Genesis 39 –  Joseph: An Example Worth Following!

Scripture is filled with lots of good and bad examples. There are lots of people who help us understand what not to do, but there are also lots of people who help us see what we ought to do. Laying a pattern for us to follow. When we open our Bibles to Genesis 39, we find a young man who has had more than his share of bad days. Yet, he’s remained true to God through it all. Up to this point, Joseph has been betrayed by his brothers, who would have killed him. The only reason they didn’t is because of the  seemingly selfish motives of Reuben, who wanted to throw him into the pit or cistern so he could later save him and restore him to their father (Genesis 37:18-24). After throwing Joseph down into this dried up cistern, they sit down to eat, acting as if they had done nothing wrong (Genesis 37:25). This is when they notice a caravan of Ishmaelites passing by and their hatred for Joseph takes a greedy turn. Why not sell him, killing two birds with one stone? Get rid of the brother they all hate and make some money in the process! Their actions suggest they thought this was a great idea. As the travelers are passing by, they draw Joseph up out of the cistern and sell him to the Ishmaelites, who take Joseph to Egypt where he is sold again, this time to Potiphar the captain of the guard, an officer of Pharaoh. 

Joseph the Servant of Potiphar:

This is where Genesis 39 begins. With Joseph down on his luck, being betrayed by his brothers, sold, and sold again. Now working as a servant of Potiphar. You can read more of the details of Joseph’s life in Genesis 37, it was my goal to provide a summary just to help us understand what Joseph had been through up to this point. Clearly, he had it rough! Life had not gone the way he expected. Life rarely goes the way we expect! Yet, in the craziness of life, in all the twists and turns, and the betrayals we face one thing remains constant. God will continue to be with us! Joseph had it rough, but God was there to bring about some good for Joseph despite all the evil that he had been put through. Genesis 39:2-6:

2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. 4 So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Joseph became successful because the Lord was with him. It’s that simple. God blessed Joseph and helped Joseph prosper, so that Joseph’s life wouldn’t have to be defined by the trauma his brothers put him through. Scripture doesn’t tell us about Joseph’s opinion of his brothers at this point in time, but it’s hard to imagine he didn’t feel resentment and anger. Yet, despite the hardships Joseph had endured, he was excelling in Potiphar’s house. God was the source of Joseph’s success. And while I am sure, he worked very diligently and was a good steward of the blessings God bestowed upon him, it doesn’t change the reality that Genesis 39 makes clear, Joseph is successful because of God’s blessing. And I’m sure Joseph knew it. God was clearly in the background working to bring about Joseph’s well-being, and if you continue to study the life of Joseph you’ll see him experience even more hardships, namely prison. But the entire time, God is with Joseph continually blessing him and bringing about his success and well-being. And at the end of the story we realize, God’s not just blessing Joseph for Joseph’s sake but for the sake of his family, through whom the whole world would be blessed, but also a large portion of humanity living during a severe famine. However, Joseph is about to find himself facing another hardship, when Potiphar’s wife begins to lust for Joseph. Genesis 39:6-10

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 

Joseph the Attractive Servant: 

The end of verse 6 tells us that Joseph was an attractive guy, with a nice body. Weird, I know. But it’s what the text says, what else would it mean when it says he “was handsome in form and appearance.” It seems form is describing his build, while his appearance was describing his face. Joseph was a hotty. Potiphar’s wife noticed the attractiveness of Joseph and began to attempt to seduce him, time and time again. She wanted to have an affair and to do ungodly things. Every day, pursuing Joseph. Inviting Him to bed, egging him on to sleep with her. But Joseph wouldn’t do it. He refused everytime. This is what makes Joseph such a great example for us to follow. This is what makes his story worth paying so close attention to in today’s world, where sexual sin runs rampant.

Sexual Sin Always Available: 

Unfortunately, we live in a world where sexual sin is always available in an innumerable number of ways. After doing a quick google search I can tell you, according to google, there are 1.3 billion websites on the internet in 2023 and only 200 million are actively updated and visited. That’s a lot of websites. It’s a lot even when considering only the number of actively updated and visited sites. After doing another quick google search, I can tell you, according to google, in 2012 there was an estimated 25 million sites dedicated to pornography. That’s a lot of porn! That’s ⅛ of the sites that are actively updated and maintained in 2023. Now, I would say it’s safe to say, not all those pornographic sites are maintained or updated frequently, and the stats are taken over a decade apart. So, a lot has changed. Unfortunately, I think we would all assume there’s been an increase in internet pornography since 2012 which I fear is true. That same quick google search suggested that in 2022, there was 10,000 terabytes worth of internet pornography. I am not sure we can fathom how much that actually is. The most storage you can get on an iPhone is 1 terabyte. When I told my tech savvy friend I wanted to get the new iphone with a terabyte of storage, he told me the iphone wouldn’t last as long as the storage. The storage would outlast the hardware for a normal iPhone user. 1 terabyte is a ton of storage. I did another quick google search which suggested the average person watches 5,000 movies in a lifetime. You can store 5,000 high definition movies in 20 terabytes of storage. A whole lifetime’s worth of movies in only 20 terabytes. That’s a lot of storage and yet there’s 500 times that amount of storage dedicated to pornography. 

Clearly, there’s a lot of porn available in the world today. You likely already knew that, perhaps that’s part of why you are reading this. I mean let’s face it, that just scratches the surface of the sexual sin that is available to basically everyone. There’s sensual images on social media, inappropriate reels, and tiktoks, stirring up lust in the hearts of people all over. Sexual sin is available to all, at an incredibly high volume. Not only is it available but it draws people in, due to its highly addictive nature. Meaning those who have engaged are being called to day after day. Being invited back to partake in its evil. 

The Need to Be Like Joseph:

This is what makes Joseph’s story so relatable. Day after day Joseph was being tempted by a woman in his presence begging him to go to bed with her. Genesis 39:10 explains that day after day she would go to him, inviting him into sin, and that day after day he wouldn’t listen. This is what makes Joseph’s example worth following. He stayed strong despite facing sexual temptation on a daily basis. We live in a world where it is likely for people to face sexual temptation daily because of how rampantly available it is. We must be like Joseph, saying no to sexual sin. We have talked about all the hardships Joseph had been through. It’s important to remember this did not cause him to waver. He refused day after day to give in to the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. If we are going to be faithful Christians, we too, no matter what is thrown at us, must refuse to be the type of person who gives into the pleasure of sin. Thankfully, Joseph explains why he refuses to sleep with Potiphar’s wife. These reasons provide us with valuable lessons in why we should strive to live holy and pure lives. 

Honor for their Family: 

The first thing Joseph says in response to Potiphar’s wife is in verse 8 and 9, where we read, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife.” Joseph understood the role he played in Potiphar’s household, but more importantly he understood who he was in relation to Potiphar’s wife. He was not her husband, and therefore she was off limits. I know it’s a simple response, but It really is that simple. Joseph had a great relationship with Potiphar. Joseph was a very high ranking servant in Potiphar’s household, who was in charge of everything. Joseph understood it would not be right for him to abuse this power and jeopardize his relationship with Potiphar. Joseph understood who she was in relation to Potiphar, and did the honorable thing, rather than the pleasurable thing. 

When we are tempted to engage in sexual sin, we must remember those involved are people who have families and may very well one day have a spouse, but are certainly children with parents and grandparents who love them and want what’s best for them. Sexual sin is never what’s best. We may not have a relationship with the family members or spouse, or future spouse, but either way the application is the same. We must be like Joseph, and honor the family of those who invite us into sin, by refusing to join them in sin. 

Whether the invitations to sexual sin are like what Joseph faced or not we must choose to honor their family. For some invitations to sexual sin are very similar to Joseph’s experience, where they are being invited to bed, yet for others invitations to sexual sin looks more like just knowing that it’s available online. Many are tempted, and thus invited, to sexual sin through online pornography, social media, or movies. Sometimes these invitations look like an immodest post on social media, reminding the viewer what they could be seeing on other sites. No matter what form the invitation is in, we must do the family honoring thing. We must say no to sin. ALWAYS. 

Refuse to Sin Against God: 

The final aspect of Joseph’s reply to Potiphar’s wife where he explains why he won’t sleep with her is perhaps even more thought provoking and helpful. The very last thing Joseph said to her, after explaining he was not in position to have a sexual relationship with her, was, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Joseph understood who he was in relation to Potiphar and Potiphar’s wife but most importantly he understood who he was in relationship to God. Remember, Joseph was greatly blessed by God. God was the source for all his success in Potiphar’s house, and it seems Joseph knew it. Joseph knew God had blessed him and was with Him so he refused to sin against Him. Joseph understood where his success came from and he wasn’t going to mock the one who granted it. This teaches us some very valuable lessons. 


All Sin is Offensive to God: 

The first thing we must understand is that all sin is against God. Sin is offensive to God, thus hurting our relationship with God. If Joseph had gone to bed with Potiphar’s wife his relationship with Potiphar would have been severely damaged, beyond repair. But even worse, Joseph’s relationship with God would have been damaged. God’s gracious and loving and would have likely forgiven Joseph, assuming he repented and worked to make things right with God. But God’s far too important for us to willingly offend Him and this is what sin does. Sin offends God. When we partake of sexual sin not only are we dishonoring the family of those who are participating but even worse we are dishonoring God. When invited into sexual sin we must remember what Joseph said, and mimic a similar attitude, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 

Blessed by God: 

The second thing I think worth noticing is that just as God had blessed Joseph, so God has blessed us. Why then would we dare take advantage of the blessings of God? Genesis 39:2 explains how the Lord was with Joseph bringing about his success! Joseph was not successful on his own doing but rather because God blessed him. How then, could Joseph take the blessings bestowed upon him and abuse them by sinning against God. Certainly Joseph, like the rest of humanity had sinned and fallen short, but here Joseph was in Potiphar’s house and was blessed by the Lord specifically in that regard. If he had gone to bed with Potiphar’s wife, that would have been quite literally throwing away the blessings that God brought about through Potiphar, after Joseph was tragically sold by his brothers. God has blessed us in a number of ways, and unfortunately many of these ways are scoffed at when we partake in sexual sin. 

Sex itself is a blessing designed and given by God for a husband and wife to enjoy. Yet, when it is done outside of the parameters of marriage, it is sinful and offensive to God. It is foolish to take sex out of the context for which it is designed. It’s similar to taking a car to the beach and driving into the ocean. Cars weren’t designed to be submarines so why would we drive one into the ocean? It’s foolish to use a car outside of the parameters it was designed for and it’s foolish to do the same with sex. Cars are great when we keep them in their lane, likewise sex is great when we keep it in the lane of marriage, between a husband and wife. God has blessed us with sex, it’s not something we should mock, abuse, or misuse. 

Likewise technology is a great invention of our time. Certainly, God has blessed us with many great things technologically speaking. We are able to learn things and consume information at speeds never seen before. This is such a great educational opportunity. Yet, we live in a world that has turned these technological blessings into curses. The internet has changed so much, and a lot of it has been very beneficial but unfortunately the good is often outweighed by the bad. Many have probably questioned if the internet is even worth the benefits because of all the negative consequences. However, at the end of the day it’s hard to deny that there are many blessings that come with the world wide web.God’s blessed us with this technology. We can’t abuse this blessing by embracing the curses that come with it. If we are using the internet for more evil than good, it’s time to cut out the internet. If the internet is hurting our relationship with God, it is no longer worth having. Period. Just as Joseph refused to offend God through the blessings that were bestowed upon him, so we must refuse to sin against God, through the internet or any other modern technology that has been bestowed upon us. 

Conclusion:

For a long time, I have missed just how relevant Joseph’s story is to our lives today in the 21st century. Joseph’s life took place a really long time ago, but his life remains an example that’s worth following. Because while Joseph lived in Potiphar’s house he faced sexual temptation on a daily basis, much like many do today. Yet, he refused to dishonor Potiphar’s family, and most importantly refused to sin against God. We would do well to follow his example. When invited to sexual sin we must refuse, choosing to honor the family of those involved, and even more importantly, choosing to honor God. Always refusing to sin against him, and never taking advantage of His blessings. 

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