Devotional & Reflection

Week 1, June 2004

Gen 39 :
Success and Temptation

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 39:3 AWhen his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, (4) Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. (5) From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.

Can we detect the refrain that Joseph was successful and was blessed in everything he did as we read Gen 39? Before proceeding, we should pause and count the number of times this thought recurs in Gen 39.

"The Lord gave him success" => in Gen 39:3, 23 (twice)
Joseph found favour => in Gen 39:4, 21 (twice)
The Lord blessed => in Gen 39:5 (twice)
Joseph was put in charge => in Gen 39:4, 5, 6, 8 & 22 (5 times)
Joseph was entrusted => in Gen 39:4, 6 & 8 (3 times)

Before readers come to the wrong conclusion that success equates prosperity and material blessings, let us examine what is success. Our earlier devotional on Gen 24 reminds us that material blessings and earthly measures e.g. wealth, possessions, power, scholarships, high status, do not necessarily guarantee biblical success. We only have to look at Jesus to realize that He will be adjudged a failure if we use these earthly measures of success. I had earlier pointed out that success is an outcome – it is a state of blessedness and blessings that result in exercising of biblical wisdom – making godly decisions aligned with God's heart.

In Gen 39, there are two success narratives. Joseph was successful in Potiphar's home (Gen 39:3) and successful in the prison (Gen 39:23). The reason for his success was that God was with him (mentioned four times in Gen 39:2, 3 for the first narrative and Gen 39:21, 23 for the prison narrative). Juxtaposed between the two success stories, is the temptation to sin.

The temptation narrative portrays Joseph as one who withstood the temptation to sin by running away (Gen 39:12). However, temptation to sin came day after day (Gen 39:10). Perhaps when we are successful, temptation to sin can come in all forms: gold, girls, glamour and glitter.

How did Joseph handle his master's wife? How did he refuse the lady's daily invitations to go to bed with her? He answered, "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God (Gen 39:9)?" Joseph was keenly aware that when we sin, we sin against God – not only against men. It is because of Joseph's high regard for God that God was with him and God blessed him with success – in the prison and then later. This reinforces our definition of success. Success is the state of blessedness and blessings that result when we obey God and abide in His ways.

Meanwhile what happened to Joseph? He was framed and imprisoned. This was the price he paid for doing God's will. Was he successful? From the worldly perspective, how can he be successful if he was in prison? But to me, he was successful. Joseph did find success in the prison. He was successful in living a godly and righteous life. He was successful even in prison and not in a palace. And because he did not sin, he found favour again and was successful because God was with Him.

1. How have we been successful in the biblical way although it may not be necessarily successful in the eyes of the world?
2. How has success brought us closer or further away from God?
3. What temptation is crouching at the door of your heart, inviting you to sin?
4. In what ways do you sense God is with you just as God was with Joseph?

A Man's Life
Does Not Consist In The Abundance Of His Possessions
Luke 12:15

Copyright By Author