Next Time You Fail

Genesis 39:8-9, “But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?’

Let’s take a moment today to fully consider Joseph’s situation. Joseph has been doing his job, making the most of what could and should have been a devastating turn of events. Remember? He is not the youth pastor at a local church. He is not some up and coming business executive. He is a slave. There is no future for him. No brighter or better tomorrow. There is no ladder that he can climb. In fact, he has already peaked and the only benefit that he gained was more work and greater responsibility. Most of us would certainly understand if he had been lacking in the area of “job loyalty.” A lesser man would have easily convinced himself that an affair with the master’s wife was certainly deserved. But Joseph refused.

We could also understand if Joseph had been struggling with bitterness. His brothers had beat him, tossed him in a pit, and then sold him into slavery. The last family image Joseph had was that of his brothers counting the silver as he was led off into captivity. Anger? Resentment? Unforgiveness? Nothing hurts like the pain that family inflicts. It would have been easy for him to pick at his wounds and foster an attitude of remorse. His family had certainly deserted him. A lesser man would have used his pain as an excuse. “Others have hurt me. So, I will hurt others. Yes, she is my master’s wife, but I have a good reason. Life has been unkind. Life has been unfair. I have a justification. I deserve something.” But Joseph refused.

There is the whole arena of physical desire as well. Joseph was a young man, probably still a virgin. Surely, the same passions that each of us experience were also common to his life. A younger man being seduced by an older woman? Our society is filled with modern day examples and I doubt that ancient Egyptian was much different. Sex has always been an issue throughout world history. It is so eay to deceive ourselves when we really want something. “No one will ever know. We are consenting adults. Who is it really going to hurt? Just this one time. It will make me feel good.”  A lesser man would have surrendered his convictions to desire and given in to her advances. A lesser man would have sacrificed his future for momentary pleasure. But Joseph refused.

Of all the things that happened in the life of Joseph, his refusal is the one thing that truly amazes me. The brothers’ envy and hatred is appalling but it does not surprise me. It bothers me that the cupbearer forgot Joseph but, again, that does not surprise me. The fact that Joseph forgave his brothers? Certainly hard to process but I can understand. They are family. But the fact that Joseph was able to look temptation square in the eye and say “no”? That leaves me speechless. See, I have no illusions about myself. I am a lesser man. I will be the first one to admit it. My life is full of failure. I fall. Frequently. I am a great sinner. And if I had been in Joseph’s situaion, I feel pretty confident that the story would have read a little differently. That is all the more reason that I rejoice in grace. In a way that I will never fully understand, God sent the Greater One, Jesus, to die for this lesser man. His refusal of sin and His acceptance of death on a cross has made a way for me. Because of Jesus I am forgiven. Because of Jesus I am free. Do I deserve it? No. But God has provided it because of His love and grace. And that is something that this lesser man is not going to refuse.