The Old Testament life of Joseph is a favorite character study for many Christians. Recently, I preached a series of messages on the life of Joseph at our church, and I found that one less well known moment in Joseph’s life was a great blessing to me. If you haven’t in a while, take a few minutes and read the life of Joseph as recorded in Genesis 37-50. It will bless you.
Joseph is a great example of perseverance and overcoming terrible hurts, as well as a great example of leadership and hard work. Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family where his father favored him above his eleven brothers. This fact created resentment to the point where his brothers threw him in a pit and plotted to kill him. Slightly cooler heads prevailed and his brothers decided to sell him into slavery in Egypt and tell their father that Joseph was dead. The Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph in Egypt and he eventually gets a good position working for Potipher, an Egyptian official. However, then he is falsely accused of a crime and is forgotten about in years of imprisonment. Miraculously, the Lord works in Joseph’s life and he eventually is released from prison and winds up running the entire country of Egypt to prepare for seven years of terrible famine. The Lord actually used Joseph to save the lives of millions of people! Finally, he is reunited with his brothers and forgives them even though he is in a position to exact revenge. It’s a truly amazing life story!
However, it is also interesting to make note that Joseph is mentioned in the “Faith Chapter” better known as Hebrews 11. Some preachers call this “Faith’s Hall of Fame” because Hebrews 11 recognizes many well known (and some less well known) Old Testament believers and commends them for what they did for the Lord through faith in Him. It’s an inspiring chapter to say the least. Not surprisingly, Joseph is mentioned in Hebrews 11 and commended as a man who lived by faith in the Lord. It is not surprising that Joseph is mentioned in Hebrews 11, but it is surprising to read what he is commended for…
“By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.” (Hebrews 11:22, NASB95)
This is a reference to Genesis 50:22-26 where Joseph’s dying wish is that his bones be taken to the promised land and buried there. You see, Joseph’s great grandfather was Abraham, to whom the Lord had promised the land around 200 years before (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-7). At the time of Joseph’s death, none of these promises had been fulfilled and Joseph and his descendants all lived in Egypt, not the promised land. Yet, Joseph believed the promise of God that one day God would keep his word and bring them to possession of the promised land. As a result, Joseph basically said, “I don’t want to be buried here among unbelievers. I want to be finally buried in the promised land because one day God is going to bring us there!”
Think about all of the great things that Joseph did through his faith in the Lord. Think of all of the great things the Lord could have inspired the writer of Hebrews (whomever that may be!) to commend in Joseph’s life. Yet, the Holy Spirit chose to commend Joseph for believing God to the very end of his life by giving instructions concerning his bones. Joseph died believing the promises of God, and that is what the Lord commended him for. By the way, if you study the Old Testament, you will find that it was another 400 years before Joseph’s bones were actually buried in the promised land, but they got there!
May each of us be like Joseph and believe the promises of God to the very last breath we take on this earth! Don’t let circumstances and the way things look right now discourage you. On the day Joseph died, nothing around him looked like God was keeping his promises, yet he died believing God – the One who cannot lie and cannot fail! Let’s each one determine to believe God until our dying breath.