He Did Not Yield to Temptation
When it comes to resisting temptation is there a more inspiring story than that of Joseph? Only seventeen when his own brothers sold him into slavery, Gen. 39 tells the story of how Joseph refused to give in to the seductions of his master’s wife, even though she was persistent in her efforts. When you contemplate Joseph’s victory over the flesh, you realize how futile the explanation, or rather excuse, of some that they are only human and no one can resist such strong temptation. Joseph was a young, handsome man (Gen. 39:6) who lived in a time when immorality was common. Don’t forget that two of his brothers (Gen. 35:22; 38:15-18) and a sister (Gen. 34:1-3) were involved in fornication. And if he had so chosen, he also had available to him the excuse that he had been through some difficult times, for after all he had gone from being the favorite son of a wealthy man to a “forgotten” slave in a foreign land. We could also add to this to the fact that he was far from home and there was no reasonable way to expect that his father would ever find out what he had done.
So with all these excuses available to him, how did he resist temptation, even when completely alone with the seductress (Gen. 39:11-12)? I believe the key is found in Gen. 39:9. “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” If we are to resist temptation, we must begin with the realization there is a God in heaven who will hold us accountable for our actions (Eccl. 12:13-14; 2 Cor. 5:10). No matter how strong the urge or how great the attraction, those who live with a daily awareness of God will do whatever it takes to avoid His wrath (Matt. 5:29-30).
Joseph, living several hundred years before Moses, reflects an appreciation for what Jesus would later describe as the two greatest commandments of the Law of Moses (Matt. 22:34-40). As the previous paragraph detailed, he showed love and respect for God in refusing to sin against Him, but he also demonstrated a neighborly love when he spoke of the trust his master had placed in him, a trust he refused to betray (Gen. 39:8-9). While the number one reason we must not give in to sin is that it would be an affront to God and could cost us our soul, it is right to consider the impact our sin might have on family, friends, and fellow-saints. And as we consider that impact, let’s realize that an act of sexual immorality is also a sin against our partner and his or her family, friends, and fellow-saints. If we can learn to be like Joseph in thinking about others, it will make a difference.
The firm statement of intent when Joseph refused and gave his reasons for refusal should not be dismissed as insignificant. We must first have the awareness of God and others, but then verbalizing those convictions has value in several ways. Though it will not deter all, as it had no impact on Potiphar’s wife, there are many who appreciate people of conviction and will stop trying to involve them in their actions. Some will even be caused to stop and think about their own choices. But to our point about how Joseph resisted temptation, verbalizing a commitment often strengthens it. Most of us have read or heard things about the value of putting our goals down on paper and the same thing can be said about our stating our convictions. Saying it aloud can serve to strengthen our determination to do it.
“So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her” (Gen. 39:10). One of the things that helped him resist temptation was his refusal to play with fire. He had stated his intention not to lie with her, but it is significant that he also refused to be with her. Too often we end up giving in to a temptation we initially resisted because we don’t limit those occasions that serve over time to weaken us and wear down our resistance. Spending time with the temptation, especially time alone, will usually result in sin. “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Cor. 15:33).
All of the things we have mentioned helped Joseph to be strong, but the day came when he had to literally “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). Potiphar’s wife tried to force him to commit adultery, but he fled the house, refusing again to succumb to the flesh. He demonstrated an amazing strength, yet good Bible students know that he went to prison because of this and we too need to realize that biblical morality is not always appreciated. If we strengthen our resolve and do not yield to temptation, in the short-term we may be ridiculed or lose someone we care about, but be assured that like Joseph we will be blessed by God in the end.
All quotes from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson, Inc.