Bury Me (Genesis 47:28-31)

Prayer:  Unchanging, Afghanistan Christians, Lakeshore Baptist

Our sermon title is “Bury Me.”  Compared to what we typically cover, our passage is very short today:  verses 28-31.  In it we see Jacob tell Joseph not to bury him in Egypt but back in Canaan.  That’s all the passage is.  But that’s not all it is.  We’ll study it in four sections:  1) Jacob’s Old Age, 2) Jacob’s Burial Plans, 3) Jacob Honored By Joseph, and 4) Jacob Worships God.


First we see “Jacob’s Old Age.”  Follow in verse 28 with me, “…”  The longest living person on record in US history is Sarah Knauss.  When she died in 1999 she was 119 years old and 97 days.  But she was a babe compared to Jacob.  When he arrived in Egypt Pharaoh asked how old he was (8-9), and and Jacob replied “130 years old.””  He would live another 17 years and die at a good old age of 147 years.  

Of course, compared to his predecessors, Jacob himself was a babe at 147.  His father Isaac lived to 180 years (35:28) while his grandpa Abraham lived to 175 years (25:7).  They were a long way from Adam, who lived 930 years.  If you go back to chapter 11 you can see that after the flood there was a sharp decline in the longevity of humanity.  While Noah lived 950 years, his son Shem lived 600 years.  The years dwindle with each generation until Abraham’s father Terah lived only 205 years (then Abraham at 175 and Isaac at 180 and Jacob at 147).  When Psalm 90:10 was written 2000 years later it bemoaned the short lifespan of man, “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures.”  Which holds steady in first world countries such as our own where the average lifespan is 77 years.  

What do we make of an “old man” like Jacob?  What do we make of “old age?”  First, it must be seen as an honor from God.  The accumulation of many years is a blessing.  Remember that God’s blessings mean “increase” and when it comes to age his blessings mean an increased age and increased honor.  Turn to Proverbs 16:31 with me.  Then turn over to 20:29 with me….You can see old age as a blessing from God when you read Leviticus 19:32, “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.  I am the LORD.”  God honors the elderly by requiring we honor them.  Age is a blessing. 

But that’s not it – God considers respect for the aged reverence for Him personally.  In other words we show our reverence for God when we show respect to the elderly.  God demands the aged be treated with dignity.  Wherever God is revered you will know it by how respected the elderly are.

APPLICATION:  Treat the aged with great respect.  God takes that very personally.  

APPLICATION:  Be worthy of great respect.  If you are aged you will find at EFC that you will be greatly respected.  But be worthy of that respect.  To those of us “up and coming” elderly, learn to be worthy of respect as well.  


Jacob informs Joseph where to bury him.  Follow verses 29-30 with me…

Joseph brought Jacob to Egypt, now Jacob wants Joseph to bring him to Canaan.  Jacob makes him promise not to bury him in Egypt, but in Canaan where his fathers are buried.  To really make sure Joseph promises, he makes Joseph put his hand under his thigh and promise.  Why we ever got away from this custom I don’t know!  From now on this should be a custom for becoming a new member!

The reason Jacob wants to be in Canaan is his faith.  It was the land God promised to him. Burying his body there was a testimony of his faith in that promise.  Even though the promise did not come true in his lifetime he went to his death still believing it – still knowing that if not now then later God will faithfully fulfill that promise that the land would be his.  And his burial was a demonstration of that faith.  

APPLICATION:  Do our burial plans matter to us?  How can we demonstrate our faith in how we plan for our bodies to be treated in death?  Just like Jacob’s burial plans reflected his faith in God’s promises, what ways could we plan for our own burials that would reflect our hope in God’s Word?  Think about this:  in a real way, his desire to be buried in the land God promised him is Jacob’s desire to be associated with the word of God – the word that promised that land.  How can we associate ourselves with God’s word in how we are buried?  Some want Scripture on their tombstones.  Others choose burial over cremation.  

I would suggest also that he wanted to be buried in that land because it was the place he wanted to come up at the resurrection!  He wanted the first sights when he came up from the dead to be the very land he had been promised.  What faith!

Notice his first person pronouns in verse 30…. “….”  Jacob was speaking about himself in two ways in the same sentence:   “when I rest with my fathers” is Jacob talking about his spirit.  Then “carry me out and bury me is Jacob talking about his physical body.  Resting with his fathers means his spirit will go to Sheol after it is separated from his body.   His spirit will join the spirits of his fathers in Sheol.  [two verses needed] Burying him with his fathers means his body being put in a tomb where the bodies of his father’s were at.    

We are seeing in this passage that we as humans have a duality:  we are the combination of material substance (bodies) and our immaterial substance (spirit/soul).  In the beginning, at creation, life was the combining of the spirit with the body.  Turn to Genesis 2:7.  

At death a separation of the spirit and body takes place:  the spirit leaves the body (Jms 2:26; Lk 8:55; Ps 146:4; Ecc 12:7; Gen 47:30).  Looking forward to our hope, the resurrection will be the reunion of the spirit with a new body (1 Cor. 15).  Sin separates.  It separates us from God, and it causes death, which is the separation of our spirits from our bodies.  


The third part of our sermon shows us how Joseph Honors Jacob.  Notice verse 30 again, “when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”  Then notice Joseph’s response, “I will do as you say.”  

With those simple words Joseph shows honor to Jacob, and brought great peace and contentment to his father.  What his father wishes Joseph will be faithful to do.  We know he would be faithful because Joseph has been nothing but faithful his entire life.  From the time we were introduced to Joseph at 17 years old (ch 37) working for his father, to his service to Potiphar, then to the prison ward, then to Pharaoh, Joseph has proven the most capable, reliable and trustworthy servant anyone could ever have.

But there is another reason, a family reason, why Joseph would do what his father desires.  He has been given the rights of the firstborn.  When the actual firstborn, Reuben sinned, Jacob took the firstborn rights away and transferred them to Joseph.  We can be sure that when Jacob saw Joseph was alive that those firstborn rights were restored to him. 

His father has honored him that way.  And, in a way, such a responsibility should fall to Joseph the “firstborn.”  Of course, Joseph could make all the arrangements a lot easier than any of the other brothers seeing as he ruled over Egypt.

APPLICATION:  How do we honor our father and mother?  The fifth commandment relates to our parents.  Turn to Exodus 20:15 with me, READ…..  How we treat our parents is a serious matter to God.  

Not only was Joseph honoring his father by agreeing to bury him back in Canaan, but Jacob was honoring his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham by arranging to be buried with them.  He honored them as his fathers in that he believed he was the recipient of the same covenant promises as they, and, he worshiped the God they worshiped.  

APPLICATION to the APPLICATION:  Honor your parents if they are alive and you have a good relationship with them by spending time with them; speaking well of them; and sacrificially caring for them.  Many of you are in that sandwich season of life where you have kids you’re still caring for on one hand and now you’re caring for your parents.  In Mark 7 Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for demanding people give their money to the temple rather than to helping their parents.  Honor your father and mother.  The exhaustion and loving labor and occasional frustration and everything is a testimony of your obedience to God to honor your mother and father.  Speak well of your parents, identify those things about them that are honorable and emulate those things and tell your kids about them.  If you had horrible parents or didn’t know your parents my heart goes out to you.  I pray you come to a place of peaceful acceptance.  If nothing else honor your bad or absent parents by acknowledging they are the vessels God used to bring you into this world and give you life. If you’re young, and still under your parents roof – obey them.  Do not undermine them.  


I absolutely love this last point:  Jacob worshiped God.  Look with me at verse 31, “….”

I love this verse because you can see the 147ish year old Jacob, all beard and wrinkly leathery skin, and eyes that can’t see anymore.  Then when he repeats himself to Joseph, “Do you swear you will?”  And Joseph says, “I swear it, I will dad” you can see Jacob’s face brighten with a smile of deep contentment.  Then he leaned on his staff and worshiped.  He worshiped God.  

Turn to Hebrews 11 with me.  THis is the faith Hall of Fame.  And there is only one verse dedicated to Jacob, which is surprising.  His name is also Israel, and his 12 sons became the nation of Israel.  You’d think he’d be more prominent in the faith hall of fame because of how much his name “Israel” is central to all the Bible.  But that one verse is surprising also because of what it mentions.  It mentions only one thing about Jacob’s whole life of 147 years.  Read verse 21 with me, “…..”  Out of everything Jacob did from trusting God during the Laban years, trusting God meeting Esau, trusting God during the Shechem years, trusting God during the Joseph years, the thing that Jacob is listed for is that at 147 years old he leaned on top of his staff and worshiped God.  Why that?  Why does that one moment get listed and not anything else in Jacob’s life?  What does this say to us?

Let me offer a couple thoughts.

First, our worship of God continues til our last breath.  There is no retiring from worship of God.  In a way, what else could a man do but worship when worship had characterized him his whole life?  You will do in your older years what you’ve done in your younger years.  But in your older years it will be matured from decades of faith, richly seasoned with gratitude and peace and hope and full confidence in God.  

Second, Jacob may have been physically weak, but he was spiritually strong.  Spiritual strength does not depend on physical strength or health.  

Third, Jacob’s worship, I believe, was an expression of thankfulness to God.  “Let us come before him with thanksgiving” Psalm 95:4 tells us.  “Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts” Colossians 3:16 says.  Ephesians 5:20 says, “always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  

What did Jacob have to be thankful about?  For one thing, God let him spend the last 17 years of his life with his lost son Joseph.  He was watching over those 17 years the continued blossoming of his descendents and the growth of his line just like God promised.  He was thankful too for the promises he had been given by God long ago that wherever he went He would be with him.  Turn to Genesis 28:15 with me…. God was with him in Egypt and in a sense, after he died God would ensure – through Joseph – that Jacob would be brought back and buried in the land, thus fulfilling those words, “I will bring you back into this land.”  Jacob had so much to be thankful for and worship God for.  Not the least of which was that moment having the peace of mind that all his end of life arrangements were settled.  There was nothing left to do but worship God in peace for the remainder of his days.  

APPLICATION:  How much does thankfulness motivate our worship?  A lot of verses talk about singing with thankfulness.  Let the reason we sing be our thankfulness to him.  Let thankfulness move us to pray to him.  

Many people only turn to God after things are bad and they have no other options.  People of faith never “turn” to God because whether life is good or bad they are always facing Him.  

Fourth, as an old man there wasn’t much Jacob could do anymore.  But he could worship.  He could pray.  As we’ll see next week, he could also bless.  Let those characterize us when there’s nothing else we can do.  Here’s the thing though:  those are only things we will do if we’ve been doing them before we got old.  If we don’t do them when we’re old its because we never cultivated our worship of God in our younger years.  

APPLICATION:  We need to see our elders worshiping!  We often say, “Isn’t it great to see all the kids at church.”  And I love that.  But lets not forget the other end of the age spectrum.  I love seeing walkers and canes coming in.  Why?  Because they are the people who worship God even when their body is breaking down.  They worship God even while they don’t have the independence they used to or the strength they used to – or the hearing!  Their decreasing physical condition won’t keep them from leaning on top of their staff – or their walker – and worshiping God.  It’s not just the kids – the “future” of the church that warms our hearts.  Its the aged who got the church here and are still here that stirs up a reverence for their example.  

CONCLUSION:  Silent Reflection

Leave a Reply