Wait...what happened to Joseph? Where did he go? What about the Egyptians? If you were reading along in Genesis your questions probably sounded pretty similar to mine. The author of Genesis takes a sharp turn here from the events that were happening in Josephs life. Towards the end of chapter 37 we see huge events happening to Joseph at an alarming pace. Then all of a sudden, nothing. Last we hear Joseph is being sold to a group of Midianites and then they sell him to the Egyptians! Joseph is changing hands like money. Instead of killing their brother, Josephs brothers see a better opportunity. They heeded their brother Reubens advice and did not kill him but rather threw him into a pit, maybe to decide what to do next. The brothers see the Midianites as a way to get rid of Joseph but not kill him, the best of both worlds for them, and they get to make a profit. After this whole ordeal, we await eagerly to see what is happening to Joseph. Rather than tell us the author makes us wait through a whole chapter before resuming this tale.
Joseph makes his re-entrance into the story a slave sold into the house of an Epytian official named Potiphar. Immediately we are told that the Lord had his hand on Joseph and he was successful. This made me feel a little better for Josephs rough treatment so far. All that would change again soon. Because of Josephs favor he found himself in charge of Potiphars house.
I thought about this. If I were in Josephs position, I would not be as eager to serve as he was. Let me explain myself. Up to this point Joseph has had some pretty horrible things happen to him. He had been completely betrayed, abandoned and sold by his own brothers, he was removed from his family and home, and even his own country, into a land probably pretty foreign to him. If these tragedies would have befallen me I would not be in the same frame of mind Joseph obviously was, eager to serve both the Lord and his master. This attitude like most of Josephs attitudes is one of extreme integrity. Maybe not of the same kind as we are used to hearing about. Men of integrity usually has the idea attached to it that these types of men stand up to temptation and never relent to outside pressures in their lives. Joseph was living a sort of preventitive integrity. Act with integrity even when pressures aren't staring you in the face. Because they are sure to come, and they did. Despite the things that happened to him leading up to this point in his life Joseph never complains, never blames God, and never seeks vengeance for these travesties. Integrity to the utmost. I see here that humility and integrity compliment each other perfectly. This is overwhelmingly evident in the character of Joseph.
Things for Joseph seemed, for the moment to be looking up. God was blessing him and the work he was doing. He was in a position of favor in the house he was serving in, and he seems for the most part to be happy where he is. Take this type of attitude and atmosphere in Josephs life and his love for God and then read this verse:
English Standard Version (ESV)
10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.
This is talking about Potiphars wife! Not only was she asking him to lie with her, she was asking him to do this day after day after day. A little background research here and we see that Joseph was not an unattractive man. According to verse 6 he had money, food, looks, and a great job. Joseph was a very eligible bachaelor. It would seem that if he was getting so much attention from a married woman that he was probably getting attention from many other women too. This would not be an easy thing to handle. He is being tempted from all sides and then it starts to happen while he is at work. What a discouragement. Joseph doesn't seem to be too phased by this though. Through all of her advances on Joseph, every time he denies her even a hint of possible sexual promiscuity. Integrity strikes again! Joseph does not even want a hint of unwholesome thoughts or actions to be associated with his character this reminded me of a verse:
New International Version (NIV)
3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
This verse written hundreds of years later is the perfect verse to describe the character of Joseph. He took this type of action in perfecting the character in his own life. But why? I think the answer is at the end of the verse. It says this type of behavior is improper for the holy people of God. We are God's people, and because we are people associate us with him. I think Joseph knew that. It is not only our reputation and character that we represent in ourselves it is God's that is on the line as well.
English Standard Version (ESV)
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
We have people watching our every move, believers and unbelievers. We should act accordingly. This is the beauty of the situation Joseph found himself in. No one was there with him and Potiphars wife. No one would have known, she probably would have kept it a secret in order to not be found out herself or to be able to do it again. Joseph had a tempting situation set before him with no outside help, no one encouraging him to not cave in. Joseph fell back onto the relationship he had with God, knowing that he represented God to the Egpytians and did something very hard. He ran. This is beautiful. As I was re-reading this passage I already knew what Joseph was going to do. I found myself thinking it would be so great if Joseph stood his ground and told this lady off. I thought he should get up on his soap box and preach to this lady until he is blue in the face. Command her to repent of her ways and show her what a righteous person you are! That is pretty pharisaical in my thinking. I kept reading and was reminded that almost immediately Joseph ran! He didn't really wait around to figure out the best plan. He just took off. This time however it was different she grabbed his garment and started to pull him in, literally. This was the last straw for Joseph and he knew I either run or I fall. This is the mentality men need to have in this day and age.
We as men tend to think that if temptation comes knocking, we knock back. We put our gloves on and prepare to duke it out with sin and temptation. Beat ourselves into submission and prepare for a long hard fight. Josephs tactic is rather cowardly looking at first. But after closer inspection I saw that this tactic works. It is repeated throughout scripture, we are reminded in Proverbs multiple times to avoid temptation when we know it could be coming. It doesn't say when it comes prepare yourselves to fight. Jesus himself said:
English Standard Version (ESV)
1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin[a] are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!
Jesus warns us throughout the epistles as well, use a shield, use armor, use defense! Run if you have to. I am learning that what prevents us men from doing this is nothing short of pride. I think that if we, as men, were to let go of our pride and learn how to run there would be a lot less broken lives and broken homes in our churches today. If we knew how to run things like pornography and adultery wouldn't be as much of an issue as it is today, even in the church. Like the verse says temptations will come, and I'm not saying they won't be there, but if we run, we won't be around when they finally decide to show up. The old phrase the best defense is a good offense isn't really accurate in this case, instead let's remember the best offense is a good defense.