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with Ann Maniscalco
Genesis 39: 3-12
Four-year-old Cody smelled the cake baking, and watched his mother frost it when it cooled. She had let her young son help measure the ingredients and pour the batter into the pan, telling him he could go with her to take it to a friend who had a new baby. Carefully placing a lid on the confectionary delight, Cody’s mom went to call the family to schedule a time to drop it off.
Temptation swept over the young boy. The cake smelled so good! Although he knew he shouldn’t, he decided to have just a taste of the icing, and, standing on a chair, he carefully lifted the lid. Suddenly, the chair slipped out from under him, and he tried to catch himself. Both he and the cake hit the floor. At a young age, Cody learned a lesson about what can happen when one yields to temptation.
This childhood mishap produced only a minor inconvenience. However, we all know of instances when yielding to the devil’s enticement has produced long-term, disastrous consequences. Perhaps we’ve even caused such ourselves by choosing to do something we knew was wrong. Yes, temptation rears its ugly head through countless avenues; this week, we’ll see one Joseph faced.
Our previous lesson concluded with a brief introduction to this new phase of Joseph’s life, as he became a servant in the household of Potiphar, a high-ranking Egyptian official. Genesis 39:2 tells us the Lord was with Joseph, who could have still been in his late teens at this time (see Gen. 37:2). God’s presence, power and guidance gave the young Hebrew “success in everything he did” (vs. 3 NIV), and his master took note of this. With the utmost confidence, Potiphar gave the competent young man charge over his household, and all he owned (vs. 4). The result? “The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had.”
Verse 6 describes Joseph as “well-built and handsome”. Potiphar’s wife noticed these attributes, and sexual desire began to well up inside her. “Come to bed with me”, she said to the young servant. The manner of the language could mean it wasn’t just a request; it was an order. Joseph had the right response: he refused. Declaring the trust his master had in him, he also related that to do as she asked would be a “sin against God” (vs. 9).
Temptation has a way of relentlessly presenting itself to us, does it not? As we think of areas where we’re weak, we realize it is an unending battle. Joseph faced the same thing – Potiphar’s wife enticed him “day after day” (vs 10), but he steadfastly stayed his course. Continuing to refuse her advances, he made a conscious effort to even avoid being around her.
One day, Joseph’s duties called him into the house. However, there were no servants inside. The woman who had proved to be his nemesis decided to take full advantage of this situation. Grabbing his cloak, she again sought to lure him into a sinful rendezvous (vs 22). Joseph wrenched away, running out of the house, leaving the woman holding a garment she’d scornfully use, leading to an undesirable turn of events.
What can we learn from this lesson? First, that even when we try to do right, temptation still stalks us. And sometimes resisting makes life uncomfortable instead of better. But in such instances, God is pleased, and has a reward down the road. 1 Peter 2:20 (NRSV) tells us, “If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.”
It’s also evident that, to overcome temptation, there are times when we must stand strong, and other times when we’d best do what Joseph did: run. Get as far away from the situation as possible! Ephesians 6:11 (NIV) calls saints to equip themselves with “the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” 2 Timothy 2:22 (LB) says, “Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have, but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right.”
In Joseph’s situation, he was actually following both of these scriptural admonitions. He had stood strong, but in the end, he knew it was time to take flight. Consider temptations you face. Which should you stand up to? From which should you run?
Maniscalco is a member of Lemoyne Boulevard Church in Biloxi.