When doing right brings trouble (a devotion)

This post is part of a continuing devotional series as we read through the Bible together as a church…

 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” ~ Genesis 39:7-9

Joseph’s story is given a lot of space at the end of Genesis. In chapter 37, we see him essentially as a bratty tattletale who basks in the favor of his father yet receives the ire of his brothers. At one point they desired to kill him (sibling rivalry to an extreme), but instead sell him as a slave who eventually ends up in Egypt.

Somewhere between chapters 37 and 39, Joseph developed a greater focus on God.

Even in his servitude, God prospered Joseph’s work to the point that Potiphar, his master, set him over everything in his household. As Joseph went about his work, Potiphar’s wife began to desire him and sought to entice him into an affair. Because of his love for God and neighbor (Potiphar), Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife continued her enticement until one day she grabbed hold of his shirt and refused to let go until he agreed.

Instead, Joseph ran from the house (literally doing what Paul would much later command:  flee youthful passions—2 Timothy 2:22) but his clothing remained in her hands. In anger over his refusals, she called out until other men of the house arrived and finally her husband. To each she accused Joseph of seeking to violate her. Out of his anger, Potiphar threw Joseph into prison where he remained for well over two years.

Joseph’s story reminds us that sometimes things go very wrong even when we try to do what is right and honoring to God. Peter spoke about this as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

In both cases we see that even if others make false accusations against us or even if it costs us greatly, we are to still seek to do what is right and honorable.

In Joseph’s story we see God continue to guide him and sustain him throughout all the evil which was done to him. As bratty as he may have been around his brothers, they should not have sold him as a slave and deceived their father by making it seem as if a wild animal had killed him. Then after being thrown in prison by Potiphar, the king’s cupbearer and baker joined Joseph for a time. He interpreted a dream of the cupbearer favorably with one request: “Remember me when you get out.” Yet the cupbearer forgot until two years had passed.

In every circumstance Joseph could have become angry and bitter. He could have lashed out and lived in despair. When he interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and rose to second in command over Egypt, he could have used his power to exact revenge on those who had harmed him.

Instead he trusted God and showed kindness. In 50:20-21, he responded to his brothers’ fears by pointing to his trust in God’s sovereignty: what you intended for evil, God has intended for good; and he provided for the needs of his brothers and their families.

Peter said the same basic thing: others might accuse you, but keep doing good—many times over, the Bible displays showing love and kindness to others (friend and enemy) as doing good.

When we look to the story of Joseph and when we look to God who is a display of goodness in all things, we see that when others falsely accuse us, when they betray us, when they break their promises, and when it will cost us we are to keep doing what is right.

After all, like Joseph and like Peter we follow the Lord (the better Joseph—Jesus) who was betrayed, accused, and ultimately murdered, yet it all fit into God’s good plan for our salvation and our call to follow him.

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