Painting Shadows: A Reflection on Genesis 39:1-12

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You cannot change the past. Changing the past is like painting shadows, it can’t be done. Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back while moving forward will get you killed. Sadly, that’s what most victims do; they look back almost compulsively while trying to move forward. Every future relationship is interpreted by the mistakes made in the field of regret. Someone made you feel cheap, now you are, and you give yourself to the lowest bidder. Someone you loved died senselessly. Now you live senselessly waiting to die. Someone broke your trust. Now you do not trust and choose to surround yourself with untrustworthy people. If your mind won’t release the pain, blast it with chemicals, dull the senses, escape reality. Now you are addicted to killing memories, painting shadows, and slowly destroying yourself.

Just because something bad happened in your past does not give you an excuse to make a bad decision in the present. The field of regret does not define you, you are still alive. If you are still alive, so is the dream that something good can happen.

Joseph was abused by his family and sold into slavery. Even though that is what happened to him, he did not allow that event to define him. They sold him cheaply, but he is not. They portrayed him as dead, but he is not. Joseph’s reference point for making decisions was not what his brothers did to him. Joseph’s point of reference is the dream, what God will do with him. Joseph did not allow his past to define him. He is no longer in the field of regret, he is in Egypt. Though Egypt was not his choice he will choose not to allow the dream to be destroyed. Good things happen, even in Egypt.

Joseph was purchased by a high ranking government official named Potiphar. Potiphar is Egypt’s Secretary of Defense. While Joseph is serving in his home, good things are happening. God was with Joseph and blessed Joseph, even in Egypt. So Joseph advances and becomes the manager of Potiphar’s household. Joseph can do nothing about the field of regret, looking back will get you killed, so he fosters the dream in a new field.

Fields bloom.

Be faithful with dirt.

The Bible says Joseph was a great looking guy with a great body. Potiphar’s wife wanted Joseph, so she propositioned him sexually. She made herself available to him day after day. She wore it, she said it, she made it known that she wanted Joseph and she was ready for him. Eventually she set up the perfect scenario to fulfill a lustful fantasy between a handsome young man and an aggressive woman. They were alone in the house. No one would ever know.

Temptation is the desire to paint shadows. “It is to embrace illusion, to believe a lie.”[i] Temptation is a mirage of a field already in bloom, an easier way for something good to happen. Temptation is all about you, now, the way you feel, what you want, where you are looking. If your past defines you; if you are cheap, if life is senseless, if people can’t be trusted, if fields don’t bloom; temptation will give you a rose.

A rose is a beautiful thing, but a rose can also be a cheaply purchased cut flower given with no real commitment. People love roses.

Temptation is handing Joseph a rose that says:

· Your family didn’t want you, this woman does. Feel.
· You were sold cheap; she’s worth it, so are you. Feel.
· You’re a man, she’s a woman. Feel.
· You’ve lived through pain, here is pleasure. Feel.
· There is no one around. There is nothing to lose. Feel.

Temptation comes from our desires which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow it gives birth to death. James 1:14-15

If your past defines you, temptation will awaken these desires, hand you a rose and ask, “Why not?” But Joseph fled and ran outside. Why?

The reason Joseph fled is explained in verses 8 and 9. Joseph’s actions were not based in how he felt, they were based in what he thought, what he believed. He fled because of what he thought of himself, what he thought of Potiphar, and what he believed of God. If Joseph had felt like a cheap slave, like a victim of his brother’s hatred, then why not give in, or rather give up? If other people cannot be trusted, why should I be trustworthy? But Joseph thought more of himself. He valued his body, he valued his position, and he valued his future. If Joseph saw Potiphar as simply the man who bought him, then why not take his property? Here is a man with more than Joseph, why not take? He will never miss it. But Joseph saw the value of Potiphar’s trust and he saw the value of Potiphar’s marriage. Just because you are hurting for affection does not mean you can steal it from someone else. If Joseph had felt abandoned by God, why be moral? But Joseph saw the illusion of temptation, the reality of sin, and the value of obeying God.

Joseph refused the rose because he sought a field full of blooms.

Joseph was able to see that this looked good, it may have felt good, but it was not good. It was sin. Often, victims feel a drive to recapture, correct, or cover what has been lost. Victims feel a need to paint shadows. Temptation will give you a bucket and a brush and tell you that in one moment the past will be covered. One night, one hit, one lie, one act of revenge, one relationship, one drink, one . . .and the field of regret is changed. But changing the past is like painting shadows, it can’t be done.

Joseph did not allow the past to define him. Why paint shadows? It is a waste.

Joseph was not cheap. He did not agree with the way his brothers thought of him, nor did he agree with the way Potiphar’s wife thought of him. Joseph wanted what only God could give him. He must have thought a lot about God, and the dream.

But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Looking back will get you killed. Turn around. Good things can happen in Egypt. Good things can happen after loss, after abuse, after tragedy, after divorce, after failure, after addiction. . .don’t take the rose, it is beautiful but after all it is a cut flower, its beauty will fade. Cut roses give an illusion of life; so does temptation.

Ahead of you is a field full of blooms. Be faithful with dirt.

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[i] Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way, p. 30


Luke Milam said…

I am from Birmingham also. I am with GLobeworks International out of Mountain Brook. I attend Springville Road Community Church. My Sunday School class just got through studying Joseph. I did not get to read all of your study yet, but I will. Joseph is probably my favorite character.

Luke Milam

Luke Milam
Brian Branam said…
Hey Luke, I will be posting a new entry in the series entitled "Interpretation of Meaning" hopefully this week. Please check back.

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