Tuesday, 19 March 2019
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones. Hebrews 11:22
The author now turns from Jacob to Joseph, the beloved first son of his favored wife Rachel. He says, “By faith Joseph.” The whole recorded life of Joseph is one which is filled with amazing stories and faithful conduct. But of all of the things recorded of him which the author considered, the one he decided was most worthy of note was “when he was dying.”
The word gives the sense of “drawing to an end.” Joseph knew that his days were coming to a close, and yet he gave specific instructions to his brothers. The words are recorded in Genesis 50 –
“And Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’” Genesis 50:24, 25
In these words to his brothers, he “made mention of the departure of the children of Israel.” The word in Greek is “exodus.” It signifies a going out, or an exit. It is only found here and in Luke 9 and 2 Peter 1. The other two instances speak of the “departure” in leaving this body, meaning dying. In Luke, it refers to Jesus, and in 2 Peter, the apostle speaks of his own departure which was prophesied by Jesus.
Here we have one who is drawing to an end, and thus ready to depart his body, but who speaks of the departure of Israel from Egypt. This was promised to his fathers before they ever entered into Egypt, and Joseph believed that it would be the case. Further, when Jacob had come down to Egypt, he made a promise to Joseph based on that assurance of departure –
“Then Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.’” Genesis 48:21
Even though Joseph was set to die in Egypt, he had faith in the word of the Lord that the past promise would someday come about. Because of this, he “gave instructions concerning his bones.”
Joseph was the second ruler in Egypt, and it was, therefore, appropriate that he should be buried among those he led, but he also desired that his final internment would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan. Having total faith that Israel would depart, he made his brothers give an oath that his remains would go out with them. The beginning of the promise was fulfilled, as is recorded in Exodus 13 –
“And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.’” Exodus 13:19
The promise was completed some years later as is recorded in Joshua 24:32 –
“The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.”
Life application: Of all of the amazing things which Joseph did in his life from which the author could choose as an example of faith, this example of faith in a future he would not participate in while alive was selected. This should give us an indication as to what is also a demonstration of faithfulness in our lives – looking forward to the as yet unfulfilled promises of God and to the “better country” He has prepared for us.
As directed, in Exodus 13:19, Moses and the children of Israel took Joseph’s bones with them when they departed the land of Egypt. Joshua 24:32 records the burial of these bones in Shechem, in the land Jacob promised Joseph and as Joseph had instructed. These events occurred several hundred years apart, but what may seem slow by our standards in coming to fulfillment doesn’t mean it won’t happen exactly as God has promised. Remember this lesson as you patiently wait on the promises of the Lord. He will carry His people to their promised inheritance.
Lord, it is hard to wait on what we desire. We are earthly and constrained by time and decay. Because of this, we ask that You grant us Your Spirit of patience and control – even during the moments where nothing seems to occur as we would like. Thank You for granting us Your peace. Amen.