Summary: Taming temptation

"Joseph in Potiphar’s House" -Pastor Bob Leroe

Joseph moves from the status of favorite son to slave; yet we hear no cry of despair, no accusation or complaint from him. His silence indicates character—he is trusting in God’s higher plan. We’re often quick to accuse God of being unfair or not caring about us when trials come. Some people allow adversity to poison their souls. They cry in protest, “If God were good, He wouldn’t let this happen to me.” They give up on God, His word, His church. Yet we can be prosperous even when our lives turn upside-down. Faith causes us to trust in God’s providence even when we’re unable to fathom His purpose.

Joseph is stripped of his multi-colored coat, but not of his character. The person inside the coat remains true in the face of adversity.

Joseph is sold to Potiphar—not an actual name, but a title meaning “Pharaoh’s man.” In his new surroundings, Joseph redirects his energy into devoted work. We should hardly be surprised to learn in vs. 2 that “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered.” Joseph became successful in spite of being a slave. Potiphar was wise enough to recognize Joseph’s extraordinary administrative abilities. Potiphar stayed out of Joseph’s way and let him manage nearly everything in his household. Joseph is an example of God’s covenant promise made to Abraham, that through the Jewish nation all nations will be blessed (Gen 12:3). Potiphar also recognized that Joseph’s effectiveness was due to his relationship with God, verse 3: “his master saw that the Lord was with him.” Joseph did not hide his faith in Egypt, like some people do when they’re far from home.

In Potiphar’s house Joseph learned the Egyptian language, culture and political interworkings of the government, which prepared him for his yet unknown future task of serving as the 2nd highest official in Egypt (chap 41). Nothing in Joseph’s life was accidental. We see the sovereign hand of God in every detail.

As Joseph advances in leadership, Potiphar’s wife takes notice of him. Joseph has been a slave for ten years and is 27 when he is tempted. He is far from his family and the land of his faith. He could have rationalized succumbing to temptation by thinking, “When in Egypt, do as the Egyptians do.” He could say, “God has abandoned me, so why not yield to sin?” He is the property of Potiphar, and Potiphar’s wife may be thinking she’s entitled to Joseph. He tries to reason with her (vss 8-9) but she’s not listening to reason.

I’ve seen soldiers far from home for the first time fall into sin, ruining their lives and their military careers in the process. When we’re tempted we find out how strong we are and how strong we need to be. Temptation in itself is not a sin. We don’t sin until we give into the temptation.

Joseph’s temptation appealed to a strong, natural drive. God, not Playboy, created sex. Along with everything else God made, He said that it was good. Only its abuse and misuse—outside of marriage—is sin. Temptation is not sin; yielding to it is. Joseph was a slave, but not a slave to sin. He did his best to avoid Potiphar’s wife. By resisting sin, his character and convictions grew and he became a stronger person.

The unbelieving world would laugh at Joseph and say he missed a chance to indulge in a forbidden pleasure. God may let us sin, but He won’t allow us to feel good about it afterwards.

We pray, “Lord, lead us not into temptation” then we blame God when we lead ourselves into tempting situations. I Corinthians 10:9 assures us that God provides a “way to escape” temptation. That doesn’t guarantee we’ll take the way out. It’s important that we know where we’re weak so that we can avoid situations where we may be tempted. I confess that I could walk into any bar in the North Shore and I won’t get drunk—alcohol isn’t a temptation for me…but I need to avoid all-you-can-eat buffets! If you don’t want to enter the room of sin, don’t sit at the door of temptation. We can claim “The devil made me do it” or we can take responsibility for our response to temptation. Satan tempts us, but we choose whether to resist or yield.

II Peter 2:9 promises that “The Lord knows how to rescue us from our trials.” Sometimes God provides a door to escape and pushes us through!

Joseph’s temptation is similar to the test of Adam & Eve. They had free use of everything in the garden, except the fruit of one tree. Joseph had access to everything of Potiphar’s, except his wife. As the serpent urged our first parents to sin, so Potiphar’s wife actively pursues Joseph. Joseph is able to resist the temptation to misappropriate Potiphar’s possessions for his own personal gain. How we handle day-to-day enticements may determine how we will face the major temptations of life.

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