ometimes when we read the ancient stories about Bible characters (especially in the Old Testament) it is easy to forget that they were real people just like us. They are not heroes of faith because they were perfect human beings but because they chose to follow God even while facing incredible pressure to do otherwise.
Joseph's life provides us with a beautiful example of a person who totally commits to living a godly life regardless of the circumstances encountered. Joseph exhibits the character of God through his faithfulness, integrity, purity, and mercy, even while he is forced to endure intense pressure and difficulty. In our everyday lives, we need to implement the principles modeled by these wonderful men and women of God as we remember that our choices have consequences too.
The story of Joseph is contained in Genesis chapters 37-50 and every incident of his life teaches us something about Godly character. For this study though, we will concentrate on chapters 37 and 39 because they provide Christian singles with instruction about attitudes, dissapointment, dealing with temptation, and obedience.
The Bible tells us that Joseph was hated by his brothers who were jealous of him. He was only a teenager when they decided to kill him and cruelly threw him into a pit. Joseph must have felt deeply hurt and terrified when they did this but they went even further and sold him into slavery. Most of us could never imagine experiencing the betrayal and fear that Joseph must have felt as he was torn from his family, his home, and everything he knew only to be forced into slavery in a foreign land.
We are told in Genesis 39:1-6 that Potiphar, an officer of Pharoah, purchased Joseph. We are also told that Joseph's master could see that the Lord was with Joseph and he eventually made him overseer of all his house and posessions. It is obvious that Joseph was a faithful and trustworthy slave or Potiphar would not have entrusted his household to him. But these verses also indicate something about Joseph's attitude even though it is not directly stated. In spite of everything that happened to him, Joseph maintained a grateful heart and trusted God absolutely - even in the painful circumstances he was forced to endure.
If you can, try to imagine Joseph's situation. It is obvious that most people in his shoes would be discouraged, angry, fearful, vengeful, and filled with self-pity. We could even understand that he might question God's goodness because the Lord allowed such terrible things to happen to a righteous person. Yet we do not read anything in these verses which indicates that Joseph's attitude was poisoned with any of these "understandable" feelings. Instead, it is clear that the Lord was able to bless and prosper Joseph in all that he did because his heart attitude was right. Everyone around Joseph shared in the blessings because he feared and obeyed God. Joseph's Godly behavior during his trials teaches us many things about how to live out our faith while under pressure - especially since things get even worse for him!
In Genesis 39:7 we are introduced to Joseph's next problem - Potiphar's wife. She lusts after Joseph and begs him to sleep with her. Joseph could have easily yielded to this temptation from a mysterious older woman. He was a young man far from home and she must have been very attractive to him. He could have used lonliness or bitterness or self-pity as an excuse for giving in to this woman. And since he was totally alone in a foreign land, no one would ever have known.
First Joseph makes the mistake of trying to reason with his seducer (verses 8 & 9). This is always a mistake because the Bible teaches us repeatedly that we must flee from sinful temptations. We are weakened whenever we stay and try to use intellectual arguments to justify our position. Joseph's words did not work and Potiphar's wife continued her attack and attempted to wear down his defenses by "speaking to him day by day." We are not told exactly what she said but it is likely that she used the same tricks the devil uses on all of us including everything from appealing to his need for love and comfort to ridiculing his "old fashioned values" to threatening him with punishment fit for a disobedient slave. But Joseph would not yield.
Finally, Potiphar's wife waited for the moment when all of the other men were out of the house and then made one last desperate attempt to bring Joseph down by seizing him by his clothes and commanding him to sleep with her. Joseph had only seconds to decide if he would maintain his integrity, righteousness and purity or trade them for a few moments of pleasure. Joseph's choice in this moment of testing and temptation would effect his future and the future of Israel forever. But he chose to flee, "got himself out of there" (verse 12), and left the disappointed temptress holding only his garment.
As often happens when a godly person wins a battle against sin and does the right thing, there was no parade or medal or applause waiting for Joseph. In fact, in her fury and embarassment, Potiphar's wife proceeded to lie about him and accused him of attempted rape. And so, Joseph, a righteous man who trusted in God, was put in irons (Psalm 105:18) and thrown into a miserable prison until he was 30 years old - because he did what was right.
However, God did not leave his precious, faithful servant alone in that dungeon. "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. The keeper of the prison did not look to anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper." (Ch. 39 vs. 21-23).
We know that in the end Joseph the Hebrew slave rose from the dungeon to the second highest position in the massive Egyptian empire which meant he had enormous power and riches. He was second only to Pharoah so God did reward Joseph generously for his righteousness. But we cannot ignore the price Joseph paid before reaping his reward. He was mistreated, abused, hated, betrayed, enslaved, tempted, tested, lied about, unjustly prisoned, and forgotten (though not by God) in a dungeon for many years.
Many Christians today would have a difficult time relating to a person like Joseph who feared, loved, and trusted God so completely that he was willing to obey Him even if he never gained a single reward while on this earth. Sometimes we forget that the Christian life can often bring suffering and trials too. However, if we trust the Lord while we experience them, we will exchange our sometimes shallow faith for compassion, character, wisdom, patience, and a deep faith in Jesus that cannot be shaken. In Joseph we see a person who modeled these traits beautifully because he walked in holiness, waited patiently, and maintained a soft and grateful heart before the Lord.
The story we have just read together encourages us and reminds us that our God is loving and just. We can trust Him completely no matter how hopeless our circumstances appear because He has promised that nothing can separate us from His love. And God keeps His promises.
Someone recently sent me the following anointed statement. I do not know who wrote it but God has certainly used that person to remind a lot of Christians of what our focus should be. I hope it encourages you as much as it has me.
~~~~~MY COMMITMENT AS A CHRISTIAN~~~~~
I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of Jesus Christ. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me - my banner will be clear!