Potiphar is furious! Returning home after a long day at work, his wife presents him with ‘evidence’ that his favored servant, Joseph, attempted to seduce her. As you and I know, the truth is just the opposite but having been spurned, her lustful desire towards Joseph turned to hate and a desire for revenge.
Joseph was in the worst possible position. There were no witnesses for the Bible says they were ‘alone in the house’. He was a slave with no status and therefore had no possible way of defending himself. The only one who could tell the truth was the very one accusing him to her husband. As the lady of the house, she would be believed far and above a slave. Escape was impossible, there was no recourse to a lawyer. Before he knew what happened, Joseph was slammed into prison for a crime he did not commit. This was the next test Joseph had to pass and it was profoundly difficult.
Betrayed again! First by his brothers and now by an immoral woman, Joseph might well have stared at the damp and dark prison walls and wondered, ‘Why, God, why?’ Yet in his heart, Joseph knew he had done the righteous thing when he said to Potiphar’s wife: How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? (Genesis 39:9)
Keep in mind that the Torah had not yet been given. This was years before the event at Mt. Sinai. Yet Joseph already knew that adultery was wrong.
Notice also that this was not a one-time attempt by Potiphar’s wife. And it came to pass as she spoke to Joseph day after day, that he would not listen to her. (Genesis 39:10) She was persistent but so was he.
We may mistakenly fall into the trap of temptation if, after conquering it once, we think all is well and we let our guard down. Temptation to sin is as persistent as Potiphar’s wife was with Joseph. Just because you overcame an evil inclination once doesn’t mean it won’t come around again. In fact, it almost always will! Like Joseph, we cannot let down our guard and we do well to imitate his behavior. He not only refused her but when she kept repeating her request, he did all he could to even avoid her very presence. That means, if you have any idea where temptation will confront you, if at all possible, don’t go there! Do not fool yourself into thinking, ‘I’m strong enough to handle it’. Spiritual strength is not just the ability to resist temptation; real spiritual strength is demonstrated in refusing to go where you know temptation is waiting for you!
The lack of moral character in Potiphar’s wife is even more evident as we continue to read. In front of other slaves, she even blamed her husband for the ‘alleged’ crime of Joseph. Speaking of her husband, she said, See, he[Potiphar] brought in a Hebrew to us to mock us. (Genesis 39:14) She stooped so low as to malign her own husband in the eyes of the household slaves.
A person filled with rage and a desire for vengeance will always say and do irrational things that expose the very weakness of their case. Uncontrolled anger will always lead to more sin. If this woman had been honorable, she would have said nothing at all but taken Joseph’s refusal as a wake-up call and perhaps come to her senses. But no – she had to tell everybody how ‘terrible’ Joseph was. And it wasn’t even true! It reminds me again of Shakespeare: ‘The lady doth protest too much!’
Yet, despite his good and moral choices, Joseph ended up in prison. Falsely accused and helpless.
God actually did Joseph a great favor for whenever we are in a helpless position, that is when God Himself takes over. That is what He does when He is grooming a person for a position of influence in His kingdom. The most important test that any person may have to pass before he/she is ever ready to be greatly used by God is to be punished for doing the right thing and to keep quiet about it, letting God Himself be one’s defense. The tendency to self-righteousness, self-defense and self-justification is a powerful force to the ego. It was not easy for Joseph; it is not easy for us.
But the reward of doing so is well worth whatever patience and humility it requires. You may not know the future, but God does. He is preparing you for an important task.
Fighting against what God is doing in your life only prolongs the period of testing. To turn to Him and humbly accept His work in your life is the only sane response. It’s in those times that the prayer of David, ‘I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall forever be in my mouth’ becomes the sustaining force.
As we will see, even in the prison, Joseph had the favor of the LORD. By that we know that he kept an attitude of faith and trust, even when he didn’t understand why he had to undergo such a difficult imprisonment.
Faith isn’t faith when you see and understand; faith that pleases God is when we trust Him without understanding why certain things have happened.
Joseph had a dream – in fact, more than one. In the darkest hours of his life, remembering what God had shown him in those dreams were a stabilizing factor.
A wise man once said to me: Don’t doubt in the dark what you knew in the light. I pass that on to you in the hope that it may provide you with courage to trust and believe when hope and the future seems lost.