Adam and Eve fell. Moses fell. Achan fell. King David fell. The stories I’ve told over the past few weeks have been heartbreaking. Today, I want to write a story about someone who didn’t fall. With Easter just around the corner, it’s time to celebrate a win!
Joseph’s backstory is painful. You can find his story in Genesis chapters 37 and 39. He is the youngest of twelve sons. At the time Joseph is born, his father Jacob is very old. Jacob takes a particular shine to Joseph. He gives Joseph a very colorful and ornamental robe. The father’s special treatment of his youngest son causes his older brothers to become very jealous. They hate him.
To add to the drama, Joseph has a couple of dreams where his family bows down to him. Joseph shares these dreams with his family. In a culture based on patriarchs and elders, such a dream was outlandish and profane. His father rebukes him and his brothers hate him all the more.
His brothers sell him into slavery. That’s a tough story. To go from being the favored son in a large family to being a slave in a far-off land is a devastating reversal. There is no doubt that such treacherous treatment would have made Joseph bitter.
But the LORD is with Joseph and he excels at everything he does. His success causes him to advance quickly and he is given authority over his slave master’s entire household. Joseph quickly gains elevation.
Then Joseph is presented with a tempting opportunity. The Bible says it perfectly, so I’ll just quote it here, “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’”
Yikes. That’s about as straightforward a proposition as anyone is ever going to get. Remember, Joseph is already vulnerable because of potential bitterness. His vulnerability is intensified by his sudden success and gain in elevation. He could easily rationalize his way into blackout — and into her bed.
However, Joseph doesn’t rationalize, so he doesn’t black out. He refuses her advances. Listen to how he does it, “With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph had prepared himself. He was ready to face this temptation.
But she persists. Day after day she pursues him, and day after day he refuses. I can imagine him reciting his defense again and again.
Then one day, he finds himself completely alone with her. The opportunity is perfect. Privacy removes any possible concern. Seizing the moment, she grabs him by the coat and begs him to sleep with her.
Vulnerability. Intensified vulnerability. Opportunity. It sure sounds like the predictable backstory to a fall. But Joseph escapes, leaving his coat in her hands. How did Joseph do it? How did he overcome a relentless temptation that could have caused him to fall?
The answer is simple: Joseph refused to rationalize. He built a solid defense and rehearsed and repeated it with every wave of temptation. This is what kept him from entering blackout and suffering the full force of gravity. He kept his mind clear and guarded himself by fully owning his responsibilities and the future consequences of his actions.
My friends, a fall is always possible, predictable and preventable. The autopsy of Joseph’s story reveals a predictable pattern. And that’s the whole point — because a fall is predictable, it is also preventable!
Are you living in the backstory to a fall? Have you been rationalizing your way out of your responsibilities and the consequences of bad decision-making? Please be cautioned. You are fooling around near a dangerous edge and a devastating fall is imminent. Wake up and look at reality! Your fall will cause damage — a lot of damage. People you love will suffer immensely. You will experience deep regret and loss. Identify the consequences and own them. Look clearly at the future and you will see the lie. It’s not too late to prevent a fall.
Talk to someone. Seek out a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. Confess your vulnerabilities and the temptations you are facing. Ask for help and build an effective defense. Exposing your vulnerabilities and temptations will be tough. Building and guarding your defense will require discipline and sacrifice. But guarding yourself and the people you love from the devastating consequences of a fall is worth it. Remember, you can stand on the heights! (Psalm 18:33)
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up it.” I Corinthians 10:13