Thursday, April 17, 2008

Temptation Island - Egypt Edition

If there is one thing we can all understand it is sensual temptation. You just can’t live your life free from it. Unfortunately, for far too many the result is unwise decisions and moral failure. This week I was reading Genesis 39 which is the story of Joseph’s temptation by Potiphar’s wife…I think her name was 'Hotiphar'. Anyway, as I read, a few principles stuck out to me.

First, I noticed that the ability to resist sensual temptation begins with making the priority of your life your relationship with Christ rather than the reality of your circumstances. Face it, Joseph’s life’s circumstances took a major nose dive. He went from being the favored son of Jacob with dreams indicating that he would one day have his brothers bowing before him to having those same brothers betray him, throw him in a pit and then sell him into slavery. He ends up in a strange land all by himself and likely to never see his loving father again. Next thing you know, he is being seduced by a beautiful Egyptian woman. Most believers would have said, “Hey, what has God done for me lately? I’ve been betrayed. I’m lonely. And now a beautiful woman has shown interest in me. I deserve this indulgence!” In all honesty, when our circumstances go south we often give into temptation more easily. But not Joseph. Even in slavery in Egypt the Lord was with Joseph and he was not going to sin against his God.

Second, I saw that with success comes greater vulnerability to sensual temptation. Joseph gets bought on the auction block by the captain of Pharaoh’s guards. This heathen man could see that the hand of God was on Joseph’s life. Before you know it, he puts Joseph in charge of all that he owns and God causes it to prosper. Joseph is riding high on his spiritual, vocational and economical success. But more than that, Genesis 39 teaches us clearly that Joseph was also very good-looking and well built. It was all of these successes that caught the eye of Pharaoh’s wife who then seduces him. I’m not saying that poor and unsuccessful people are not tempted. Neither am I saying that if you have fallen out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on your way down that you will never face sensual temptations. But the truth is that the more rich, powerful and physically attractive you are, and the more success you discover, the more sensual temptation you will likely face.

Third, I saw that the only way to deal with sensual temptation is directly and firmly. Read the account in Genesis 39. Joseph didn’t play with fire. He made it clear from the very beginning where he stood and he did everything within his power to avoid the very temptations he faced even to the point of running as fast he could run away from it.

Finally, I saw that we must also realize that when we make the right decision the immediate circumstances are not always to our liking. Joseph did the right thing. He ran. He rejected the sensual temptation when it would have been so to his liking to indulge and so easy to then rationalize. And what did he get for it in the immediate? He got wrongly accused of raping Potipahr's wife and thrown into prison. How fair is that? Yet, as the story continues, this trip to prison would end up taking Joseph to all new heights.

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