by David Sisler

Call them Ishmaelites.

Nomadic wanderers, caravan drivers, occasionally slave traders. They bought Joseph, a 17 year old Hebrew, from his jealous brothers, and sold him to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Potiphar watched Joseph, saw his integrity, his honesty, his industry, and eventually gave Joseph complete charge of his entire affairs.

It was in Potiphar's house Joseph faced the greatest challenge of his life. Joseph was a handsome young man. Potiphar's wife was a wilful seductress. She wanted him.

Day after day she approached him. "Lie with me, Joseph. Come to bed with me, Joseph. Let's have an affair, Joseph."

Day after day Joseph gave her two answers, "I will not betray my master's trust. I cannot betray my God's trust."

The temptation had unusual strength because it was repeated so often. We can frequently overcome a temptation the first time it is offered. The sheer audacity of the proposal, or the very shock of such a proposition can save us on first approach. But victory over temptation must be reinforced every time it is presented. The joy of successful resistance on nine occasions can be destroyed by yielding on the tenth opportunity.

Then one day Joseph and Mrs. Potiphar were alone in the house. Potiphar was away on business. All the other slaves were outside. "Lie with me," she insisted.

Joseph was an exile, far from home. The chances were very good he would never see his father or his father's house again. It was not uncommon for slaves to perform the services Mrs. Potiphar demanded. His principles had not kept him from disaster. Why not lower his standards and taste at least a moment's pleasure?

Centuries later King David would confess to adultery and tell God, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Psalm 51:4). It was this sense of God's presence which kept Joseph from sin. He knew he could not sin against his master. He might have remarked that such an act would be a sin against himself or the woman. His greatest consideration, however, was the knowledge that the greatest possible violation would be against the God he loved and served. Without that anchor, no other anchor will hold. Without that anchor, any storm will sink us.

With that she grabbed him and pulled him towards her. And with that Joseph fled. Potiphar's wife was not left empty handed. In order to escape, Joseph pulled out of his cloak.

"Rape!" she screamed. And she had his garment as evidence. In a scene prefiguring recent court trials Mrs. Potiphar said, "That Hebrew slave came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house."

I have tried to imagine Joseph's first night in prison. I've thought about two other men who were imprisoned falsely Paul and Silas. At midnight in a Philippian jail, their feet in stocks and their backs slashed open, they prayed and sang. It was not a prayer for release or a hymn of woe. They communicated praise to God.

That night, did Joseph ask himself, "Where is my God? I've been honorable and He has deserted me?" Or did he say, "My God is with me here in this prison and He will bring good to me and glory to Himself through this injustice."

The Bible says, "The Lord was with Joseph" (Genesis 39:23). Joseph went to prison from Potiphar's house. Two years later God delivered Joseph and sat him next to Pharaoh's throne as second in command of all Egypt. Resistance to temptation is never easy. Deliverance from wrong may be slow. But God will never forsake those who put their trust in him.


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