Just before he died, Joseph gave his sons instructions concerning his bones, and for this he is commended as a man of faith (See: Heb. 11: 22) . He died and was embalmed in Egypt, among foreigners, leaving his progeny to the whims of a future and hostile king (“Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Ex.1:8) So concludes the book of Genesis–the historical account of the generations of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The land of their prospering and multiplying had become the place of their enslavement. God foreknowing this, had told Abraham generations earlier that this would be their lot– “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years!” Gen. 15:13-16 But God had also promised that this bondage would not be the end; in the fourth generation He said He would bring them back to the land where Abraham now only camped and they would settle there, displacing its inhabitants, becoming a people among whom God would dwell–a nation unlike any other, on whose behalf God would show Himself strong. (See: Deut. 4: 32-35)
Abraham had not seen this promise fulfilled but he had believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Rom.4:20ff Now three generations later, Joseph lay dying in a foreign land. Still God had not brought His people into their inheritance. But Joseph was confident He would. And on his death bed he said: ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ Joseph died far from the land God had promised to his descendants. But God had promised… and Joseph knew in his bones God would keep His Word. This was the legacy he left–this God-confidence that despite his own helplessness to contribute to their redemption God would somehow, sometime, bring it about!
I’ve been reading day by day the account of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt–how God let his people fall into harsh oppression there. Perhaps this was the only way they’d ever have wanted to leave behind its lushness and plenty, its leeks and garlic? Cf.Num. 11:5 . In their oppression they cried out to God and He sent a saviour, a kinsman– Moses, to intercede on their behalf with Pharaoh.
It was a hard won victory. Pharaoh wasn’t quick to release them from such a lucrative enslavement. But this too God used on their behalf (and for the enlightenment of all the nations watching!), that they might never forget His greatness and power, that they might ‘tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.’ Ex.10:2
For generations to come they would recall this night of their deliverance, this night when the blood on their doorposts would save them from the death angel, this ‘night of watching by the Lord’ (Ex.12:42) to deliver them from bondage. They would recount God’s mighty deliverance again and again for generations to come, (eg.Ps.107) , that night of the tenth plague: the death of every firstborn in Egypt, the urgent summons to Moses and Aaron, the emancipating edict: “Up, go out from among my people…and serve the LORD as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds… and BE GONE!” and the desperate plea from Pharaoh: “and bless me also!”.
This was the night of their deliverance. It had come just as God had foretold it would, not one day early, not one day late. “At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.” Ex.12:41 And in their hasty exit Moses took the bones of Joseph with him in accordance with Joseph’s dying wish: “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.” Ex.13:19
Joseph is only one of many in the great Hall of Faith who died not having received what was promised. But physical death is not the end all. Being interred, embalmed, cremated… for those who believe these are just the commencement of life as we have yet to know it. Joseph believed. And it was counted to him as righteousness, the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. (Phil.3:9) And it occurs to me that this is the very best legacy we can leave our children and all those who have known us in this lifetime–this confidence that ‘God will surely visit you…’
My own father sits slumped in a wheelchair, beyond reach of human reassurances but having lived his life in faith that God is to be trusted and served come what may. His body is in bondage to decay. Day by day he grows weaker in mind and body but not so his spirit. The Spirit within is helping him in his weakness. The Spirit himself is interceding for him with groans that words cannot express, bringing about the fulfillment of God’s purposes in his body, the redemption of which is just around the corner. Yes, Dad, God will surely visit you…
He may not come with signs and wonders but the upward call will come and it will be glorious! Whether in life or in death the Saviour is coming for each one who has trusted in His salvation. God is not slow concerning His promise (II Pet. 3:9) He is accomplishing His purposes in us, in our progeny, in the world around us… Those God has chosen, He justifies. Those He justifies, He glorifies. (Rom.8:30-34) A glorious day is coming when these bodies will be freed from their bondage to sin’s decadence and brought into the glorious freedom prepared for the children of God. We can live and bless and die in this assurance: “God will surely visit you…” Let this be our legacy.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Rom.8:18
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Phil.1:20
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil.1:21
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Heb.11:13-16
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Heb.10:35