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The Slandered Pilgrim

“But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand; There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back anything from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Genesis 39:8, 9.

In the prophecy which Jacob made concerning his sons just before he died in Egypt, we find these words concern­ing his beloved son: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him and hated him.” (Gen. 49:22 – 23) How true these words were of this young saint as he was bitterly tormented right in his own father’s house. Nor does this picture change as we find him as an alien in a strange land, living among hostile foreigners. Here, too, the archers sorely grieve him as they pierce his heart with bitter arrows of hatred and cruelty. However, the Lord preserves those that are His, keeping His saints from being defiled with the corruptions of this world.

Just as last time, the experience of Joseph quoted above teaches us the kind of treatment the member of the Church may expect as he lives in harmony with his confession that he is a pilgrim and a stranger in this world.  Now as then, when the saints are faithful to the God Who hath called them, malicious accusations and lies are hurled against them by those that hate the light and the truth. But according to Jesus’ words in Matthew five, nothing is a clearer sign of belonging to Him than when men revile us, persecute us, and say all manner of evil against us falsely. The saints must know that they are always blessed, even when they are being slandered.

A Sore Temptation

After Joseph had been sold by his brothers to some traveling salesmen and taken to Egypt, he is brought to the slave market where he is purchased by Potiphar, one of the high officers of the king. It was the duty of this officer to preserve peace in the precincts around the palace, and it fell to him to be the personal bodyguard of Pharoah on public occasions. Into the service of this officer Joseph now enters. It is very striking that Joseph in his lonely position as a slave sets out immediately upon his new duties! He doesn’t sit around moping with a hanged-dog, resigned look on his face. But out of a deep reservoir of his faith he draws the necessary strength, courage and hope to do his work and to do it well! Joseph puts me to shame here, does he not you? Many are the times when we say, What’s the use? We work hard at things. We want for things to go smoothly and uprightly. And yet everything seems to hit the skids. Yet here we have Joseph, whose life was not merely altered a bit, but had come tumbling down about his head. . .an alien in a strange land, a slave in an unbeliever’s house. . .and with courage and contentment he sets about his appointed work!

The Lord was with Joseph so that all he did was made to prosper. Soon the master of the house made the young Hebrew his chief steward or major domo; all of Potiphar’s house­hold, possessions, and business deal­ings were in his hands. The Lord promoted His young servant, and even blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; not as though God had any favor or grace towards the unbelieving Egyptian, but for the sake of Joseph and the cause of His kingdom He caused the house of Potiphar to prosper.

Along with this promotion of Joseph the Lord sends a very severe trial. Usually this is the case. With blessings and honor come responsibil­ities. A prominent position in the world confronts the child of God with the question of choosing between worldly honor and practices of fidelity to his God. As Joseph goes about his work, Potiphar’s wife observes him; her eyes fall upon his manly physique and youthful strength. She becomes so infatuated with him that she begins to approach him suggestively with im­proper demands. And this all constitu­ted a very real temptation for this young man who possessed the normal desires created in a person. Besides, living in Egypt he was separated from the good influence and instruction of his father. If his godliness had only been on the surface, he certainly would have yielded to this temptation as many a youth has in similar circumstances. So there was this matter of lust to contend with.

Another aspect of this trial for Joseph is that by way of a liaison with Potiphar’s wife, a short and alluring way to power presents itself. Potiphar would be removed and Joseph could take his place, no longer a slave but a chief officer of the king! Thus, undoubtedly, this wicked woman spoke to him, and so also the devil speaks today, promising us the whole world if only he be served first. Other men have stooped to advance their own interests this way. Why not he, especially since great things had been predicted for him, and no one would ever know? The temptation is very real.

A Steadfast Resistance

Joseph resisted at the first and he resisted to the end! Not because there was no appetite for fleshly things or that he lacked ambition. Rather, as far as the things of the flesh were concerned, he had learned in the school of grace to keep physical appetites in their proper place, that is, in subserv­ience to the service of God. Joseph believed in God and sought to serve him in all places and all cases. At home or in a strange land, it was not going to make any difference; by grace he would worship his God and wait on him to bring things to pass!

This was no half-hearted, reluctant decision on his part. You know, sometimes we can reject evil with such reluctance. We say no, but we almost wish sometimes we could say yes, and we almost give the impression that we are saying yes. Not so with this young saint of God! In a three-fold way he attempts to dissuade her from this evil course. First, let her consider his master. How could he betray him after such great trust had been placed in him? Secondly, let her consider herself!  She has been kept back by Potiphar from Joseph. She may esteem the institution of marriage very lightly, as apparently she does, but to Joseph this institution of God is very important and holy! He will not interfere with their marriage bond. And finally, the most important ground for his refusal is that he “cannot do this great wickedness, and sin against God!”

Oh! those are beautiful words! There is something here for us all, but especially for the young men and women in the church who are often tempted in this same way. I am reminded of that great question of Psalm 119, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?” Is that a concern that you have? Is it your desire that your way may be clean, pure, chaste, or godly? The answer of the Psalmist is, “By taking heed thereto according to thy Word.’’ That was really Joseph’s answer; he said, “I cannot do this great wickedness and sin against God.’’ We ought to let those words sink into our souls a little while. Today, in addition to sexual unclean­ness, temptations take the form of drive-in theaters, taverns, dance-halls and cabarets; you are encouraged to take alcohol to boost your self-image, and drugs if you really need a lift. But in all this Satan would erase God from our consciousness! He tells us to adopt modern business practices, to change our attitude toward the Sabbath Day, to forget the antithesis, and adopt a life style of tolerance for the world, its organizations, pursuits and goals. And in all this he would erase God from our consciousness!

And although some external con­siderations may, for a time, restrain us from submitting to these evil entice­ments, the only real safeguard is the deep consciousness that to do these things is to do wickedness against God! You see, don’t you, that if your resistance to evil is based only on some external restraints, once those re­straints are removed there is no defense left. If we don’t do something merely because parents say not to, what happens when our parents are not there? If you don’t go to certain places because your Christian friends will not approve, what will you do when those friends are far removed and you are surrounded by the enemies of your soul? Joseph was far away from parents and friends, but he stood consciously before his God! And he loved God and against Him he would do no wickedness. That personal, loving relationship with God which is the Spirit-worked result of His great love for us is the only safeguard in the midst of temptation. Joseph is a fine example of a young Christian who knows God and enjoys fellowship with the Most High!

Because he maintained his integ­rity and upheld the honor of God by being faithful to His precepts, he had to suffer the bitter consequence of well-doing. The furious wife of Potiphar was a woman spurned! The light of God in the young Hebrew revealed the terrible darkness in her. Thus, the coat she had aggressively torn from Joseph becomes the symbol with which she will slander him, first before the household and later before her hus­band. He is the fornicator, not she. His morals are low, not hers. And when Potiphar comes home, he discharges Joseph without a hearing, casting him immediately into prison. We may ask. Is this always the end of the righteous? Young children can sometimes come to that conclusion after they have suffered

some indignity or been ostracized for some well-doing. Then they begin to think that-it doesn’t pay to be truthful and upright. Better to tone things down a bit, compromise here and there, do what everyone else is doing. If a child assumes that attitude and does not forsake it, it will carry over into the teenaged years, and then into adult­hood. Therefore, parents must be quick to encourage their children in the way of faithfulness, come what may. Our youth must be shown by patient word and careful example that they must be guided by this consideration: if I do this or that, will I be committing an evil against God. If so, he must not do it! And covenant youth must learn to say that too! Let them say cheerfully, “Let it be that way with me then, for my God’s sake!”

A Living Example

The believer who makes it his living confession that he is a pilgrim on this earth will be slandered and maliciously spoken against. This was the treatment accorded Joseph not only, but this was the experience of our Lord many centuries later. The endur­ance of this belongs to the cross that must be taken up and borne to the end of this life by every true disciple. We must be careful not to deceive our­selves into thinking that because we live in a “Christian land” or “Christian community” we will not suffer perse­cution for righteousness sake. It would be better to investigate ourselves to discover why that world leaves us alone, tolerates us, and even compli­ments us. Does our walk fail to reveal important aspects of our faith? Have we learned to avoid unpleasantness by compromising? Has the church become like the world for the sake of maintaining good will? And is the result of all this that the church brings forth children and young people which have no distinctive, spiritual identity?

When the church walks faithfully after her Redeemer-Head, and shows herself to be the light of the world, she will be assailed and slandered. Since this was so eminently true of Jesus, on what ground can His disciples exempt themselves? It has been given us of grace, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Believe that. And believe that through it all God is preparing you for exaltation, honor and glory. As branches in the Vine, struggle on through the storms of life. Rest in God Who will never forsake you, but will be your faithful Guide unto death. He will crown you when the battle is over.