, son of Jacob. Joseph’s the guy who had that cool coat – the one that’s often reported to be of many colors. While we’re not sure whether or not that coat was actually colorful, its owner’s life certainly was. That’s why our sermon series theme is “Joseph: a life of many colors.” Each sermon will connect a different color to an aspect of Joseph’s life. Our color today is red…for passion. We’ll learn how Joseph handled well the passionate advances of his boss’s wife because he had a passion, a deep love, for the one true God.
Joseph had eleven brothers, ten of whom hated him. Why? Because he had these dreams which announced that one day his brothers and parents would bow down to him. This perceived arrogance didn’t sit well with the brothers so when they got their chance they sold Joseph to slave traders who were going to Egypt. There Joseph became the slave of a man named Potiphar who was the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. For years things weren’t so bad for Joseph. He was respected by his master and quickly promoted head over almost everything in Potiphar’s house. There was, of course, one thing that was off limits to Joseph: Potiphar’s wife. Not that Joseph ever made advances on her, but she made advances on him. This woman didn’t beat around the bush either. “Sleep with me!” she demanded of Joseph.
When Christians today say that morality has hit an all-time low, they may be forgetting that sinners of every era have struggled to live according to God’s will. By nature we want to scratch whatever itch our body has and we think we’re justified in doing so because, well, God wants us to be happy doesn’t he? If not, then why would we want to spend eternity with a bore like him?
That’s not what Joseph thought, however. And so he explained to that woman, “My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8) Joseph gave two reasons for his unwillingness to sleep with the boss’s wife. It would have been a sin against his boss, and a sin against his Creator. Joseph knew that as a believer his goal in life was not to have fun, fun, fun, but to honor and glorify the God who had created him to serve others.
That’s not to say that doing things God’s way leads to a boring life. No, his laws are meant to protect us so that we may enjoy life. Have you ever been around a family that doesn’t respect God’s plan for the home? Children are to honor their parents, and parents are to love and discipline their children. We’re tempted instead to get our way by shouting at each other or guilting each other in to doing what we want. But that’s not a happy way to live is it? God’s way of mutual love and respect is always better.
But don’t expect others to praise you for wanting to live by God’s laws. Potiphar’s wife certainly didn’t thank Joseph. Instead she kept pestering him to sleep with her until one day when she was alone with Joseph she grabbed his cloak and demanded again, or perhaps this time whispered suggestively: “Sleep with me!” What was poor Joseph to do? Consider his situation. He had been sold into slavery by his brothers and given up for dead by his father. He must have been lonely and now here was someone who appreciated him. And if he continued to reject Potiphar’s wife, he might lose his job. Why not give in to this woman’s demands? Plenty of other slaves had done worse things to keep their masters happy. Perhaps he could just flirt with her. Would that be so dangerous?
Joseph did think it would be dangerous. That’s why he not only refused Potiphar’s wife again, but ran from the room. That’s what the Israelites did whenever the nine-foot tall Goliath came out to challenge them. Is that how we see sin, as a big giant that can crush us and so we better run from it? Not usually. Instead we think of sin more like a tub of ice cream that beckons at 10 pm. We know we shouldn’t indulge ourselves and consume the unneeded calories, but what’s a couple of scoops!
That wasn’t Joseph’s attitude. Sin for Joseph wasn’t just a “bad habit” or “not a good idea.” It was nothing less than slapping his gracious God in the face. That’s why Joseph ran, and not just to another part of the house where the woman could follow and try her luck again. Would Joseph’s resolve have been able to withstand further propositions? Or would his sinful nature have said something like, “You tried to get away. You did the right thing. Just give in this one time.” Because Joseph didn’t trust himself to stay in the house he fled outside where he could run beyond the reach of that woman. But in his haste to get away, Joseph left his coat in that woman’s hands. Isn’t that ironic? It would be a coat again that would get Joseph into trouble. But while Joseph may have lost another coat, he retained a clean conscience.