We continue with Joseph’s story in today’s post to pull out some principles and behaviors that highlight how a Christian’s belief that God is working everything for our good should power our actions and cause us to stand out in a crowd.
Genesis 39 (My Telling)
Joseph was blind from weariness and thirst. He had been walking for miles tied to a load attached to a camel. He didn’t understand what was happening. If this was a joke his brothers had plotted, it wasn’t funny anymore.
It had to be a joke. His brothers couldn’t hate him so much as to have sold him into slavery. He made the journey believeing that at any moment his brothers would show up and take him home, but the farther and farther the caravan traveled, the more hope he lost in this being some kind of misunderstanding or farce.
When he arrived in Egypt, he no longer clung to the hope that anyone would come to rescue him. As the doubt of salvation set in, he cried out to the God of his fathers, and by the time the journey was over, He was the God of Joseph.
He had talked to Him all along the way. He knew that only Adonai could help him get through his present circumstances. Joseph learned to trust God on the journey to slavery.
No longer was he the favored child, left to dream. Now, he had to work with no hope of inheritance or share in the benefits. As he prayed to God, he listened for instructions on how to survive this barren season of his life.
He mourned the loss of his family, his home, and his freedom, but he never lost God. He held onto the hope that one day he would be free, and he knew only Adonai could do this for him.
He settled in the home of a man named Potiphar. He was the newest slave, so he was tasked with the worst duties. When he felt hopeless, or sad, he prayed. If something good happened, he prayed. When he felt inspired, he prayed. When faced with a quandary in his work, he prayed.
God showed him how to be the best slave he could possibly be. He worked with integrity and a smile, and Potiphar noticed. However, he was not the only one that was aware of Joseph’s value.
Potiphar’s wife noticed his work ethic as well, but she was more interested in his physique. As Joseph worked hard day after day, he developed muscles he didn’t have when he first arrived. She lusted after him and plotted the moment she would make her move.
She treated Joseph very kindly, much better than all the other servants and slaves. She tried to prime him for her extramarital uses with allowances and gifts that other slaves did not receive.
Finally the day arrived. She asked all her servants to leave the room. She asked Joseph to fill her chalice with wine and bring it to her, as she moved to lounge on a gold trimmed couch in her inner room. When he neared her, she revealed her bare thigh and asked Joseph to massage her leg.
“Mistress, I will call one of your ladies in waiting. I have not been trained in the art of massage,” Joseph replied.
“I do not want my ladies in waiting. I need your big, strong hands to work out the kinks.”
“It would not be appropriate for me to massage your leg, mistress. Please allow me to call your ladies in waiting. They’ll be here before you know it.”
“Didn’t you hear what I said? I don’t want them. I want you!” Potiphar’ s wife rose from the couch and began walking toward Joseph. With each step she took, he took one step backward.
In this moment, Joseph knew what was happening. She was being very clear about what she wanted from him. He knew this moment would be a defining one. He knew that if he gave her what she desired, he would want for nothing moving forward. He knew he could get away with it because he had gained Potiphar’s trust. He knew this could be the fast track to one day buying his freedom and having a better life.
He knew also that this was wrong. He knew that Adonai would not be pleased, and this couldn’t be the track to freedom that He had divined for him. He knew he could not do this.
In one quick moment, all these thoughts passed through his mind. Before he even realized it, he had told her he would under no circumstances do what she was asking. She came at him with force, uncovering her naked body and begging him to take her.
He had to escape. He wrestled his hands from her grip and ran from the room. As he exited, she grabbed hold of his tunic and refused to let go. Joseph slipped out of it and kept running, without looking back.
He sat in his quarters praying. He knew that his refusal would not be taken lightly. Would she have him whipped for misconduct? Would he return to the worst duties meant for new slaves? Would he be sold to someone else and have to start over? He begged Adonai to prepare him for whatever consequences he would face as a result of his obedience to Him.
Joseph was not ready for what Potiphar’s wife did.
Smile in the Face of Ugly
Joseph was in a horrible situation to begin with. He was a slave. How did he approach his work in such a way that caused his master to sit up and take notice? I’d have done the bare minimum, just enough to not get whipped. I would never have offered a smile. I would have been on a mission to let my masters know that I was not happy about being a slave.
I would have wondered where God was. I would have questioned how any good could come of this. I would have begged Him to make it stop. I would have tried to escape. I would have…I could go on forever about the different choices I would have made had I been in the same situation.
The Bible shows us that Joseph gained favor in his master’s sight and everything he touched prospered. We see that Joseph was industrious and God blessed Potiphar’s house because Joseph was running it (Gen. 39:2-6).
Joseph was working for Potiphar the way we work…when we are being compensated. He must have given service with a smile. He probably didn’t cheat on his time card. He most likely didn’t steal from his boss’s revenue.
It seems Joseph was a model employee, only he wasn’t. He was a slave. A very good slave. So good and so trustworthy that Potiphar allowed him to make every decision in the house, except what he, Potiphar, ate.
Because we know God, and we trust that He is working for our good at all times, we can face ugly situations with a smile. We can exercise integrity and refuse to take short cuts to a better place. We can soak up the lessons of the moment, as bad a moment as it may be, and wait to come out victorious and better as a result of what we’ve been through.
Joseph chose to squeeze every drop of good out of something bad. Joseph’s slavery was training for the future, unbeknownst to him. He was learning how to be an effective leader, and the right people took notice. They were drawn to the unmistakable qualities of God they saw in him.
I don’t know what ugly situation you may be facing, but in the midst, can you manifest the character of God for others to see? Can you cause others to prosper because you are around? Can you learn through the pain? Can you deliver service with a smile, even though you are hurting?
I am not talking about “fake it ‘til you make it”. I’m talking about trusting God so much that you refuse to lose it in a tough situation.
Refuse to lose your integrity, your joy, your upbringing, your work ethic, your beliefs, your sweet spirit, and or your mind when faced with bad or ugly situations.
Go, instead, to the rock that is higher than you or I (Psalm 61:2) and allow Him to clothe you in such a way that others will take notice. Make your ugly situation beautiful with your outlook and your performance…no matter what!