Genesis 39 begins with Joseph's ordeal of being sold as a slave into the household of Potiphar where the young Hebrew quickly rises in stature and rank amongst his new lord's servants. As the meaning of Joseph's name means "God increases or adds to", so he rose to second only to Potiphar himself in this royal official's household. The scripture tells us (Genesis 39:1-6) that Joseph was both successful and prosperous in whatever he put his hand to do. This young man had risen, in a relatively short period of time, from being a slave sold in the Egyptian slave market to quite possibly the highest station a slave might hold in Egyptian culture. It appears that Joseph made the best of an imperfect situation by prospering both his master and himself in his once dire straits. However, this was not the end of God's design for Joseph's prosperity nor that of the Hebrew people in the land of Canaan. By a set of dastardly circumstances, Joseph must rise above his station and command all in Egypt in order to save his people. And the catalyst for this rise to power would come by the words and actions of Potiphar's own wife. The road to Joseph's destiny lie in a jail cell before it ended at the throne room. For Joseph, his success as Potiphar's slave would prepare him for his glorious future as the redeemer of the known world through his wisdom in staving off a catastrophic famine.
Our opening text tells us that Potiphar's wife looked with desire at Joseph. However, Genesis 39:7 is clear that this transpired "after these events". What were these events? As previously stated, the first six verses of Genesis 39 contain Joseph's rise to prominence in the house of Potiphar. Clearly, this handsome and strong young Hebrew that was successful in everything he touched became a desirous target to the possibly neglected wife of his master. As often happens, men of integrity and character are challenged morally by evil to determine if they truly are whom they might appear. (One only has to look at any number of moral failures in recent years of mega-church pastors and televangelists.) If Satan can use a temptress or a tempter to try to seduce a man or woman of God, then many times he might bring them down in their folly (Proverbs 6:26). However, if the Devil loses his bet, then the very one he seeks to pull down will often rise stronger in the end by persevering through the trial. We know from the remainder of Genesis 39 that Joseph held fast to his integrity and suffered the lying accusations of Potiphar's wife rather than lie with the woman and destroy all that he had thus achieved. Oftentimes, to stay true to oneself means to disregard any self-preservation, no matter what the cost.
Through the years, I have talked and counseled many that have been at this very crossroads where Joseph made a stand for his own character and integrity. As a practicing alcoholic, I knew what it meant to get a few months of sobriety and then to once again be wooed by the seductress alcohol. As a recovering alcoholic and a sinner saved by grace for many years now, I understand how the world can woo and tantalize those of undetermined wills. I have talked and prayed with many regarding any number of addictions or life style choices that once seemed controllable in their lives, but led them to a place of self-imprisonment that they could not free themselves. There are many such "couches of sin" where the wavering of faith might lie with their respective seductress or seducer. However, that is the time when moral character must be dredged up out of the inner man or woman to counter the attack. If we choose to lie horizontally on "beds of iniquity" and compromise ourselves, then our vertical, spiritual posture will be bowed down with the weight of guilt and shame. We cannot walk with straight backs and uplifted heads if we have given in to our besetting sin and it has once again mastered us. Just as Joseph undoubtedly learned character long before arriving in Egypt, we too must lay claim to small victories in our lives until once again we (as well as others) begin to regard us as people of character. Ah, but then comes the challenge and temptation! For when a man thinks he stands, let him take heed unless he falls (I Corinthians 10:12). Testing and trial will always be the examiner or the tutor, if you will, of the pupil of integrity. As success and prosperity overtake us in our respective journey's of sanctification, the adulteress or the adulterer will be there to try to destroy what we have accomplished by the grace of God. At this critical crossroad, we must stand firm, knowing that ... No temptation has overtaken [us] but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow [us] to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that [we] will be able to endure it (I Corinthians 10:13; I Peter 5:9).
God's promise is that He will never give us more than we can handle. As with Joseph, when things seemed the bleakest in his Egyptian prison, then the Lord broke forth and redeemed his chosen in a marvelous way. We, also, must hold on and never succumb through every trial and temptation, awaiting each subsequent victory. As certain as the Devil hates our successes and the goodness we are germinating within our own lives and those around us, even so he would like nothing better than to kill, steal, and/or destroy these seeds of hope. There may come a time when it seems that God has abandoned us to a proverbial "jail cell" in our own respective Egypt. We may once again sense a loss of hope when just recently we experienced such success and prosperity. And now here we are once again in this dark, dank period where there is no apparent deliverance. Take heart! Fear not! Your redemption is close at hand -- only He can bring us out of the dark. As we allow Him to do it in His time, then we will see in hindsight the wonderful creature that he has created in us through our trusting in Him.
Holy Father, forge our characters in the furnaces of heaven while keeping us from succumbing to the fires and the passions of this world. Allow us to succeed and prosper in all our endeavors knowing that even these must be tried with fire. Let us pass through the flames of these trials, refined in character as precious gold, useful to the our Master and His will for our lives and others. We pray this in Jesus' Name and for His glory, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,