Only a few chapters ago we saw a man preying on a young woman. Now we see a woman preying on a young man. Joseph has become the most trusted servant to Potiphar. He rules the house in Potiphar’s place. However, Mrs. Potiphar has been pursuing Joseph romantically and Joseph has been doing all he can to avoid her. Proverbs 6:26 says “A prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.” What’s it saying? It’s saying that a prostitute won’t cost you much (she will though), but an adulterous woman will cost you your life. Proverbs 2:19 warns, “None who go to her [the adulteress] will return or attain the paths of life.” Joseph knew all that. And that’s why he had more resolve than Mrs. Potiphar.
JOSEPH FLEES (11-12)
Joseph flees, read verses 11-12….
This moment was inevitable. No matter how careful Joseph was to avoid her he was bound to get “caught” alone with her. I’m sure he enlisted the help of other servants – who no doubt saw what was going on. “If she calls for me I will send you in my place. If she’s in a room you stop what you’re doing and go in with me. If she walks in, distract her and I will slip out.” Joseph set the pattern for Billie Graham and Vice President Pence.
But she finally corners him. Yet look how he flees her! Can you imagine how dramatic the moment was: her clutching his clothes, pulling him, aggressively seducing him? He literally has to tear her off him and sprint out the door to get away from her. For the second time a cloak is all that remains of Joseph.
The wisdom and righteousness of Joseph is seen in his scrambling to get out of there. Look at what he did NOT do: he didn’t sit there and try to “convince” Mrs. Potiphar that what she was doing was wrong. He didn’t stick around and just “wait her out” as though she would give up and he could get back to household business. He also didn’t remain in the room, trying to “withstand” her come-ons while secretly enjoying her attention in his heart. Joseph’s outward expression of repulsion came from his inner repulsion to her. Not to her looks – she was probably very alluring – but to her behavior. Joseph was not merely outwardly righteous – his righteousness came from that real inward substance of his inner person. So the only thing this righteous man knew to do – because he was wise and righteous – was to get as far away from her as fast as he could. Joseph did not want to be anywhere near this woman.
Again I point out that Joseph is the opposite of the Proverbs 7 youthful fool. He went towards the adulteress in his life (7:8), Joseph was constantly getting away from the one in his life (10). Joseph kept to the wisdom of Proverbs 5:8, “Keep to a path far from her [the adulteress], do not go near her…” Then 5:20 says, “Why be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?” That is the question – WHY?! But the question is not a question, its a statement. It’s rhetorical. He’s not asking “Why”, he’s saying “DO NOT! Do not be intoxicated with another man’s wife and do not embrace the bosom of a wayward woman.” She was intoxicated with lust for him, but he was not returning it. So he fled.
APPLICATION: Flee adultery in your own life. Do not commit adultery by actually getting physical with another person not your spouse. But that’s not the only way to flee adultery. There are varieties of adultery. Be adultery-free in every way: commit none with your body, none with your eyes, none with your heart and none with your thoughts.
Jesus said, “But I tell that if you look at a woman with lust you have committed adultery in your heart.” That means do not look at porn, do not look at someone not your spouse and entertain thoughts about them. It is not only for young men to learn self control with their passions, but for old men too. Let there not be a “dirty old man” among us just as much there should not be any young men who don’t “know how to control their bodies” and live ruled by “a passionate lust like the pagans.” (1 Thess. 4:4-5). Think of what the aged Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully upon any woman.” Paul told Timothy, “Treat the younger women with absolute purity.” What are your eyes looking at? Who are you allowing your heart to become inflamed for? Who do you think about? For each of us, it best be our spouse. Do you see how this goes deeper than just the outward appearance of our behavior? As Paul said in Philippians 4, “Only think about whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy then think about such things.”
JOSEPH FALSELY ACCUSED (13-18)
Next we see Joseph falsely accused. Read verses 13-18….
Look how fast Mrs. Potiphar’s lust for Joseph’s body became lust for his blood. It’s like Nebuchadnezzar when he lusted to be worshipped by everyone, but as soon as the 3 boys in Daniel refused he was enraged and tried to kill them. The passion of lust and the passion of anger walk very closely together. All that burning for Joseph was building as he kept avoiding her and in the moment she didn’t get what she wanted, what she expected, what she demanded, she turned on him with all her venom. If he wouldn’t go to bed with her then she would ruin him. Mrs. Potiphar was used to having sexual power over men, and when she was rejected by Joseph she used her power to destroy him.
She did it by lying. She was standing there with Joseph’s cloak but no Joseph. Which, remember the last time he was unjustly treated he lost his cloak (37:23). Probably because she was holding it trying to drag him to bed and he just slipped out of it to run away. He probably slipped out of there so fast she thought he was raptured! Watching him run away, no doubt feeling rejected, finally seeing there was no “conquering” this young man, she was filled with hatred. So she made up a lie about him. Mrs Potiphar was the precursor to the MeToo movement. When the Me Too movement was happening there were two things that came out of that. One was a lot of victimized women got revenge after having to stuff down what happened to them by predatory males. The other thing was a lot of innocent men were victimized by predatory women who made false accusations for attention.
If she had the strength I guarantee she would have treated him like Shechem treated Dinah.Mrs Potiphar accused Joseph of the very thing she did: sexual assault. Have you known people like that? People who accuse you or others of the very thing that they do themselves?
APPLICATION: Distinguish between love and lust. Do you know the difference between those two things? Love is humble, lust is prideful. Love is selfless, lust is self-centered. Love is gracious, lust is demanding. Love is in it to give, lust is in it to get. Love sacrifices self for the well being of the other person, while lust sacrifices the other person for personal gratification.
APPLICATION: How we act when we don’t get what we want indicates something about our spiritual condition. This is especially true if what we want is sinful or wrong.
Mr. Potiphar is enraged. Proverbs 6:27-35… Joseph used to command the confidence of Mr. Potiphar. “Everything he owns my master has entrusted to my care” Joseph said in verse 8. Joseph used to be a man he could trust with his wife and his wallet. Not anymore, he thought. How oblivious is Mr. Potiphar? Verse 6 said, “with Joseph in charge Potiphar did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” Is this indicating something about how out of touch Potiphar was with what’s happening under his own roof? Specifically in his own bedroom?
He does not investigate. He just reacts. He does not hesitate in his anger to second guess his wife. Did he really have no clue what she was like? Was her behavior with Joseph completely out of character for her? As one erudite politician likes to say, “C’mon man.” Yet Mr Potiphar must have been so out of touch in his marriage that he didn’t see what she was. Or he didn’t want to believe it. Or he didn’t care.
As the captain of the guard Potiphar had a lot of control over the jails. As Joseph’s master he had a lot of control over Joseph. As he was thrown into prison and the door slammed shut Joseph had to be thinking, “Again?! I didn’t do anything wrong, God. How can this happen again?!”
APPLICATION: Faithfulness will bring a cost. You would rather be in prison with your integrity than in the palace without it. Faithfulness will not always lead to praise, comfort and advancement. Faithfulness will bring a cost. Will we pay it when it comes with a heavy price tag? I think at some point each of us to come to the realization that paying a cost for faithfulness to God is part of God’s plan for us. He permit situations where in order for us to be faithful to Him it will come at great personal sacrifice. When the time comes that distancing ourselves from our Lord would make it easier for us, will we choose the cost? Will we choose to lose the world to gain Christ? “What does a man profit if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”
JOSEPH FAVORED AGAIN (19-23)
Joseph is favored again, read 19-23….
Notice that God is with Joseph. Verse 21 and verse 23 both say, “the LORD was with Joseph…” What does it mean God was with Joseph? Obviously it doesn’t mean God prevented unfair treatment and injustice from coming into Joseph’s life. Bad things happen to good people but that doesn’t mean God isn’t with “good” people.
But notice how the verses describe what is meant by God being with Joseph: God caused the warden to favor Joseph and entrust Joseph with responsibility for all the prisoners. Can you see how Joseph’s career in prison was a repeat of his career in Potiphar’s house? It’s almost mathematical: Joseph’s integrity and work ethic + God blessing = his being favored, trusted, promoted and successful wherever he goes.
Think about the roller coaster of Joseph’s life so far. Joseph was “up” when he was at home as the favorite son of his father. Then he was “down” when his brothers betrayed him and sold him. Then he was “up” when he was promoted to run Potiphar’s household. Then he was “down” when Mrs. Potiphar lied about him and had him thrown into prison. Now he is “up” again in prison as he is favored and promoted. Proverbs 24:16, which says “For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again…” No matter how many times he’s tripped, thrown, or pulled down, Joseph rises again. By God’s blessing he keeps rising each time.
APPLICATION: God is with us, BUT, that doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to us. He won’t stop every injustice coming our way. God being “with” us doesn’t mean everything in my life is going to go how I imagine it should go, or hope it will go. God will let bad things happen. God will lead bad things into our lives. The question is not “Why has God abandoned me?” because He hasn’t: “Never will I leave or forsake you” Hebrews 13 says.
So the question is: HOW is God being faithful to us during our hardship? In whatever my circumstance, I need to look for the ways in which God is with me, remembering me, blessing me, working for me. Joseph was in a place he didn’t deserve to be in. But he put his trust in God, kept his integrity, and God blessed him in his place of suffering.
Get this: Later Joseph would have a son he named Ephraim and the reason he named him Ephraim he says is “because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (41:52). His son was a symbol testifying to him that in his place of suffering God was with him and blessing him. What is your place of suffering right now? Now look for your Ephraim and give God glory.
God may bring or allow trials in our lives, but we must remember that He will be with us, showing us kindness through our trial, granting success and favor in various ways in the midst of our situation as we remain faithful to Him.
APPLICATION: Trust God will be faithful to you while you are paying a price for your faithfulness to Him. Wait on Him in your trial and trust He will indeed be with you and show Himself faithful to you when you are in your prison. There is no indication that Joseph doubted God in prison. Nothing in the text says or hints at any kind of bitterness in Joseph.
APPLICATION: We are all where we are because God is God. God has us where we are by His own designs. And just like Joseph a lot of times its to form us for what is next. Whatever we go through there is real wisdom in seeing it as formative. God is forming us. God is shaping us. God is preparing us.
APPLICATION: Those who can be trusted with little will be trusted with more. Remember when Jesus said that? “Well done good and faithful servant, you have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” Joseph was faithful with whatever he was given, and, no matter what his circumstances. Whether kidnapped and sold into slavery or lied about and thrown into prison, he took on whatever came his way with integrity and hard work. He was faithful with the “little” things. As we will see next, God was going to put him in charge of “many things.”
So the chapter ends with Joseph in a prison. He can’t get out. He is in a place that is beyond his ability to get out of. It’s like those astronauts on the International Space Station right now who are stuck there for another several months until they can be “retrieved.” Yeah, their spaceship broke down up there. Can you imagine that? I thought my car not starting in the driveway was bad. I thought not being able to leave my house was bad, but at least I was on the earth. They can’t just call NASA for a “jump.” So they’re stuck. Waiting on someone to come get them.
If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior then you have to understand that you’re stuck somewhere right now too. You’re not stuck in outer space, but you are stuck in your sins and that makes you “far away” from God. Like the astronauts you can’t get where you need to be on your own. You need someone to come get you. Earth is sending a spaceship up there to save those guys, but God sent Jesus down here to save you. He’s the only rescue plan. He’s the only One who can save you. The ship has arrived. Get on so that you can go home.