“with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, 7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’8 But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. 9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.” NIV
‘’But he refused’’ (8a).
One of the Marx brothers quipped, ‘I can resist anything except temptation!’
Well, we could never say, ‘No’ to any temptation if we had to rely on our own strength. But even with the Holy Spirit’s power made available, there is still a need for resolve on our part if we are to refuse the sin so appetisingly offered on a plate.
I thought about Job’s words:
“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl’’ (Job 31:1). That speaks of resolve and determination.
The psalmist in Psalm 18: 23b writes: “I…have kept myself from sin.” This is an expression of self-control. He has a tight hold on the reins.
How could Joseph have such resolve? What lay behind it?
- A sense of responsibility towards his master (8);
- Closely tied to the above, he had an awareness of his authority and its limits. He clearly knew where the boundary lines were drawn (9a). They were definitely drawn around Mrs Potiphar!;
- Above all, he knew that if he were to succumb to her advances, he would sin not merely against Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife, and his (Joseph’s) own body; he would in fact be sinning against God (9b).
So that’s how he was able to withstand the barrage of temptation which relentlessly beat at his door “day after day” (10).
Note the practical steps he took to remove himself from the presence of temptation (10b). That’s important. I often think of the quaint saying attributed to Martin Luther: ‘You cant prevent the birds of the air from beating around your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.’