Joseph: Resisting Temptation (Genesis 39)

Joseph_and_Potiphar's_Wife (1)
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, by Guido Reni 1631

Out of the frying pan and into the fire! When we last left Joseph, his brothers—who hated him—came very close to killing him. They resented him for being the favorite child and for his dream of being their ruler one day. They relented on murder, however, and decided instead to sell him into slavery to some traders going to Egypt. The traders then “sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guards” (Gen 37:36). In our sermon today we shall continue the story of Joseph and learn that only by resting in faith are you able to resist temptation. How do we rest in faith? Consider:

  1. Recognize that the Lord Grants Success (1-6). Joseph was sold into the service of Potiphar and quickly became successful in Potiphar’s house. Verse 2 tells us that he was successful because “the Lord was with Joseph.” Potiphar recognized this. Verse 3 says, “When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful, Joseph found favor with his master.” In verse 6, “[Potiphar] left all that he owned under Joseph’s authority.”
    Joseph was very successful. Verse 5 tells us that “the Lord’s blessing was on all that [Potiphar] owned.” Success in life comes from the Lord. He is the One through whom all blessings flow. James wrote “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Success is not dependent on your goodness, intellect, beauty, or charm. This is important to remember because it serves to keep us humble and dependent on God. Resting in faith means that you recognize that everything good in your life is a gift from God. This produces humility and gratitude. This helps you resist pride and arrogance.
  1. Remember that the Devil Brings Temptation (7-20). At the end of verse 6 we see an ominous signal of what is to come. In verse 7 we are told that Potiphar’s wife “looked longingly at Joseph and said, ‘Sleep with me.’” Joseph refused saying that he has been entrusted with everything of Potiphar’s with the exception of his wife. He could not violate the trust of Potiphar, but more importantly for Joseph, he said: “How could I do this immense evil, and how could I sin against God?” (9). This was not a one-time proposal. Apparently, Potiphar’s wife “spoke to Joseph day after day” (10). We do not know how much time transpired but eventually she “grabbed him by his garment and said, ‘Sleep with me!’”. Joseph left his garment and escaped by running outside. Potiphar’s wife lied to her husband saying that Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar “had him thrown into prison” (20).
    Having a humble attitude towards success and recognizing that it comes from God will help you when your world comes crashing down around you. Success is not guaranteed in this life, but temptation and trials are. Joseph was tempted by Potiphar’s wife. In this situation, as with all temptations there are three aspects: the world, the flesh, and the devil. First, Potiphar’s wife (the world) desired Joseph and was willing to sin against her husband. She was persistent in tempting Joseph. Second, Joseph (the flesh) had a difficult decision to make. Do I gratify my selfish desires or do I resist? James mentioned in James 1:14, “each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.” Joseph refused to give into his own evil desire and resisted Potiphar’s wife’s advances. Third, the devil encouraged and used the sinful desires of Potiphar’s wife as a means to seek to ruin Joseph. While Potiphar’s wife was the means of enticement, rest assured that it was the devil setting the trap. The devil is evil and always seeking “to steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He is “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b). We must therefore “be sober minded and watchful” (1 Peter 5:8a). Resting in faith can enable you to resist temptation in all its forms.
  1. Resolve to be Faithful in Failure (21-23). From a worldly perspective, Joseph was an utter failure. For those who believed the accusation, Joseph threw all his success away by failing to control himself. In Potiphar’s mind, Joseph should die in prison for his treachery. But, we know that Joseph is innocent of the charges and is falsely accused. God knows that Joseph resisted temptation and we read in verse 21 that “the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden.” Just as the Lord prospered Joseph in Potiphar’s house, “the warden did not bother with anything under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him, and the Lord made everything that he did successful” (23).
    Joseph understood that faithfulness to God is of the utmost importance. Faithfulness is far better than sin. It does not matter where you are or what it costs you; be obedient. We also learn that Joseph’s worship and praise of God are not dependent upon his success in this life. Success and failure are opportunities to praise and glorify God. Joseph knew that, while it is true that success comes from the Lord, He will also permit suffering in your life in order to mature your faith. Peter speaks of the “tested genuineness of your faith” (1 Peter 1:7). Resting in faith means that you remember that the real enemy is the devil. This produces a hatred of evil and sin. It also helps you remember that other people are not the enemy, but captives being used against you for your ruin.

Jesus told His disciples “you will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33). But, He also said that we should be courageous and have peace because He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33). Temptation will come to you. The devil will use the world to entice you to sin against God. It may often feel as if you have gotten out of the frying pan and into the fire! Rest in faith and resist temptation. Love God more than yourself. Love God more than your sin. Live a life of faith.