It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.” But he refused…Genesis 39:7-8
He refused. “No.” One word. Only two letters. Such a small and seemingly insignificant expression. And yet, it is filled with both unbelievable and undeniable power. I wonder if Joseph had any idea what was actually at stake. As he opened his mouth to respond to his master’s wife, did he envision the impact that would result from that one decision? In a way that only time would reveal, his “no” was actually a “yes.” By saying no to temptation he was saying yes to everything that God had planned for his life. On the surface it was simply a refusal to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. But underneath the surface of his choice was the birthing of a destiny that would bring salvation to the entire known world.
Overly dramatic? I don’t think so. Ask some other people who made the opposite choice. Instead of refusing temptation they embraced their desires. The results? Esau would tell you that the bowl of beans satisfied his hunger at the moment but it certainly wasn’t worth the price of his birthright. David could explain that a night of illicit passion cannot be covered up and it’s consequences cannot be undone. Solomon would warn us that no amount of wisdom can overcome unbridled lust. The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who when faced with temptation chose the path of least resistance. We certainly are not lacking for warnings. Our lack seems to be the type of character and resolve that young Joseph so readily demonstrated. We forget at times the divine power that has been granted to us in the gift of choice. Think about it. All of the enemy’s best laid plans can be undone through one simple word. Temptation falls before even God’s smallest warrior with just one declaration.
Overly simplistic? Again, I don’t think so. Sure, there are extenuating circumstances that have to be considered. Factors such as intensity and duration. But as we will see in the notes ahead, Joseph wrestled with both and in the end it was still his choice that stayed the course. His first answer was “no.” And no matter how hard or how often his master’s wife tried to move him from his integrity his answer remained the same. From beginning to end he refused. And because he refused he did not lose the battle to maintain his purity. For some of us the struggle against temptation needs to begin with a closer look at our choices. In our minds we may be saying “no” but our hearts are saying something else entirely different. We love God. But we are still clinging to sin. With one hand we seek to push away that which the other hand is longing to embrace. If that’s the case, then it’s time to look to God for grace and strength. Come clean. Confess your failings and your sin. Receive His forgiveness. And ask God to change your choices. Yes, Joseph’s refusal was indeed remarkable. But it shouldn’t be the exception. In Christ, we can all find and experience the power to say “no.“