Sermon notes from Sunday 13 January // Genesis 39
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife
How would society react to a story like this one today – what would be their attitude to the issues raised?
Whilst this chapter looks particularly at Joseph’s response to sexual temptation, we ought to also consider a wide variety of other examples of lust – uncontrolled desire – not just what we see in Genesis 39.
Joseph’s battle for sexual purity (in this case, adultery) must also be our battle if we want to follow Christ.
Joseph’s rise: despite being sold into slavery, Joseph used this adversity as an opportunity to grow and mature, rather than to shrivel into bitterness. We also have a choice as to how we handle adversity in our own lives.
“The LORD was with Joseph…” – this is recognised at the start of this chapter, as things are going well, and is also also acknowledged by Potiphar. It was the LORD that prospered Joseph. As we live out the small details of our daily lives for Christ, this is what people will notice.
Joseph’s test: we live in a sex-saturated society, and it is often as we are going about our daily business that we can be surprised how this hits us in the face in such a stark way. This was the same for Joseph as he was met with the brevity of his tempter’s demand: “lie with me”.
Joseph’s reply is much longer, as he heaps up the reasons against doing such a thing. But he didn’t just talk, he acted (he got out of there), and against repeated attempts by Potiphar’s wife.
John Piper has put together a very helpful strategy for fighting lust, using the acronym ANTHEM. You can read the article in full by visiting the Desiring God resource library, but in outline form this is:
- A – AVOID as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire.
- N – say NO to every lustful thought within 5 seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable.
- T – TURN the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction. Saying “no” will not suffice. You must move from defense to offence.
- H – HOLD the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out.
- E – ENJOY a superior satisfaction. Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal.
- M – MOVE into a useful activity away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviors. Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure. Find a good work to do, and do it with all your might.
See www.desiringgod.org for many more useful resources.
These temptations can destroy us, or grow us.
The cost of integrity for Joseph: in the short-term, maintaining integrity can come at great cost, sometimes owing to people’s hostility towards this integrity.
Integrity can be costly, but do not yield. This is just a different stage in the same battle.
At home group I was challenged by thinking how, at the point of being put in prison, I would have put a lot of energy into seeking justice – getting out of prison and clearing my name – rather than working my best for God in this new situation, trusting Him for where I was.
In this difficult place, we are reminded that “The LORD was with Joseph…”. God is still working out his plan, in and through Joseph. How much do we trust God’s plans wherever he puts us?