It isn’t long before Potiphar’s wife notices Joseph and starts trying to seduce him. She repeatedly asks him to lie with her (day by day, in fact), and Joseph repeatedly tells her no, day by day. This annoys her, insults her, and makes her angry. So one day when the men are all out of the house, she gives it one more try — laying hold of Joseph by his robe.
Joseph’s still having none of it, being a man of God, so he leaves his robe in her hands and flees.
Unfortunately, this turns out to be a bad idea. At least it seems like a bad idea now. Potiphar’s wife tells everyone that Joseph tried to seduce her, and that he fled when she cried for help. When Potiphar hears of this, he feels betrayed — and who wouldn’t? It does make me wonder why Potiphar believed his wife (who surely showed other signs that maybe she wasn’t all that faithful) over Joseph, who had been a good and faithful servant. But he was human, and we humans do this kind of thing all the time. Internal warning bells go off, but we ignore them. The still small voice whispers, but we justify it away.
So Joseph lands in prison. There, he finds favor with the guard and he’s soon put over all the other prisoners. Which is how he comes to know Pharoah’s baker and his butler, who have also landed out of favor with their master. Both men have dreams and Joseph interprets, having first given the credit for his interpretations to God. Which is, no doubt, one of the reasons Joseph continues to remain highly favored. He’s honest. He’s filled with integrity. He gives the glory for what he does to God.
These chapters end with the butler restored to his position in Pharoah’s household and the baker hanged, just as Joseph predicted they would be. The only thing Joseph asked in exchange for interpreting the butler’s dream was that the butler tell Pharoah about him once he’s restored to his position. The butler agrees, of course. Anyone would. But once he’s released from prison, the promise slips his mind.
It would appear that all is lost. We know differently, of course. But from Joseph’s perspective, he certainly had reason to feel down. He’s been sold into slavery by his own brothers. He’s now in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He thought he’d found a way to save himself, but now that’s fizzled out. And this is where, in the play, Joseph sings the song that reduces me to tears every time.
Hide all the world from me
Bar all the windows
And shut out the light
Have you ever felt like this? Abandoned? Alone? Forgotten? I have. It’s not easy to remember God’s promises in those moments, but Joseph isn’t the only one who was promised great things, and that’s the lesson I take away from these chapters. Yes, we’ll have dark moments. God tells us we will. He doesn’t say “if” things get rough, He says “when.” Even, sometimes, when we’re doing everything right, things around us may go wrong–or they may appear to go wrong. We don’t really have the right perspective. We can’t see the end of the road when we’re standing in that mud puddle in the middle.
Yes, we’ll sometimes feel as if God has forgotten all about us. But He has made glorious promises to every one of us, and He will keep them in His time, which is always perfect.