Sunday, February 02, 2014

Joseph: Overcoming Sexual Temptations

Sexual temptations come easy these days. I’m sure they have always been around but with virtual dirty chats, porn downloads and livestreaming video feeds, they are much more accessible to more people, more discreet and so much more deadly, isn’t it? And it’s big business too. I came across an online dating website on Facebook recently. It has 21 million members and growing fast. Its niche market is for married people looking to hook up for sexual encounters. The tagline: “Life is short, Have an affair”.

 In the Scripture passage we read a moment ago, we read of a story about sexual temptation, a story of Joseph’s encounter with a desperate housewife. If we back up a little in the story, we read that Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers for 20 pieces of silver. He ended up in a faraway land, in Egypt, where he worked for Potiphar the captain of Pharaoh’s guards. But God was with him and blessed all that he did. Whatever projects were assigned to him, they were on time, within budget and of such quality that his master was very impressed and put him in charge of everything except his food. We are told that God’s favour was on Joseph and that he was also a good looking young man. “Handsome in form and appearance,” we are told.

Unfortunately that worked to his disadvantage. Because Potiphar’s wife took a liking to him and she tried to seduce him. “Sleep with me,” she offered. She wanted a bit of fun and passion on the side. How bad can that be? But Joseph refused her flat. “Thanks but no thanks. Your husband put me in charge of everything but he didn’t ask me to take care of you. Because you are his wife. Not mine”. And he would be right because sleeping with Potiphar’s wife was never part of his job scope. It would be a breach of trust to his boss.

 But Joseph went beyond that: “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” You see, Joseph could have said, “I’ve been dealt a cruel hand by Fate. I didn’t deserve to be a slave here in Egypt so I deserve this little bit of pleasure.” Or he could have rationalized: “I’m so successful in my career now. My boss will never find out anyway. I’m in charge of everything now. I deserve this pleasure”. Both self-pity and pride would have added fuel to the fire of his temptation. But he saw this choice in a God-centered way. Before adultery is a sin against his boss or his desperate housewife, it’s first and foremost a sin against God himself.

An affair is a betrayal of trust, absolutely. But you cannot commit any sine without first committing the sin of betraying God’s trust, of violating his will, of deriving pleasure apart from Him who is the source of all happiness. And Joseph knew that – How can I sin against heaven? Favour with God and right communion with Him is much better than any sex he was offered. So he refused her not once, not twice… but day after day, as she doesn’t take no for an answer. But one day when nobody’s at home, she caught him by his garment and tried to seduce him again. So he quickly ran away and left his garment in her hand. As the saying goes, “Hell knows no fury like a woman scorned”. With the garment as evidence, she accused Joseph of trying to molest her and her husband got so angry that he kicked Joseph into prison for sexual misconduct. Poor Joseph, he was punished for a shameful crime he did not commit. He suffered for something he did not deserve.

But the Lord was again with him and showed him steadfast love so that he prospered in all that he did even in prison. In the bigger scheme of God’s plan, we can see why He is taking Joseph through this painful route. We can see a huge contrast between Joseph’s life of purity in Egypt and Judah’s sordid family affairs in Canaan (Genesis 38). There are major moral problems in Jacob’s family – his grandsons were marrying pagan Canaanites, they did such wickedness that God had to put them to death. Even Judah the firstborn solicited cult prostitutes. They were becoming like the corrupt culture around them instead of being a blessing to the nations. They are losing their covenant identity. But here in Egypt God is now moving and preserving Joseph’s life in purity, preparing him to be the instrument that will save his family not only from famine but from the spiritual corruption in Canaan that would have wiped out God’s covenant family. Because unlike Judah, Joseph kept his heart pure and God’s favour was with him every step of the way.

So that in the fullness of time, the family line would be preserved from which the Messiah Himself would come. For He too would be sold by his brothers for a few pieces of silver. He too would refuse the lust of the eyes, the flesh and the pride of life for the sake of His Father’s will. He would also be slandered and made to suffer for something He did not deserve. He too was punished for a sin he did not commit. Jesus says: If you look at a woman lustfully, you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. And all of us have fallen short on this score. He died a death on the cross that we deserve so that sexually corrupt and adulterers like you and I could be forgive
n. So that God’s favour and steadfast love could now rest on all who would trust and obey Him as Lord.

 When that happens, everything changes. There’s no room for self-pity because you are unconditionally and dearly loved by God. So much so that He died for you. It costs him everything. There’s no room for pride because all our success is a gift from God who prospered what our hands are working on. It’s His favour. That takes away the fuel that feeds the flame of lust. The problem is not that our desire is too strong. It’s too weak. We settle for far too little. When you embrace this costly love of God, when you see and savour Christ for all He is, you begin to experience the expulsive power of a greater affection, a greater desire that overcomes the lure of sexual temptations.

Picture source is from here

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