He left all that he owned under Joseph’s authority; he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome. After some time his master’s wife looked longingly at Joseph and said, “Sleep with me.”
Genesis 39:6-7 HCSB
I’ve been preaching a message series call How God Works about Joseph for a couple of weeks now. Today we might flip that title around and think about How Satan Works for this one.
Here’s Joseph, he’s young probably around 18-20 at this point and he is a hunk. Not only does he look good physically but he is probably a very pleasant person to be around. You don’t get to be in charge of everything while being a jerk right? So there he is minding his own business, doing what God wants and then out of the blue she drops a bomb.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance–as I told you before–that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 HCSB
Where did this come from? Potiphar’s wife was just doing what people do apart from Christ. Their flesh controls their behavior for the most part and the result is sexual immorality. Now if you want to trip up a young man there is probably no better way than the put him face to face with a woman willing to sleep with him. Of all the temptations Joseph could have faced this was probably one of the most difficult to turn away.
Does Satan want to trip up Joseph? Absolutely. After all he wants to steal, kill and destroy and not just Joseph but you and me. Joseph didn’t have a new testament to turn to but I think God had given him the same kind of insight that Peter had when he wrote.
Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8 HCSB
Was Joseph serious (some translations use the word sober) and alert (or vigilant) when it comes to temptation? I suppose the best indication is what he said when he was tempted.
But he refused. “Look,” he said to his master’s wife, “with me here my master does not concern himself with anything in his house, and he has put all that he owns under my authority. No one in this house is greater than I am. He has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. So how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” Although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her. Genesis 39:8-10 HCSB
Joseph… Dude! Day after day she’s like “sleep with me” and he’s like “no way!” Wow. What he said tells us what he was thinking and that is the first most amazing part of the whole story. At just the point when your average guy is not thinking at all, Joseph is thinking.
He has withheld nothing from me except you
The first person he is thinking about is Potiphar and the trust the Potiphar has placed in Joseph. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself and this is exactly what Joseph is doing right here. By saying no to Mrs. Potiphar he is loving Potiphar and honoring the trust placed in him.
Hormones are short term thinkers. They are all about rip the clothes off and do the deed as soon as possible… worry about the consequences later. Joseph had learned how to set his thinker on God’s ways and when his hormones caused his feeler to want something unholy his chooser had the strength to say no.
How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word. Psalms 119:9 HCSB
So if I want to keep from being ruled by my hormones I need to keep God’s word. The only way I can do that is by walking in the Spirit.
I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 HCSB
The verb here “walk” means to establish a pattern of living that is marked by depending on the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the hormones that would lead us down some very bad paths.
I seriously doubt that this encounter with Potiphar’s wife was the first time she was hitting on him. I suspect that there were several hints dropped earlier and Joseph was probably doing his best to ignore them. Perhaps after one of those hints he might have prayed like this.
God – Mrs. Potiphar wants to sleep with me and I know that it is wrong. Even though I know that it is wrong, deep down I want to do it. At the same time, I know that doing this would be a terrible thing. Change my heart so that I want to serve you more than I want to sin against you.
Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit that helped Joseph to move the focus of his thinking from Mrs. Potiphar to Mr. Potiphar. Now he is thinking about the trust placed in him and how he would hate to violate that trust.
Do you think that Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar would have gotten away with it? If they went down that road and slept together? Could they have kept it a secret? Probably… at least for a short while. But sooner or later it would have come out. Even if it didn’t… this relationship would have never been fulfilling in the long term. It was doomed from the start and perhaps the Holy Spirit was helping Joseph to think long term.
Most of all, Joseph was thinking about his relationship with God. Did you notice what he said?
“…how could I do such a great evil and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9b
Joseph realized that this sin even if he got away with keeping it secret would damage his relationship with God. Some people think that the relationship with God is no problem. Just pray a quick prayer for forgiveness and everything is fine and dandy.
And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 HCSB
Yes… forgiven. But unscathed? No. James MacDonald says “Choose to sin; choose to suffer.” You suffer, your relationship with God suffers, your reputation suffers, your relationships suffer. Oh God please help us never to choose suffering over obedience.
Perhaps Joseph could have just gone back to his room and had an imaginary encounter with Mrs. Potiphar (if you know what I mean). Suppose he went that route and told himself that it was better than sleeping with her so it was ok. That is partly true, it is better than sleeping with her but it is clearly not the victory that the Holy Spirit intended to bring about in his life.
If Joseph was regularly having sex with Mrs. Potiphar in his imagination, how long do you think it would be until he was having sex with her in real life? Not every long. Don’t kid yourself. Imaginary lovers are not the solution.
Ultimately Joseph would get married and have kids. And that my friends is God’s solution for hormones. Those desires are God’s insurance policy that there will be a next generation. Until the day when you are mature enough and ready enough to make the commitment of marriage you will have to fight hormones and honor God with your body.