Click here 12-07-22 The COAT of Many Colors – Tested and Triumphant to listen to the Word proclaimed.
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 39:1-6a
Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.
Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 39:6b-21
Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 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 could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, “See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.” When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison.
This week our story of Joseph picks right back up where we had left off last week. If you were not with us last week, Joseph was given a beautiful coat with long sleeves and many colors and his brothers despised him. After the telling of some dreams that seemed to hint at the day in which his brothers would bow down before him, they decided to rid their lives of their dear brother. Many ways they pondered on how to get rid of him: kill him, throw him in a pit for a long while to remind him of his place in the hierarchy in the family. Instead they sold him off to some traders heading to Egypt in hopes to never see their brother again.
This is where our tale picks up today. Joseph is sold to an officer of Pharaoh named Potiphar. And this is where we hear for the first time these truly important words. “The LORD was with Joseph” This is important for two reasons. One, since the beginning of this story that we have of Joseph, the LORD had no where been mentioned. Last week, you may remember we heard of Joseph’s dreams, but still no mention of the LORD being with Joseph. Again we send Joseph out to the fields with his brothers, still no mention of the LORD there. And finally, even after they sell him to the Midianites, there was no mention of the LORD there either. In Chapter 38, there is no mention of Joseph whatsoever, but rather it builds up the genealogy of Israel’s offspring as it was through one of those many relationships spoken about do we connect Jesus to Adam, but still no mentions of the LORD or Joseph throughout that entire chapter either. And suddenly, we have here Joseph being sold to the captain of the guard under Pharaoh, and the LORD is with Joseph. The second reason this is important is because the story teller of this story uses the same word for LORD (Adonai or He who is) here in Egypt that was used before with Joseph’s forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now of course, when we begin to split hairs, there is the understanding that Genesis was written in two different time periods and the word for God and LORD are written by two different sets of authors. (Yahweh or Elohim) However, both of these titles for the LORD are mixed throughout and the more important part, the theological point I want to make is this. The LORD that Joseph served is unlike the gods of any other. You see, in that time period the people served a polytheistic understanding of gods meaning that there were many gods. There was a god for the harvest, a god for this town, and another god for this one. For instance, the god of Red Valley would have been a god that only cared for this town, while the god of Rocky Mount was another god all together. And more importantly the gods would not move from place to place. This is one of the key characteristics that placed the God whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob served above the gods of the lands. And yet again, now with Joseph, the LORD came to a foreign land with Joseph and remained with Joseph. This set the God of Joseph different than any other god in that land.
Potiphar saw something different in Joseph, he saw the LORD working through this servant that he had bought. And so, because of this, Joseph was promoted as an overseer of all that was Potiphars, with the one exception of his wife. And this leads us now into the crux our sermon today.
Potiphar’s wife, who is never named but traditionally, has been known to the Jews as Zulaikha, apparently had an attraction for Joseph. She, was….well…rather nice to Joseph. Very warm and caring for all aspects of Joseph’s stay with them. Or we could be quite honest and let’s just say, “persistently offered her bed and she was an open invitation to Joseph.” So day after day, Potiphar’s wife came to Joseph and reminding him of this invitation she had given to him, tempting him. Before I make my point here, let me take a moment to define temptation. Temptation as I understand it, is anything that can entice us away from the will of the LORD. Now with that definition, it begs for me to question what could be a temptation. Clearly, the obvious answer in this story is lust. The temptation for Joseph is going and sleeping with Potiphar’s wife. But let me open this up a bit more. What things could keep us from the LORD’s will in our lives, what temptations are there out there. What about….spending excessive time on the internet? Could that be seen as a temptation that keeps us from doing God’s will? Or even our jobs, our work? Could we not use that as an excuse for not doing God’s will? Clearly, the one named in this story is a great one that I am sure many of us still deal with today. I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that the attractiveness of someone else other than my wife has ever been a temptation. Which I think leads me to the point I want to make. We as Christians have never believed that temptations would become obsolete. Temptations of the evil one, temptations of going against God’s will do not disappear when we become Christians. Satan continues to tempt just the same way a fisherman tempts the fish with a worm on a hook. The worm is there, but there is always consequences attached. A hook that without grace often ends in the death of that fish. So what is important, is how we treat those temptations. And how is it that we treat those temptations? We treat them just the same as the disciples were taught. Jesus teaches to pray in this way…Our Father in heaven….hallowed be your name…Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil….
I want us to note, rightly and firstly, Jesus instructs his disciples to PRAY. Joseph, I firmly believed overcame the temptations of Potiphar’s wife simply because Joseph had a relationship with God. And when I mean relationship, I mean one where Joseph communicated with God. Communication: speaking with God AND listening to God. How else are we to know the will of God if we do not spend that time in prayer. And so, as you look to your own temptations, and if you reflect and say, “Hmm…I do fall into temptations quite often…I want you to ask yourself when those times are happening, what is my relationship with God been like recently? Have I been praying, have I been reading scriptures for wisdom in my life?” And if you haven’t, I wonder if there is any correlation between the two. Actually, I don’t wonder…I know there is a correlation between those two. And the second lesson I want us to take away is Jesus does not tell his disciples to pray that temptations will cease, but rather the prayer Jesus taught is to not allow us to fall into those temptations. Joseph, did not ever ask God to remove Potiphar’s wife from him, but rather let’s look at how Joseph handled this temptation. Joseph says, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 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 could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Joseph names the temptation before him. He names the evil, and he names the reason as to why he will not do it. Joseph names that the sin is that you are a wife of another. And he names that he will not do it because it is a great wickedness and a sin…not against her, not against himself, but against GOD!
So, as we see, Joseph is tried, he is tempted, and He is triumphant overcoming this temptation day in and day out. So what is his great reward? This is where theologically speaking we get a bit confused. Potiphar’s wife tricks her husband in thinking Joseph tried to sleep with her against her will, and Joseph is sent to prison. So, as we read it that way, Joseph’s reward for doing what is right in the eyes of God, is being sent to prison. But let me offer as I close today an addition to the reading. Let me read for you the last verse of our scripture lesson today.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.
God did not forsake him, God did not leave him, God did not put him in prison, and God did not punish Joseph for an act he did not commit. God blessed Joseph, God showed him steadfast love when the world turned against Joseph. Might we sometimes re-consider what the word blessing means? (Go to the communion table) Might we remember that each and every week we are reminded of how much God shows us his steadfast love? Thanks be to God. Amen.
 Kugel, James. New Interpreters Dictionary of the Bible “Potiphar’s wife” pg. 573