Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: 6 readers (Editorial note: distribution list grows to 6)
From: Su Min (Lim Min Yu)
Subject: Joseph And Potiphar's Wife

To all in cyberspace who are loved by God and called to be saints, grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 1:7).

Today as we read Genesis 39, we trace some ups and downs in the life of Joseph. Earlier (Gen 37:3), we are told that he was the best loved son of Jacob, and been given a beautiful garment that has been described as a coat with many colours (KJV), a richly ornamented robe (NIV), a distinctive tunic with long sleeves (AMP). Best loved by his father, he was hated by his brothers who plotted to kill him (Gen 37:20). He was stripped (Gen 37:23) imprisoned in an empty well (Gen 37:24) and sold into slavery (Gen 37:28) to traders who brought him to Egypt, and ends up in the service of Potiphar, the captain of the guard to Pharaoh, king of Egypt (Gen 37:36). From enrobed best loved son of Jacob to stripped down slave in a foreign land. What a descent in life.

But, we read, Joseph was not all alone in Egypt, for God was with him and the Lord gave him success in everything he did (Gen 39:3). Joseph found favour in Potiphar's eyes, and Joseph was put in charge of Potiphar's household (Gen 39:6). Climbing up the ladder of life again.

Then temptation. What a temptress. None less than the bosses wife. So heinous is her sin that she is not named. We know her only as Potiphar's wife. We are told that Joseph was well built and good looking, and after a while Madam took notice of him. "Lie with me" records the KJV. "Come to bed with me" says the NIV. In any version the invitation is direct and a clear offer of explicit sex. What an offer. We would easily understand if Joseph allowed himself to be seduced. But the Lord was with Joseph. He refused, and gave the reason for refusing "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God" (Gen 39:9). Oh, that we lesser mortals could learn from Joseph in the face of sexual temptation and declare boldly "How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God".

Madam was not to be dissuaded. Day after day she spoke to him, repeating the enticing invitation "Lie with me. Come to bed with me." Once I could resist, perhaps. But twice? Thrice? I am grateful that God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor 10:13). This is indeed a precious promise, and one I cling to in face of similar situations.

Day after day Joseph refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her (Gen 39:10). Here, we see Joseph's wisdom in staying away from trouble. If Madam has the hots for him, just close proximity may lead to trouble, so he stays away as far as humanly possible. But Madam was not to be rejected lightly. When temptation failed she resorts to physical violence, seizing Joseph by the cloak and demanding :"Come to bed with me" (Gen 39:12). Joseph ran away, leaving his cloak in her hands (Gen 39:12). The lascivious wanton failed seductress is scorned and furious (no other such fury is known!). Slander, falsehood and wrongful accusation is made, first to the household servants (Gen 39:14-15), then to Potiphar (Gen 39: 17-18).

Potiphar's reaction deserves study. Potiphar burned with anger. The Hebrew slave that he trusted had, as his wife complained, attempted sexual assault on his wife. "Off with his head" would have been a very understandable response. But the hand of God was unmistakably over Joseph, protecting him and buffeting him from the ill winds of fate. Even in this moment of treachery and deception, Potiphar's burning anger was muted enough for Joseph to be thrown into the dungeon and forgotten, rather than to be exterminated on the spot. From Gen 41:1 we are to learn that Joseph languished in the dungeon for two years, but the two years were not in sheer desolation, for the Lord was with Joseph while he was in prison (Gen 39:21). God showed Joseph kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. Even within the dungeon of the Pharaoh's household, Joseph achieved success in whatever he did, because the Lord was with Joseph.

What do we learn from this lessons: Lots. God must have a special lesson for each one of us, to meet us at our own point of need.

We learn more about temptation.

We learn of the God inspired response to temptation: Resist. Run away. Do not linger. Pray like crazy. Study the Word. Wash yourself with the Holy Spirit. Walk with God. Talk with God.

And we learn that as we develop a relationship with God, he unfolds His purpose for us. We learn that God does not promise us a bed of roses, but that through life's up and downs He will always be there. What a God. What a promise.

Let us close in prayer.

Love Dad.

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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