Joseph’s storyline fascinates me. His life is truly the stuff of Hollywood movies. Betrayal, slavery, slander, imprisonment, rise and fall (and rise again) to power, seeming revenge over his traitor brothers, and reunion. He surely made many mistakes in his lifetime, particularly with arrogance and revelry in being the favorite over his brothers – but his character was above reproach.
One of the best examples of his character is the ordeal with Potiphar’s wife. The description of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 7-9 could easily be used for Potiphar’s wife. Let’s look at chapter 7. The young man was putting himself in potential danger by “going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house.” He willingly approached temptation, hoping to get a taste of temporary satisfaction without “crossing the line.”
“Then out came the woman to meet him…with crafty intent.” Sin saw an opportunity and took it. But it still isn’t too late for our young man. He could flee from her presence, flee from her corner, and seek refuge in righteousness.
Sadly, he doesn’t:
“With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter” (v. 21-22).
How did this happen? How did our young man slip into sin?
He walked towards her house.
He stayed around temptation.
He gave in.
Our Joseph did the opposite in Genesis 39.
The Bible tells us that he was a good-looking guy, and I imagine Potiphar’s wife was beautiful, adorned with all the riches and linens Egypt had to offer. It would have been easy to give in, and keep the sin a secret. Joseph, however, didn’t take the bait: “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
Joseph said no, and what’s more – “Though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her” (Genesis 39:10). His job as manager of Potiphar’s household required him staying in the house with the woman who was tempting him day after day, but he wasn’t worried about hurting her feelings, offending her, or making things awkward in his work environment. He avoided her presence. He left the room when she entered. He refused to stay around the temptation.
Sometimes even the staunchest refusals of temptation aren’t enough to deter Satan. He launches a full-scale attack on our souls. Potiphar, tired of hearing “no” when she has likely heard “yes” all of her life, threw herself at him. Temptation had come to fruition.
And Joseph fled from sin.
Joseph stayed in the house for his job –
But he refused to be around the temptation.
And when temptation launched itself against him, he fled for his life.
The New Testament tells us to flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6:18, 2 Timothy 2:22), and if we resist temptation enough, we won’t be the only ones fleeing:
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). We can resist the devil through the power of Christ alone. Satan has no choice but to flee when the Savior has victory in the battle for our souls.
I’m afraid we don’t take this command to “flee from sin” seriously enough, possibly because we don’t take sin seriously enough. We hang around people or situations that tempt us, not wanting to offend or hurt feelings, thinking we are strong enough to resist. We call sins “mistakes,” “slip-ups,” “accidents.”
To Satan, sin is no accident, but a carefully-crafted scheme to entice and entrap God’s creation.
Instead of willingly following sin “like an ox going to slaughter,” cling to our dear Jesus, willingly led like a lamb to the slaughter, for the forgiveness of our sins.