Summary: We need heroes, people who stand for what is right even when no one is looking.
Men of Character
We live in a time now where integrity means nothing. It is hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. Growing up in Brooklyn and Long Island in the 60’s and 70’s heroes were easily pointed out. They wore white Stetsons, they always did what was right, and they never compromised the truth, even when the truth hurt. Webster’s Dictionary defines integrity as “a firm adherence to a code of especially moral values” INCORRUPTIBILITY. A person like that seems hard to come by these days. Presidents, leaders of the military, teachers, evangelists, they are all falling down around us, and we say, “Well they are only human.” Integrity does not mean perfect, but it does imply the type of character that would admit wrongdoing and repent of it. Where are the heroes, where are they who show integrity?
Continuing with what Matt started last week about character and that we are still working on it, we will look at several people who had character tested, and who passed the test. Not perfectly, but still held on to truth, integrity and godly character.
Today’s message provides a summary and reflection on the life of Joseph.
There are three senior public servants from the Bible: Nehemiah, Daniel and Joseph.
All three are Hebrews who attained the most senior public service post in a foreign country. All three demonstrated you could be successful without compromising your faith and integrity.
Nehemiah – we learn from his achievement in building the walls of Jerusalem and more importantly rebuilding the community of God’s people after the exile.
Daniel – we learn from his ability to serve ably four kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, Cyrus) in three different empires (Babylon, Median, Persia).
Joseph – if OT has a perfect character, Joseph would be the obvious candidate, not coincidence that many scholars use Joseph as a type of Jesus, foreshadowing the perfection of our Lord Jesus.
The one we will identify with today is Joseph.
Joseph was the first son of Jacob and Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel; he favored Joseph over all his sons. This made the others jealous, and it did not help matters any when Jacob gave Joseph a very special coat. The decisive factor probably came with the interpretation of Joseph’s dreams. He dreamed that his father, mother (probably meaning Leah) and his brothers would all bow down before him. Because of jealousy, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers to a band of Midianites, who then sold him to Potiphar.
It is in the house of Potiphar that Joseph’s unique talent for administration and integrity are seen.
Integrity means no compromise.
In Genesis 39, we see that Joseph is put in charge of Potiphar’s household. Because of his godly character and integrity, he has found favor with Potiphar.
4 Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. 5 From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. 6 So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Joseph’s character was such that Potiphar did not concern himself with anything but the food he ate. True character and integrity put us in position to be trusted to the point we do not need constant supervision.
It is difficult to maintain personal integrity in a different culture with a different value system. Clearest example of Joseph’s ability to maintain a highest degree of integrity was when he was tempted by Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:6-20).
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" 8 But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. 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?"
Consider Joseph’s situation: bought as a slave by Potiphar, elevated to the top of the household. He is seduced by the master’s wife, not once, twice but continuously. Any lesser character would have succumbed. Joseph would rather go to jail than to betray his master and his integrity. Note his response to Potiphar’s wife: “how can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” He considered if he succumbed to the temptation of his mistress, he would betray not only his master but also God. God held a position in the eyes of Joseph, and because Joseph honored God, he would honor Potiphar. Yet, even with this strenuous temptation, he would not give in, even when the situation was such that no one else would know.