Summary: God wants us to run away from temptation as did Joseph.
As a father of four girls I find it hard to keep up with what boys are into these days when it comes to superheroes. I see that Spiderman is still popular but it looks like Superman has taken a backseat to some newer guys like the X-Men. One thing I doubt has changed is that a superhero is someone who doesn’t run from trouble but meets it head on.
Actually not all heroes stick around to take on the bad guys. In fact in our Old Testament lesson today we met someone who was a hero for running away. Yes, let’s find out why Christians will want to be less like the X-Men and more like Joseph, the hero who ran away.
Joseph was one of twelve sons of Jacob. He was the boy who had those dreams 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 when Potiphar’s wife saw how handsome Joseph had become after years in their employee, she didn’t beat around the bush but came right out and demanded: “Sleep with me!” This was a woman who was obviously used to getting her way. How did our hero respond? He refused. He continued to refuse her and even declined to be in the same room as Potiphar’s wife.
Still the woman persisted. She was determined to make Joseph a conquest. She finally thought she had her chance when one day all the other servants were out of the house leaving her alone with Joseph. This time she grabbed his cloak and demanded: “Sleep with me!” What was poor Joseph to do? Consider his situation. Joseph 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 master’s 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, this time he ran from the room. Joseph didn’t just flee 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 but I guess it’s just not meant to be. Anyway it’s her fault for pursuing you like this. Just give in to her demands and be done with it!” Joseph didn’t trust himself to stay in the house. So he fled outside where he could run beyond the reach of that woman’s temptation. In his haste to get away, Joseph left his coat in that woman’s hands and she used it to build a case against him, accusing Joseph of trying to force himself on her. As a result, Potiphar had Joseph thrown in prison. Joseph may have lost his cloak, his job, and for a time, his freedom but he retained a clean conscience. Joseph is a hero for running away.
But why was Joseph so determined not to sleep with Potiphar’s wife? Joseph 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. He didn’t want to take advantage of his boss who had given him charge over everything in the household, but more importantly, Joseph realized that sleeping with this woman would not just be a sin against his boss, it would be a sin against his Creator. Joseph knew that as a believer his goal in life was not to have fun, fun, fun. It was to honor and glorify the God who had created him to serve the people around him.
How do you stack up against Joseph? Do you flee temptation or do you flirt with it? Do you spend more time coming up with excuses as to why the sin you’re about to commit is “permissible” instead of using your energy to plan and carry out your escape? If we’re honest, we’d have to admit that we’re more like thermometers than thermostats. We usually just try to match the mood around us instead of trying to control it (Gary Regazzoli). For example when things heat up with that special someone, we find it easier to give in and go with the flow instead of stopping it before things get out of hand. Friends, if you can’t control the situation, and we usually can’t, then you need to run. Bid your boyfriend goodnight and promise you’ll see him in the morning. Tell your friends that you’re going to walk home from that party, even if it is miles from your home. Running doesn’t make you a coward – no, just the opposite; it makes you a hero, like Joseph.