Finishing Well! Genesis 50 Hope In Christ Bible Church 1/26/20
Well, it’s a blessed joy to invite you to open your Bible with me to Genesis 50. And this marks the final chapter in our journey through Genesis.
As we finish this final chapter it’s so appropriate that God profiles for us another great finish line in the life of Jacob and his son Joseph. For here the Spirit of God places before us how we too can finish well the race of life.
Church, imagine if the Lord took you home to be with Him this week, how would you be remembered by other believers?
– In what ways would your life have impacted them?
– What would they remember of your love for God and His people?
– How much would you be missed because of your spiritual influence on others?
God shows us through the lives and death of Jacob and Joseph how He used them to profoundly impact many for His glory. And here’s what you need to keep in mind as the big picture perspective:
The homegoing of a believer provides powerful opportunity for showing faith in God’s sovereignty.
Genesis 50 can be viewed through the following three scenes:
Good grief 1-13
Scared siblings 14-18
Comforting Consolation 19-26
When someone close to you dies, it’s typically a time of deep reflection and emotion. And that’s the way God has made us- to be affected by those He has used in our lives.
Jacob, we saw last Lord’s Day from chapter 49, at the ripe age of 147, blesses his 12 sons. What a spirit of amazing faith and hope he had on that day of his death. For his last recorded prayer to God exhibited his undying faith (Gen. 49:18): “For Your salvation I wait, O LORD.”
Well, after charging his sons, Jacob pulls his feet into his bed, takes his last breath, and is gathered to God and his people
There was no doubt joy in heaven over Jacob’s arrival yet sadness in his house over his loss.
Let’s notice now from our text the 1. Good grief 1-3
Then Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him and kissed him.
It was not in an impersonal hospital room with IVs, monitors and breathing machines as in our day, but in his own house that Jacob serenely passed from this life.
Of the 12 brothers, Joseph had the closest relationship with his father, Jacob, at the time of his death.
And just like God had told Jacob before he had come down to Egypt (46:4), it was Joseph who was there when his father closed his eyes for the last time in this world.
Joseph pays great respect to his father. He bends toward him and kisses his cold and pale lips.
He knew is was not an adieu forever, but a goodbye, until we meet again. Though Joseph shed tears of sorrow, he was certain he would see his father once again in the presence of God.
So in that sense, the grief he experiences was a good grief anchored in hope. And Christian, we share that same living hope with all who have died with their faith anchored in Christ.
To clarify confusion about this in the minds of believers, Paul writes in I Thes. 4:13–18 “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.”
You see, Christian, it’s not that we aren’t supposed to grieve when another believer dies. It’s how we grieve. We don’t grieve as those who have no hope!
For our hope in Christ is an “anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.” Heb. 6:19
Now, what to do with Jacob’s body? Burn it? Not on your life!
The practice of burning the body was simply not practiced by the O.T. believers. Cremation, however, was common to the ancient Hurrians and Hittites. And in the N.T. era, the Romans and Greeks also disposed of the dead through fire. Yet in Judaism, burning the human body continues to be considered a disgrace. And some of that may tie right back to the practice of the patriarchs, namely Jacob and Joseph.
Look at it in verse 2: Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. 3 Now forty days were required for it, for such is the period required for embalming.
Nowhere else in Scripture do we find such a full description of a funeral and its preparation.
It was common practice for Egyptians to embalm the dead- and here’s the reason. It was to help the deceased on their journey into the afterlife.
But Joseph has a whole different motivation. First, he chooses doctors and not professional embalmers to prepare Jacob’s body. And by the way, these two were distinct professions.
In that way he made it clear that he wanted no association with the magical rites of pagan embalmers.
Now the embalming process was an elaborate undertaking which took nearly a month-and-a-half.
I’ll spare you the gory details. But it basically included removing the organs in the head and abdomen. Then the body was filled with spices (myrrh and cassia) and soaked in a liquid salt. (natron).
Finally, the corpse was wrapped in linen strips (up to 700’ long!) and smeared with gum before being placed in a wooden case (sarcophagus).
While walking through the library of the Southern Baptist Seminary several years ago, an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus caught my eye.
It’s a wooden burial coffin.
A pastor of a local Baptist church in Louisville had led a tour to Egypt. While there he bought this mummy that dates back nearly 3,000 years to around 700 B.C.
There’s a wooden panel over the top featuring a mask with delicate features. And the lower part is covered with extensive hieroglyphics. They identify the mummy inside as Sheryet-Mehyet, means the ‘child of the goddess Mehmet.’”
Experts determined the individual was once a priestess who lived around 700 B.C. Well, in 1961, the curious seminary faculty decided to remove the upper portion of the case to see how Sherry (her nick name) looked. They unwrap the mummy’s skull and were amazed at what they saw. I’ve seen a picture of it, and it’s quite lifelike. That Egyptian’s skin, hair and facial features including nearly a full set of white teeth are well preserved. Someone who had known that person, would have been able to recognized her the way she looked nearly three millennia later in her burial form! So you can be certain, Jacob’s body was impeccably preserved by those Egyptian doctors. Well, it wasn’t just Joseph and his family that mourned over Jacob.
We are told (end of v. 3) that the Egyptians [also] wept for him seventy days.
I don’t doubt that Jacob’s life was a testimony to the Egyptians who had seen and heard of him while he lived among them 17 years. They may have felt the pain of his loss.
Yet their mourning would have also expressed their great concern for Joseph- for they couldn’t forget how he had saved them from famine!
Well we find out, 4th verse, “When the days of mourning for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your sight, please speak to Pharaoh, saying, 5 ‘My father made me swear, saying, “Behold, I am about to die; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.” Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’ ”
After the 70 days of mourning ended, Joseph wants permission from Pharaoh. But he doesn’t go directly but sends the message through Pharaoh’s household. That’s likely because it wouldn’t have been appropriate the way Joseph looked from mourning and being unshaven.
Joseph passes on his father’s last wishes- “after I die, promise me you will take my body up to the Promised Land. Bury me there, not here in Egypt!”
Joseph had given his oath to his father, and he will keep his word at all costs.
Wisely, he assures Pharaoh he would return after burying his dad.
How overjoyed he would have been to hear the response to his plea: Verse 6: Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.”
And look at how God surpassed Joseph’s expectations: “So Joseph went up to bury his father, and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8 and all the household of Joseph and his brothers and his father’s household; they left only their little ones and their flocks and their herds in the land of Goshen. 9 There also went up with him both chariots and horsemen; and it was a very great company.”
Now that’s a massive entourage with hundreds from Jacob’s family. Besides that, they are accompanied by a military escort including horses and chariots. They are heading north to the land of promise.
O how this anticipates the ultimate homecoming of the future sons of Israel:
Isaiah 66:20 “Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD.”
And what a day of rejoicing that will be!
Isaiah 51:11 announces: So the ransomed of the LORD will return and come with joyful shouting to Zion, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
Well, that massive funeral procession and carrying mummified Jacob comes to a surprising stop. Verse 10: When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed seven days mourning for his father. 11 Now
when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning for the Egyptians.” Therefore it was named Abel-mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.”
The threshing floor of Atad- it’s a piece of elevated ground, roughly 75 feet in diameter where locals would beat wheat in the open air- we are told it was beyond the Jordan meaning on the eastern side.
By the way, a 6th century AD Madeba mosaic map locates an Alon Atad between Jericho and the Dead Sea.
So it is, Jacob shows his descendants the road to the Promised land. It’s the same route God would take his people on with a detour around to the east around the Dead Sea.
At Atad’s threshing floor, Joseph and his family could not hold back profuse tears and mourning over Jacob. It all made such a big impression on the local Canaanites that they dubbed the place Abel-mizraim meaning “the mourning of Egypt.”
Those were tears of sorrow. Yet for the children of Jacob, they were mixed with joy. For they had kept their father’s charge. And they knew now he was back where his heart was- in the land where it all began- in Canaan.
O this is no small thing for Joseph and his family.
Verse 12 pictures it for us: Thus his sons did for him as he had charged them; 13 for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah before Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field for a burial site from Ephron the Hittite.
Joseph had heard the story from his father Jacob, and his grandfather Isaac.
When he walked into that burial plot at Machpelah, he knew Abraham had purchased that land for 400 shekels of silver (23:15). And he knew Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah had been buried there.
And that is where his father Jacob had buried Leah. But remember the big deal about Machpelah. It wasn’t just a family cemetery.
It was the family’s epicenter of hope in God’s promise.
For remember, that was the place Abraham first staked his claim to the land based on God’s covenant to him. On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It marked the first steps by man on another planetary body. After touchdown, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended the latter of their spacecraft. They besides gathering some lunar rock, they spent 10 minutes raising the American flag on the lunar surface. Why was it so important in the eyes of many Americans? Because it symbolized a sense of national pride and possession. “Look what we did. The moon is ours.” Well, it’s really not is it? And by the way, the flag those astronauts planted didn’t stay standing long. For at lift off, the powerful engine exhaust of Apollo 11 blew it over! But not Machpelah. To be buried in that land meant for each of them that the flag of their faith was anchored in the God of the land!
Let me show you just how big of a deal this was even to the N.T. church.
Before Stephen the first martyr is stoned by blood thirsty enemies, he recaps the great highlights of O.T. history. And he includes the place of the patriarchs’ burial:
Acts 7:15–16 “And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. 16 “From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.”
So it is, one of the greatest expressions of faith in the O.T. is who was buried in that gravesite: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and more before they even had conquered the land!!!
Here’s the point. That burial site was tangible testimony of trust in God. Jacob showed faith in God by saying, “You have to bury me there in the Promised Land. And Joseph showed faith in God by obedience to that charge.
Child of God, do you want to live to the hilt for God’s glory in 2020? Then place your faith in God’s Word to you each day by grace
empowered obedience. That’s called the obedience of faith.
Listen, friends, the will of God is not a mystery. It’s reading God’s Word, understanding who He is and how He’s called you to live, and in the power of the Spirit yielding your thoughts, words and attitudes to Him.
That’s walking by faith in God! Well, Good grief leads us to
2. Scared siblings 14-18
Moses reports that the burial mission was successful. Verse 14:
After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
Just as he promised Pharaoh, Joseph came back down to Egypt.
As his brothers journeyed back with him, they had lots of time to think about what they might face in getting back to Goshen.
One thought filled their hearts with fear:
15th verse: When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong which we did to him!”
In other words, Joseph may have been just waiting till dad dies until he nails us.
“Now Joseph won’t have anyone he respects to stop him for getting revenge. And we are as good as dead if he wants to make us pay for how we hated him and betrayed him into slavery.
So, they come up with a clever scheme to save their own necks:
Verse 16: So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father charged before he died, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.” ’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.” 18 Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
This marks the fourth time (42:6, 43:26, 44:14) Joseph’s brothers fulfill his dreams as a teenager (37:5-11) by bowing down before him.
Now what are we to make of the message these brothers send? I have serious reservations it would pass a legitimate fact check.
For if Jacob was concerned about Joseph forgiving those brothers, we would expect he would have told Joseph rather than his brothers.
So they may be making up a bogus story that their dad told them to relay this message.
But the good thing is this. Now those brothers own up to their guilt as those who have transgressed (broken) God’s standard.
So, they are begging Joseph to show them mercy and forgiveness.
That’s a good thing… unless you have already been shown mercy and forgiveness. And that’s what breaks Joseph’s heart. He weeps because for all those years since he disclosed himself to them and been kind to them, they doubted his character. And they questioned his goodness!
Think about it. Joseph had provided them with food at no cost in the famine.
He had given them the best of the land in Goshen.
He had made a lavish meal for them in his own and given a change of garments to them.
And he had led them to and from Canaan to bury Jacob.
And after all that, they doubt His heart toward them.
Church, how often we are like those brothers.
God has given us life in His Son. He has shown us mercy and forgiven our sins.
He has made it clear “there is no condemnation to us who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom. 8:1
And yet we find ourselves doubting and wondering how God will care for us when we are in a lurch.
Yet the truth of the matter, Romans 8:32 declares, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”
That’s a powerful argument from the greater to the lesser. If God would give us His Son, the most infinite gift, to save us, you can count on it that He will give us everything we need to walk with Him!
What began with Good grief turned to
Scared siblings. Yet it ends in
3. Comforting Consolation 19-26
Would you now take in with me Joseph’s remarkable response to his fearful brothers? V. 19- But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
These words are both gracious and glorious. Gracious because rather than confronting them Joseph comforts them. And he tells them twice not to be afraid of him. Besides that he assures them he would continue to take care of them and their children!
Now watch what makes Joseph’s words so glorious. He fully embraces the all-surpassing sovereignty of God in his life!
That means he joyfully submits to God being God in all that has happened to him. That’s why he bears absolutely no grudge against them.
No, he doesn’t play the part of a victim and let bitterness toward his brothers eat him alive.
Now we need to really get a hold of this mindset of Joseph. In fact, you likely have a situation in your life where someone has really burned you and hurt you deeply.
How do you stop being dominated by that thought that you repeat over and over in your mind?
Here’s how. First, don’t sugarcoat sin. Instead, see evil motives for what they are- sin.
Joseph clearly knows and even tells them just that- “you meant evil against me.” They were out to do him in.
But second, see God’s purpose in the painful circumstances of your life.
Joseph asserts: “God meant it (all their evil against him) for good. That Hebrew term from
which we get the word here “good” (towb) describes what is beautiful, delightful and lovely.
That aptly describes the amazing miracle God accomplished in saving those brothers and the entire Jewish race from starvation!
Now only God can do that. He transformed those brothers evil intentions to kill into what would end up being Joseph’s gracious actions to save lives!
The German theologian von Rad so aptly describes God’s sovereign hand in Joseph’s life: “Even where no man could imagine it, God had all the strings in his hand.”
Christian, in all you go through in life, to make sense of the pain, heartache, and disappointment, God calls you to cling to the fact that He will use it for good.
It’s the soul-strengthening truth we heard Rafael read us earlier from Romans 8:28.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
In your marriage, on the job, with the house payment, with the bad news from the doctor, God’s sovereignly uses all that, Christian, to accomplish good in your life.
So child of God, believe it and bask in God’s perfect purposes in your painful problems and people in your life.
Cling to the overarching hand of God in your life so that no matter what happens to you, you know God will use it for good.
Think of Judas. After Christ graciously cared for and loved him for 3 years, Judas turns around and betrays Christ to death. Yet all that served the perfect purpose of God to bring us salvation!
Who would have thought any good could have come out of the notorious Ravensbruck death camp of the Nazis?
Certainly Corrie ten Boom was incarcerated there as prisoner 66730, she must have wondered about her fate.
Yet, it was in that place of horror, that courageous servant of the Lord Jesus decided He had a good reason for her being there. So she decided if she had to live with death staring her in the face every
day, if she must be subjected to indignity and intimidation, whippings and hunger, she would be the very best inmate Ravensbruck horror camp had ever known.
So there, in the barracks number 28, Corrie held secret Bible classes and taught her fellow prisoners how to face life and death in Christ.
As a result of her agony, God used her life to bring hope to many in that death camp. And after she was set free, God opened up for Corrie a ministry to millions of people testifying of the all-sustaining sovereignty of God in her life.
Yes, her enemies meant it for evil, but God meant it for good! And the upshot of that all was that God got much glory and she had the great joy of being used by God!
The final paragraph now shows us how Jacob like his father finished well. The text fast forwards 54 years and tells us in verse 22:
Now Joseph stayed in Egypt, he and his father’s household, and Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. 23 Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees. 24 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.
110 years, Joseph lived a full life. In fact, the Egyptians at that time considered 110 to be the ideal length of life.
Joseph had lived 80 years after his elevation to serve as prime minister of all Egypt. He had not only seen God used him to save his people from starvation. He had also seen God bless him with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
And Joseph’s final words show His great faith in God.
He reassures his brothers of God’s love for them: “God will surely take care of you.” In fact, he tells them that twice (v. 24, 25).
Christian, you can count on God’s care for you.
This year, this day, and every day of your life. That’s why the Apostle Peter exhorts us: I Pt 5:7 “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
After our church prayer meetings, we used to sing from the hymnbook, “God will take care of you.” And we would point to each other as we would sing that refrain.
Then we stopped singing it, as if it was somewhat superficial. Well, it’s not. And it quotes from our text right here. “God will surely take care of you!” Through days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you; When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you. God will take care of you, Through every day, o’er all the way; He will take care of you, God will take care of you. Well, in Joseph closing words he adds a little P.S. “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” And there shines Joseph’s faith, just like Jacob, in God’s promise seen in the Promised Land. And this is the only thing for which the N.T. remembers Joseph! Hebrews 11:22 tells us:
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.
The body of Joseph was embalmed. And nearly 400 years later, Moses took that coffin back to Egypt (Ex 13:19). And Joshua had the honor of burying Joseph’s body- in the land of promise!
I read a trite statement this week that Genesis begins at creation and ends in a coffin.
Well, it goes far beyond that. The book of Genesis begins at Creation yet it concludes in hope- God’s people living and dying by faith in Him. For now they are more alive than every in the presence of God who lead them at every step!
Friends, that’s you finish well. By living every moment trusting in God’s sovereign hand in your life.
So, beloved, choose to live confident in Christ who loved you and gave Himself for you.
Finishing Well! Genesis 50 Hope In Christ Bible Church 1/26/20
Intro. Gen. 49:18
1. Good grief 1-13
Gen. 46:4; I Thes. 4:13-18; Heb. 6:19; Isa. 66:20; Isa. 51:11; Gen. 23:15; Acts 7:15-16
2. Scared siblings 14-18 Gen. 42:6, 43:26, 44:14; Rom. 8:1,32
3. Comforting Consolation 19-26
Rom. 8:28; I Peter 5:7; Ex. 13:19; Josh 24:32
Lord, how would you have me submit with joy to Your sovereignty in my life so that I might finish well?