MESSAGE DELIVERED: SEPTEMBER 18, 2016
I’d like to talk this morning about how we are supposed to conduct ourselves, as followers of Jesus, in this increasingly evil world. And if you were to make up a list how we were to live, I’m pretty sure that ‘integrity’ would be fairly close to the top of that list, or at least it should be.
Unfortunately, all too often it has become a forgotten, even ridiculed, subject now. So I thought the best place to start would be with the story I just read to you, from the life of Joseph, and his master, Potiphar.
You CAN switch these roles around, and make the MAN the aggressor, in place of the woman, but either way it is a story that has plagued mankind, ever since EVE ate ADAM out of the house and home.
So to bring the story into focus. I wanted to remind you that Joseph had eleven brothers; and he had a dream, in which he saw his parents, and all of his brothers, bowing down before him.
But when he told that dream TO his brothers, they were not very pleased with him, to think that THEY would be SUBSERVIENT to HIM! And they soon contrived to sell him into slavery, while telling their father that his favorite son had been torn to pieces by wild animals, and presenting his ‘coat of many colors’ all stained with blood, as proof of their story.
Of course the blood had actually come from a SHEEP, but the father, Jacob, kept that coat in his tent as a memorial to his lost son, and he spent YEARS mourning what he THOUGHT was the death of his favorite son.
Meanwhile, as they used to say in those old Saturday morning serials, back in Egypt, the traders who had bought Joseph from his brothers, in turn SOLD him at a slave auction, where he was purchased by the man named Potiphar, a wealthy and influential, highly placed official in the Egyptian army.
But the Bible tells us The Lord was WITH Joseph, even in his captivity, and He blessed and prospered ALL that Joseph did, (But the story ALSO points out that even WITH God’s Hand of blessings on him, Joseph will STILL have to suffer hardships. Those that preach a ‘prosperity’ gospel seem to ignore that truth.)
But Potiphar was so impressed with his new slave, that he turned the entire operation of his household into Joseph’s hand without ever asking for an accounting. He trusted Joseph completely, to deal with his finances, his obligations, and the running of his household.
But…we are told in the last part of verse 6 that Joseph was a very good looking young man, and the wife of his new master had ‘set her sights on him’.
So here, we get to speculate a little…and suppose that Potiphar is SO wealthy, and SO highly place in Egyptian government, that he is MAYBE on the ‘elderly’ side, and that, with all his wealth, he MAY have, as so many wealthy elderly men have done, purchased for himself a young and beautiful wife…a TROPHY wife, EYE-candy, as we say today.
And it’s just possible, and remember, I’m just speculating here, but it’s possible that he maybe couldn’t adequately keep UP with his lovely young wife. So she finds herself attracted to her husband’s handsome young servant…and she is now a woman used to getting her own way.
And verse 7 says “she cast longing eyes on him.” She said “C’mon Joey, let’s fool around a little.” OK, that’s not exactly what she said, but it IS what she MEANT! And I want to make sure you understand what she is up to.
But there’s Joseph, betrayed by his brothers…sold into slavery…stranded in a strange land, with strange customs, and strange language, all of which he has to learn, but he’s HOMESICK…and he’s LONELY, and he looks at this beautiful and desirable young woman, and he tells her “Take a hike, lady!”
He reacts to a tempting situation, with INTEGRITY!…which Funk & Wagnalls’ Collegiate Dictionary defines as: “uprightness of character, or honesty”.
How far back in our history as a nation do we have to go, to find that quality among our elected officials? And I don’t mean just FLASHES of integrity, and I don’t mean ‘doing the right thing’ when you get caught in the act!
I mean men and women who conduct themselves DAILY, as if The Lord was right behind them, watching over their actions? That’s the REAL test, you know. Doing the right thing, even when there’s no one around to SEE you do it. Doing the right thing, simply because it IS the right thing to do.
So Joseph looked at his master’s wife, and he may have said something like “NO! I used to be SOMEBODY, but NOW I’m just another SLAVE, but my master trusts me, and has placed me in a position of responsibility, and I will not betray his trust.”
There is even evidence, there in verse 9, that his master, maybe knowing that he WAS elderly, and that his beautiful young wife was on the WILD side, had at some point told Joseph “I am placing ALL my goods into your hands, but keep your hands OFF my WIFE!”
Do you see that? How Joseph says “he has placed everything EXCEPT YOU, into my hands.” Joseph refuses to take advantage of that trust, AND he refuses to do that which is forbidden.
Joseph is a YOUNG man, with all the same desires common TO young men, but he is also a man of integrity. That has NEVER been a real COMMON trait, and especially so, today…when the first reaction to almost any situation will be “what’s in it for me?”
That’s why men like Billy Graham are held in such high esteem by so many people. Simply because there ARE so few men, or women, LIKE that. Reverend Graham’s associates like to use the analogy of finding a TURTLE, sitting on the top of a FENCEPOST. When you see something like that, your obvious reaction is going to be “He didn’t get there by himself.”
The same things is true of Billy Graham. He accomplished all he has done, because a sovereign God PUT him there. And God DID that, because He knew that Billy Graham had the INTEGRITY to TRUST God, and HONOR His Commandments, like Joseph did, so long ago, and so far away from his home.
That is not a common trait. But it HAS been exhibited by a FEW people, down through history. Louis the 14th, king of France, was an absolute TYRANT! He abused his people…and his country. He indulged himself in every kind of wanton excess. BUT, his successor, Louis the 16th, was a far different man. He had NO mistresses, he lived within his allotted income. He abolished forced labor, ended the practice of torturing prisoners, freed the serfs, gave the Protestants the right to worship openly, built hospitals and demonstrated compassion to the poor.
So how did the people of France, my ancestors, react to his benevolence, after enduring the EXCESSES of Louis the 14th? They drug him out into the streets and chopped his head off.
Bust listen, just because someone does something FOOLISH, is no reason to turn away integrity. In 1884, a young man died, and after the funeral his grieving parents wanted to do something to honor their son’s memory. A memorial of some kind.
So this polite, but very plainly dressed and soft-spoken couple approached Charles Elliot, who was the president of Harvard University. And they expressed their desire to fund a memorial to their son. Elliot was patient with them assuming them to be ‘just plain folks’…and said “are you thinking of a small scholarship, perhaps?”
But they said “No”, Charles Elliot brushed aside their idea as being completely out of the question, telling them such a project would be prohibitively expensive, and rushed them out of his office.
A year later he learned that plain old couple had gone to another educator, and had established a 26 million dollar memorial that was at first named after their son and called the “Leland Stanford, Jr. University”, better known today as simply “Stanford University”. It is highly foolish to judge others based on their appearance. It shows a definite lack of integrity.
A lack of integrity can cause you to mis-judge other people. But are you aware that it can also kill, other, ordinary people? Do you recall, back in the 1990s they have since reversed this, but back then, the makers of Bridgestone tires, KNEW there was a design flaw IN their tires, but they kept producing them, anyway, leading to countless accidents and loss of property and life.
Or how about the fateful flight of the space shuttle Challenger? Not the Columbia, that broke up on re-entry, but the one that blew up just after launch? That one I remember vividly since I was in Florida when it happened. And unless you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine how COLD it can be, some January mornings in central Florida.
It was to be the very FIRST time a CIVILIAN went into space, Christa McCauliff, an elementary school teacher. The crew was suited up and inside the shuttle, waiting for launch. But it was COLD! So cold there were ICICLES hanging from the rocket. So, was it SAFE to launch, under those conditions?
A worried group of engineers and designers…those that knew the workings of the MOST COMPLICATED MACHINE ever built, all said “NO!” The booster seals were rubberized, and too brittle in that kind of cold. Better to wait until it warmed up considerably.
BUT, there was ALSO a group of EXECUTIVES in the space program, planners, fund-raisers…those who were more interested in having an “on-time” record to present to Congress when they went back for more money…THEY said “YES!” “LAUNCH!” They considered the PROGRAM, and more importantly, their OWN position IN that program, to be more important than the safety of the 7 people on board…so, launch, they did.
And 105 seconds after lift-off…as I was stepping out of my shower, I heard the announcer on the radio say “The shuttle flight has ended in disaster”…and I stepped out onto the patio, 60 miles away from the launch site, in time to see large pieces of the shuttle falling out of a mushroom-shaped cloud.
Seven people, seven innocent people, die, horribly and needlessly, because SOME people put their own ambitions and desires above integrity!
There are so many verses in The Bible that command us to live lives of integrity:
Psalm 7:3…”Judge me O God, according to my righteousness, and according to the integrity that is in me.”
Psalm 24:3…”Who shall ascend the hill of The Lord, and who shall stand in His Holy Place? He that has clean hands and a pure heart.”
Ezekiel 18:5…”If a man is just and does that which is faithful and right, he shall surely live, says the Lord.”
Micah 6:8…”What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Luke 16:10…”He that is faithful in that which is least is also faithful in much.”
2nd Corinthians 8:21…”Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of man.”
There are literally dozens more, but you get the idea. God wants His people to be people of integrity…people that love justice…that seek mercy. People that honor truth in all things. In other words, UNUSUAL people!
And Joseph…remember, that’s who we’re using as our example, Joseph was an unusual man. How many OTHER men…lonely, homesick, VITAL young men, would have WELCOMED the advances of a young and desirable woman…their master’s beautiful wife? How many would have welcomed her advances and then USED her, and her influences, to further their OWN causes?
…And how many in that situation would have the INTEGRITY to tell her NO!?
Because of a LACK of integrity among the executives in charge of the space program…in charge of the launch of the Challenger…seven innocent lives were lost…dozens of careers were ruined…and millions of tax-payer dollars were wasted.
Because of JOSEPH’S actions, based on his integrity, he was falsely accused, and thrown in prison! …BUT, God HONORED Joseph for doing the right thing, so that even though he WAS in prison, Joseph PROSPERED!
The KEEPER OF the prison, JUST, JUST like POTIPHAR had, turned the total operation OF the prison, over TO Joseph. And while there, he came in contact with the KING’S (really Pharaoh’s) CUP-BEARER, and through HIM, Joseph eventually gained his FREEDOM, and soon there-after, control of the whole NATION!
Now, WHAT, do you suppose, he might have gained, had he given IN to the advances of his master’s wife? Don’t you suppose that EVENTUALLY, his master would have found OUT about it, as these things ALWAYS are?…and don’t you suppose that THEN his master would have had him KILLED? That would be MY guess.
And, what about GOD? As long as Joseph was FAITHFUL to GOD, God BLESSED him…in SPITE of his ADVERSE conditions for a while. And eventually Joseph rose to a position of GREAT AUTHORITY.
But then, JUST like that TURTLE, sitting on a FENCE post, he didn’t GET there on his OWN! God PUT him there, ONLY because Joseph remained faithful, and acted with integrity.
For every “Billy Graham” in the body of Christ, and there are a few, though few and far between…for every person LIKE Billy Graham, there are MANY others whose actions drag the Name of God DOWN, instead of LIFTING Him UP!…as they SHOULD.
INTEGRITY, doing what is RIGHT, instead of what is expedient…putting the commands of God ABOVE your HUMAN desires…is NOT an “OPTION” for believers…even though many who CLAIM the Name of Christ ACT as though it were.
We are called to keep a higher standard…we are held to a greater responsibility. But when we KEEP God’s commands, he BLESSES us for it…NOW, in THIS life, and LATER, in eternity. And His blessings are worth SO much MORE than any TEMPORARY, EARTHLY satisfactions we may GAIN, while LOSING all those HEAVENLY blessings.
God did not simply TELL us what He wanted us to do…He SHOWED us. He sent His SON, JESUS, who we call CHRIST, to be not ONLY our SAVIOR, but also our EXAMPLE! One of those phrases that came into popularity a while back, and WE need to KEEP it from going OUT of popularity…by LIVING it…the phrase is…”WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”
ANYtime you are faced with a situation where you’re not sure how you should react, ASK yourself that question…”WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”…and then YOU do LIKEWISE!
As He walked among us, Jesus EXEMPLIFIED…LOVE…OBEDIENCE…and above ALL else…INTEGRITY! …It was His LOVE for us, while we were still ENEMIES of God, that caused Him to leave the Glories of Heaven, and come HERE, to EARTH…to be born as a HUMAN, like US.
It was His obedience to the FATHER that caused Him to climb Calvary’s Mountain, and ALLOW himself to be NAILED to a CROSS…
And through it ALL…from humble BIRTH, to AGONIZING Death…He lived with INTEGRITY! And it is His desire that WE, who claim His Name, do the SAME!
And we can, if we will remember the words of Philippians 4:13…”I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME.”