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Passing the Character Test
Reflecting on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost: Two Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 28
Old Testament: Genesis 39:1-23
Epistle: Romans 9:14-29
Psalter: Psalm 18:1-19
Old Testament: Genesis 19:1-29
Epistle: Romans 9:14-29
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
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.
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. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care because the Lord was with him, and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper (Genesis 39:1-23).
After being sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph begins to prosper over time. It also appears that he is maturing. He no longer is the young son who lords his special status with his father over his brothers, but over time there is a grounding of his temperament.
He refuses the sexual advances of Potiphar’s wife. Scorned by Joseph’s refusal to engage her in illicit behavior she accuses him of sexual impropriety and he is thrown in prison. The goodness of Joseph’s behavior is not rewarded. Just as when he was sold into slavery, Joseph is one again the victim of treachery.
Joseph will eventually come through this, but in the meantime he has no control over his life. His dreams of being the one in charge have yet to be fulfilled. The temptation for Joseph and anyone who has been mistreated is to hold a grudge and to get back at the perpetrators when possible. What we will see with Joseph is that he takes a completely different approach. Once he has the power to exact revenge, he refuses to do so.
Abraham Lincoln said that if you want to test a person’s character, don’t watch how they behave in adversity, but see how they behave when they are given power. Joseph has had a lot of adversity in his life, but he will rise to power. It is what he does with that power that will reveal his character.
As we continue to read the Joseph story, we know he will pass the character test. Do we pass the character test in our influence over others?
PRAYER: Lord God, friend of those in need, your Son Jesus has untied our burdens and healed our spirits. We lift up the prayers of our hearts for those still burdened, those seeking healing, those in need within the church and the world. Hear our prayers that we may love you with our whole being and willingly share the concerns of our neighbors. Amen. (Revised Common Lectionary)
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