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This week's Bible Study - October 19, 2014


Beyond Temptation

Background Scripture: Genesis 39:3-12  

Quotes of the Week:
Most people would like to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch.
Robert Orben

In a 2011 Survey on Top Temptations faced by Americans , these were the conclusions.

  1. Worrying or being anxious
  2. Procrastinating or putting things off
  3. Eating too much
  4. Spending too much time on media
  5. Being lazy
  6. Spending more money than they could afford
  7. Gossiping about others
  8. Being jealous or envious of others
  9. Viewing pornography or sexually explicit material
  10. Abusing alcohol or drugs
In the survey, the participants were asked if they tried to do anything specific to avoid giving in to temptation and most of them (59%) said no. The top four reasons for giving in to temptations were
  1. Not really sure
  2. Escape or get away from "real life"
  3. Feel less pain or loneliness
  4. Satisfy other people's expectations of me
We all are tempted in many different ways. It is interesting that some temptations are very difficult for certain people to deal with, while they have little to no impact on others. Sexual temptation is prevalent in today's culture and it is certainly a temptation for a lot of people. I know in watching a ton of baseball games on TV, both Berkley and I have been sickened by the various Hardees commercials that are sexual in nature. That's certainly not the only such explicit commercial that will show up during prime time viewing. While there are no small kids in our house anymore, it would be difficult to watch TV without having to explain some things that would make most parents uncomfortable around their young kids. Of course, it's not just commercials that bring this temptation - all sorts of movies, TV shows and online sites bank on the ability to tempt people. Even the prime time programs that are shown today are full of innuendo that distorts our thinking.

Perhaps it isn't a sexual temptation that you deal with. There are people that are tempted to make a quick return on their investment, regardless of whatever it takes to make that happen. Businessmen and businesswomen can be very unscrupulous, due to financial temptations. Other people may be tempted to gossip about things, in that they receive some sort of power or recognition by sharing their stories. This is often seen in churches, where there is a high standard in righteous living that is expected. When someone fails, they become the seeds of a gossip tree that can spread far and wide. This certainly is not to condone any failure, but it can become that the gossip that follows a failure is much worse than the failure itself. There are so many people that are outside of church, dealing with their own issues and when they see church members attacking one another, it only goes to show that they really don't want to be part of that group.

There are also the other classes of temptations that tend to pull us away from what we desire in life. If you are in a difficult work environment that begins to talk about layoffs, there is the temptation to be involved in all sorts of discussions that are detrimental to your own work performance. If you are trying to stay on a diet, there is the temptation to eat sweets that work against your goals. If you feel better when you buy things, there is the temptation to spend more on 'things' than the amount of money you have in the bank. Temptations impact all of us, and we all have a choice to give in or stand firm. In this lesson, we'll see how Joseph was tempted in a sexual way by Potiphar's wife.

( Genesis 39:3-5 )

If you know of Joseph's story, you know that he was sold into slavery by his brothers to the Ishmaelites, who then sold Joseph to the Egyptians (specifically Potiphar). Of course, there are many more words that could be said about that story, but that is left to the reader. What we do know about Joseph was that the Lord was with Joseph wherever he went and he gave him success in all he did. Can you imagine being Joseph and being treated so badly by your own family? He had a choice to make. He could either spend his time and energy focusing on what had happened and the difficult situation he was in, or he could try and see where God was leading. We read that the Lord was with Joseph, which would imply that Joseph was with the Lord. Did that mean that everything went as Joseph would hope for? Certainly it did not seem to be the best situation for him, but he chose to focus on where God was leading, rather than what had happened or his current state.

It wasn't just that the Lord was with Joseph, but his master, Potiphar, also saw this. Potiphar clearly saw that there was something different about Joseph and that he was successful in everything he did. Potiphar took note of Joseph and brought him as his own attendant. If you have watched any of the show Downton Abbey, you know about the personal valets and ladies maids of the family. This is not what Potiphar did in taking Joseph. He actually put Joseph in charge of his household and entrusted to him everything that he owned. The Lord continued to bless Potiphar's household because of Joseph. This blessing impacted everything Potiphar had in the house and in the field.

( Genesis 39:6-7 )

Joseph became a star in Potiphar's household, at least according to Potiphar. He trusted Joseph implicitly and put him in charge of everything he had. The only thing that Potiphar wanted to control was the food that he ate. Isn't it amazing that Joseph went from being put in a cistern by his brothers, sold to Ishmaelites and then to Pottiphar as a slave to being in charge of Potiphar's household?

We read the next part about Joseph that he was well-built and handsome. This must have turned a few heads, not only due to the rags to riches story of Joseph, but also his physical appearance. Over time, Potiphar's wife took notice of Joseph and said "Come to bed with me!". It would seem likely that she had tried to coax Joseph in subtle ways in the past, but since that hadn't worked, she took a particularly brazen approach. This is much how sin and temptation works today. It doesn't often begin so overtly, but as we accept things, little by little, we allow the opening for a full blown attack.

( Genesis 39:9-10 )

Can you imagine the dilemma that Joseph was placed in? This was his master's wife that was trying to tempt him sexually. You would have to think that Joseph was taken back by this, at least in some manner. In some ways, Potiphar's wife was his superior, and surely the fact that Joseph was well built and handsome led to her desire for him. However, Joseph told her that he had been put in charge of everything that Potiphar owned and that Potiphar had withheld nothing from Joseph, except her, because she was his wife. Joseph wanted her to know that he was loyal to Potiphar and to sleep with his wife would have not only been a wicked thing to Potiphar, but would also be sin against God.

Perhaps Potpihar's wife listened and moved on. But, we read in verse 10 that she spoke to Joseph day after day. There was no way that he could avoid her altogether, but Joseph took care to ensure that he was not alone with her.

( Genesis 39:11-12 )

Even with trying to control the situation, there were likely some times when Joseph would be alone and she would approach him. On one of those days, he was attending to his duties within the house and none of the other household servants were inside. She came in, caught Joseph by his cloak and said "Come to bed with me!". Joseph, unwilling to give in, turned to run and she kept his cloak in her hand as he ran out of the house.

Once again, Joseph tried to do the right thing. However, Potiphar's wife was unrelenting and kept pushing herself on him. Joseph did the right thing by turning and running, as opposed to giving in. However, Joseph's rocky circumstance in life was going to continue, as we will see in later chapters.

Closing

While this story is about Joseph and how God was with him, the question comes back to each of us. Are we more focused on the things that others have done that have caused us discomfort or are we focusing on where God would be leading us? Joseph's brothers were very jealous of Joseph and were tempted to get rid of him. They gave in to their temptation, selling their brother into slavery. Joseph, on the other hand, had every reason to be upset and to allow that to rule his life. He dealt with the temptation to dwell on the past. However, he carried forward and the Lord was with him.

We read that Potiphar took note of how the Lord was working in Joseph's life. Again, the question comes back to each of us. What do others around you see in how you live your life? I would venture to say that others are more concerned in seeing how we respond to issues in life, rather than just seeing our successes. Potiphar likely had heard the story of Joseph, but I would imagine it may have been shared only as background, as opposed to the focus. I believe that our friends, associates, neighbors and co-workers are more interested in seeing how we move forward than how much we look back. I have often thought about collateral damage, where the impact of a weapon can cause damage to more than the target. Have you ever thought about how we are either bringing collateral benefit or collateral damage to those around us? This is largely based on how we handle problems in life. Are you bringing benefit or damage to those around you?

As Joseph was focused on where God was leading, Potiphar saw a man that was capable and he put Joseph in charge of much. I truly believe that if Joseph had given in to the temptation to dwell on the past, Potiphar never would have elevated Joseph. One part of the Lord being with Joseph was that Joseph was more concerned about where the Lord was leading as opposed to where he had been.

We read that Potpihar's wife persisted in trying to win Joseph over. Joseph took active steps to ensure that he would not be alone with her in order to guard the situation. It is amazing how strong we think we are. There are some things that many of us would say that we would never ever do, and because of that, we often allow ourselves to be put into compromising situations. If you knew that you were under attack, would you let an enemy into your house? You would certainly set up some guards to keep that from happening. However, some people would assume that they are immune to giving in, so they allow themselves to be tempted openly. What guards do you need to put up in your life? In what areas are you tempted, and what do you need to do to help yourself deal with those temptations or to remove those temptations from your life? If Joseph had not been so diligent, the outcome of this story may have been very different.

Note that Joseph did nothing wrong in this story. He setup boundaries to protect himself from giving in to temptation, but it led to more problems. There are times when in attempting to do the right thing, you may suffer consequences, as we will see in Joseph's life. The consequences that he suffered, however, were much less than what we he would have had to live with, had he given in. Even if he hadn't been found out, how would we feel when he was around Potiphar, knowing that he had slept with Potiphar's wife? And, more importantly, how would he feel knowing that the Lord had given him such success and he took it for granted, in giving into his own temptations?

Perhaps you can relate to one or more of these areas. Maybe at some point, you did give in and whether you were found out or not, you have to deal with what you have done. Those types of failures in our own lives can cause us great grief personally. Relationships can be destroyed because of something that we know is stupid and should have been avoided. We all know of the problems associated with giving into temptation, as it impacts us either personally or with others in our lives. As believers, we desire to live a life that is pleasing to God. Resolve once again to live for Him and to do whatever you need to do to give yourself that success to avoid the downfalls that can impact you personally or with others. Know that the Lord desires to be with you - do you desire to be with the Lord?




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