The Tests of Joseph

Intro: What OT character best represents Jesus? There are several character images of Jesus that come to mind: Moses and David may be the most well known. But another major character in the history of Israel that is often connected with the coming Messiah is Joseph. Consider some suggested parallels:

1.) Joseph was loved by his father (37:3)

2.) Joseph was sent by his father (37:13)

3.) Joseph was hated by his brethren (37:4 – 3 times in chapter 37)

4.) Joseph was betrayed by his brethren (conspired against – 37:18)

5.) Joseph was sold for money. (37:25-28)

6.) Joseph became a servant (change in status)

7.) Joseph was tempted, but did not sin (39:7-12)

8.) Joseph suffered because he was unjustly accused (39:19-20)

9) Following his humiliation Joseph was exalted (Gen. 41:39-41)

10) Joseph was reconciled to his brothers through forgiveness (Gen. 45)

  • Some people have a more difficult challenge than others. For most of his life Joseph was in an unfavorable circumstance to serve God. He lived in an idolatrous country, and was surrounded by pagan people. His livelihood depended on pleasing those who did not care about God. In that sense, he represents us. This dark environment was a real test of faith – a long test of faith.
  • There are two events that represent the character of this test – a look at the character of our test (temptation) as well. How does Joseph handle it?
  • I mention again John’s characterization of sin’s appeal in 1 John 2- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We can see these at work in Joseph’s tests as well.

I. The Lust of the FleshRead Gen. 39:1-12 – I find it fascinating that God was at work in a providential way in Joseph’s life. vs. 2-32 The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. 3 And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. If God was willing and able to give Joseph material success, why did He not shield him from people like Potiphar’s wife? The fact is, the success is what brought him to this lady. God will allow us to be tested. The flesh is always with us.

A. The intensity of the temptation: vs. 10 – she kept coming back. There are some temptations that are relentless. It takes more than just one “no” to overcome them.

1. This initial temptation to commit sexual sin was an avenue for Satan to introduce or intensify other sins of the heart.

a. pride – Joseph could have thought that he deserved to give into her. He was the one making it all happen for Potiphar. Potiphar owed him

b. deceit – who would know? He was a long way from the land of his fathers.

c. fear – If he refused it could cost him his life. It did cost him dearly.

B. Joseph’s Reasons: Although Joseph could have excused his actions, he chose to reason on his choices with a sound mind. He marshaled his emotions to conform to God’s commands. That is the action of a pure heart. Notice what he says…Gen 39:8-9 – But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” I see in this response the elements of a pure heart that we have previously mentioned:

1. He was unwilling to play the hypocrite and pretend to be Potiphar’s servant and friend while cheating with his wife. He recognized the moral character of the action as it pertained to Potiphar.

2. He also was unwilling to do that which was wrong (wickedness) in the eyes of God. He saw sin in its most tragic context – This act was against God and would estrange him from God. 2 Tim. 2:22 – ‘Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”

C. Joseph’s Response: Gen 39:11-12 – 11 But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, 12 that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. What does it take to remain pure in the face of such temptation? Joseph recognized that he had to flee from it. 1 Corinthians 10:1313 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Sometimes the only escape is to run away.

1. It is interesting to compare Joseph’s temptation and response with King David.

Joseph vs. David – 2 men of faith and character who end up in different places.

A. These two men were tempted to sin in a very similar manner. Both were tempted to become involved in an illicit sexual relationship.

1. We cannot dismiss David’s failure by arguing that his temptation was greater than Joseph’s. They were fundamentally the same.

2. In fact, it might be argued that Joseph’s test was the greater one. He was not a free man and was responsible to please his master’s wife. To refuse could have meant death.

B. Both men were initially innocent. Joseph did invite the advances made by Potiphar’s wife. In fact, he resisted them (Geneses 39:7-10). He was nothing more than an innocent victim here. But David too was initially innocent. There is no indication that David was looking for trouble when he went for a walk on his roof.

1. These two innocent men are suddenly thrust into a circumstance of temptation and their souls are on the line.

2. These moments can come into our lives as well. We must stick to our convictions, even if it’s hard. One momentary lapse devastated David’s life! We need to take this dreadful possibility to heart!

C. Both men had a way out. Actually, Joseph’s options were more limited. He could not seek other employment. Running away was his only way out. David had more options. He could have stopped this disaster at any point.

1. At the very outset, he could have looked away.

2. After looking too long, he could have refused to inquire.

3. After learning that Bathsheba was married, he could have stopped.

4. Considering the similarities, why don’t these stories end the same? Consider the differences that made the difference.

Joseph & David – Two men who responded differently

D. Each man responded to his crisis in a different way.

1. Joseph ran away (Genesis 39:12). He recognized the danger he faced and removed himself from the situation. Joseph understood that he needed to flee.

2. David chose to stay. David could not have recognized where this decision would lead. This was initially a battle of the mind. While his armies were fighting physical enemies, their leader was surrendering to Satan in the face of this temptation.

a. Sometimes our path to destructive behavior begins with the simple choice to stick around. We don’t remove ourselves from tempting situations. We stick around, lurk on the edges, until we’re drawn in.

b. Sometimes young people are afraid to leave. They convince themselves that they can just “hang around” with their friends who drink, cuss or fill their minds with trash on TV. They can handle it.

c. Then there is the man who thinks he can strike up on intimate friendship with a woman at work. Even though he knows it’s unwise, he does it anyway because he’s strong. Soon he is drawn into compromising situations and gives into adultery.

d. Where did his trouble begin? With the simple choice to stay, rather than run away.

3. If we want to win our battles with temptation and avoid the catastrophic consequences that come with sin, we’ve got to learn how to run away. What we do at the moment of crisis is critical.

II. The Pride of Life: Genesis 50:15-21- 15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” 16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

A. The Longevity of the Temptation: Unlike the previous temptation, some tests of faith take place over a longer period of time. After Jacob dies Joseph’s brothers fear that animosity and vengefulness still lie sequestered in the heart of Joseph. Here is the perfect opportunity for Joseph to get even for the evil that was done to him long ago.

1. Revenge and resentment are common contaminates of Satan. Mistreatment can cause good people to seek the justice they feel they are entitled to. They can lie dormant for many years and resurface at a moment.

B. Joseph’s reasons: Gen 50:19-2019 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Joseph was unwilling to seek revenge because he recognized the superior position of God in the matter. Romans 12:17-20 – Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,”* says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

1. Paul says that the pure heart does not seek revenge, but allows for the vengeance of God. In fact, Paul’s argument is that the individual has no right to seek justice on his own. He goes on the express the right of the government (because it is ordained of God) to execute justice. When the gov’t is unable or unwilling to acquire justice, the Christian must rely upon God.

2. More than an acquiescence to mistreatment, God calls us to repay evil with good. Our hearts must be purified of every vestige of self-justification. By absolute submissiveness we overcome evil. That is what Joseph did here. All of the evil that was brought into his life by Satan was undone by God through the right moral choices of Joseph. He overcame evil with good.

C. Joseph’s Response: vs. 21 Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. He gave them what they had not given him. Their decisions had discomforted him on all sides for many years. They did not deserve to be treated this way. Notice how the Bible describes the hatred of his brothers when he was young. Gen 37:4 – But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. Joseph’s heart was not contaminated with the envy and hatred that was evidenced in the tone of their voice. He spoke kindly to them.

Conclusion: The call to keep the heart pure is challenging. We are tested. Sometimes evil has a way of winning out over the long haul. Joseph is our example and encouragement. James 4:7-8 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.