Tough Choices

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Tough Choices

Genesis 39:1–23

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

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.

Romans 9:14–29

What then are we to say? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,

and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh, “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses.

God’s Wrath and Mercy

You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’

and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ”

“And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’

there they shall be called children of the living God.”

And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the earth quickly and decisively.” And as Isaiah predicted,

“If the Lord of hosts had not left survivors to us,

we would have fared like Sodom

and been made like Gomorrah.”

Life does not offer happy endings around every corner. Some days success looks like survival. Some days we pay lip service to grand visions and keep our noses to the grindstones for the tasks that lay in the minutes and hours directly ahead.

Joseph had many days like this growing up as a slave in Egypt. Caught between obeying his master and his mistress, Joseph may have felt like he had no choice… trapped between a rock and a hard place. It is in the moments that we are furthest from vision and inspiration that we are most tempted to toss it all away and quit. It is also in these moments that our true character is put to the test.Tweet: It is in the moments that we are furthest from vision and inspiration that we are most tempted to toss it all away and quit. It is also in these moments that our true character is put to the test.

It is easy to do the right thing when it is easy to do the right thing. It matters more when doing the right thing costs us, particularly if we are not going to be praised by our peers. Throughout history, those who stood up, when no one else would stand with them, are the ones we remember. They are the ones that show the vision when there is no vision. They are the ones that breath the first breaths of life into movements of legend. And, the best of them have no thought at the time that they will ever be known for their actions. They see it as simply following the will of God in their lives.

Do you want to be famous? Do you want to make a difference in the world around you? Try humble obedience to God. He has all the right and reason to claim the credit for Himself, as Paul writes above. Yet, He chooses not to. He prepares us for good things, set aside as His chosen people and waits for us to follow Him in the Way. Will you walk in that legacy He has created for you, or will you choose your own path instead of trusting Him?

What are the difficult choices you have to make today?

How are you planning on making them?

What does God teach about handling those situations?

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Choices

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Choices

Jeremiah 42:18-22

“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Just as my anger and my wrath were poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You shall become an object of execration and horror, of cursing and ridicule. You shall see this place no more. The Lord has said to you, O remnant of Judah, Do not go to Egypt. Be well aware that I have warned you today that you have made a fatal mistake. For you yourselves sent me to the Lord your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the Lord our God, and whatever the Lord our God says, tell us and we will do it.’ So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Be well aware, then, that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go and settle.”

Mathew 10:5-23

The Mission of the Twelve1

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions2

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and I’m going to lose no matter what happens.Have you ever felt that way? These are some of my points of lowest motivation for following God instead of my own selfish desires. I mean, if the result is going to be the same anyway, why does it matter?

That is a hard place to be in and an even harder place to speak to, when you are not in it yourself. The Chalmers Center has a book called When Helping Hurts that describes ways that our attempts to speak into and intervene in the lives of those caught in tough places often ends up doing more harm than good. If you are not in one of those places but know someone who is, be sure to get your facts straight before barging in with a cure-all for their woes… because, the truth is, it really does matter.

It matters whether we are suffering as a consequence of our own disobedience or if we are suffering for obeying God. It matters in the moment because suffering out of obedience is suffering that takes on meaning. It shows the world its own corruption and brokenness. Prophets face persecution for their faithfulness because a world that wanted to hear what they had to say would not need them to say it. Their role is to stand in between unfaithful people and a God demanding justice, the unstoppable force and the immovable object, and to mediate between them. Most prophets do not survive the task, but their work is honored and their suffering brings healing to those around them. On the other hand, God uses our disobedience as well. If we will not be lifted up as a good example, He will use us as the bad example. He has His ways of getting the point across whether we want to go along or not.

The choices we have before us each day are really not as much about suffering or comfort, which we have less control of than we think. They are about honor and shame. That may not mean as much to you today, but if you look at the big picture, it may mean a lot tomorrow. Honor opens doors. Shame closes them. Doors you may not even see yet. It is why we tell our students to study and get good grades, knowing it will take years of their life away from friends, family, making money, and many other pursuits they may have. There is nothing inherently valuable about a good grade. In fact, most of our grades will never be looked at by people other than our parents and teachers. But they will open doors to places of honor that would otherwise be unattainable when we get to those paths down the road. That is the difference between a rock and a hard place.

What difficult choices do you have to make today?

What guidance is God giving you?


  1. (Mk 6:6b—13; Lk 9:1–6)
  2. (Mk 13:9–13; Lk 21:12–17)