Seventy-five sermons ago, on October 7th, 2021, we began our study through Genesis. We began with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now we come to the very last words of Genesis, the death of Joseph. Today we’re going to study the last few verses and finish the text of the book. Next week we’ll do a review of the high points and major themes of the book and some important take aways for us as we leave Genesis behind.
ENDING IN EGYPT (22) So Joseph Ends In Egypt, read verse 22. Two things stand out: first Joseph’s age and second his homeland.
First, Joseph’s age. Joseph lived to be 110 years old. God said before the Flood, which happened 500-700 years earlier, “My spirit will not contend with man forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Now, up to Noah’s time men were living into their 700’s, 800’s and 900’s. But that decree by God was not implemented in the very next generation so that from now on no one exceeded 120 years. Instead, what he did was from that decree he put man’s lifespans on a downward trajectory immediately after the Flood. After Noah you can see lifespans dwindling down and down and down. Abraham lived to 175, Isaac to 185, Jacob to 149, and here Joseph lives to 110. With Joseph we see God has brought man to the 120 year range. And here it plataeus: Moses would live several hundred years after Joseph but he would live to be 120 years old. Psalms would later say man lives to 70 years old, and if he has the strength he lives to 80.
APPLICATION: Old age is a blessing! I know it gets lonely, I know it gets painful, I know the loss of independence gets frustrating. But the Bible still says that being full of many years is an honor. Along with the struggles, don’t go through your old age never seeing that honor.
Second, I see Joseph’s homeland. Egypt was his home. I know he knew the promise of God that Canaan was the land that belonged to his people. But as God had it, Egypt was his home in this life. But you have to ask why he didn’t get his dad and brothers and his whole family and pack up after the famine was over and head back to Canaan? Couldn’t he have? He could have, but he didn’t. When he was 56 years old and his father died he could have gone back home to Canaan. But he didn’t. Why? Why did he stay in Egypt for the rest of his life?
Maybe one reason is because he had strong roots in Egypt – his career, his wife, his in-laws, his whole life was built in Egypt.
Another reason is because God never told him to leave. God told Abraham to leave Ur and go to Canaan but he never told Joseph to leave and go back to Canaan. God told Jacob to leave Padan Aram and go back to Bethel, but God never told Joseph to leave Egypt and go back. Joseph and Mary were told to flee to Egypt with their new baby, Jesus. But they didn’t return home when they decided to. They stayed until God told them to leave Egypt.
There’s a reason God didn’t command the Israelites to leave Egypt. There’s a reason he led them there through Joseph and left them there. He had plans in the future to do fantastic things in bringing them out of Egypt himself. He had plans to glorify himself in personally delivering them from slavery in Egypt and settling them in the promised land. Joseph was aware of God’s prophecy to his grandpa Abraham when God said that the Israelites would be enslaved in another nation but would be brought back into Canaan by God himself. That’s why he told his brothers “When God comes to your aid,” which we’ll get to next.
Put yourself in Joseph’s sandals. If you only have a perspective that focuses on the here and now, and you don’t have God’s prophetic word to inform you, you could have become very self-willed. You could say to yourself and your family: “Listen, God has given us the land of Canaan. It’s ours. He promised it to us and our descendents. So lets return and take what is ours. All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to God, he is the ruler of heaven and earth. And if he gave it to us then it is ours and we should return in authority to take dominion over the land God has given us.” It would have been as ignorant back then to reason that way as it is today. When God promised the land to the Israelites God’s promises unfold and are fulfilled in his time and in his way. And in the long arc of redemptive history God had planned a phase for the infant nation to be out of the land. They would grow up as a nation in Egypt and then they would be taken out of Egypt and back to their land.
APPLICATION: The parallel is striking. We live in this world now, a sort of Egypt. We have been promised a “land,” a life in eternity with God. But that life is not right now. It’s coming. Just like Joseph and the Israelites had to wait until after their lifetimes to step into possessing their land, so too we have to wait until after our lifetimes to see many of God’s promises become our possession as well.
APPLICATION to the APPLICATION: This life is lived with what God has promised for the next life in mind. We make God’s promise about what is coming after this life a treasure in our hearts that is in a box of faith, and we carry that with us during this life.
THE GLORIES OF GRANDPARENTING (23)We see Joseph gets to experience the glories of grandparenting, read v23….
In his old age he had the supreme joy of having his grandchildren and great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren placed on his knees.
Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s two boys that were born to him in Egypt. Joseph probably had other children but these two were special in that they were considered by Jacob, their grandfather, to be his direct sons. They would get land named after them in Israel when the nation would enter Canaan later on. But Egypt was all these boys knew their whole lives, except when they went to Canaan to bury Grandpa Jacob. When Jacob died they were early 20’s. When their father Joseph died here in our passage they would have been in their mid-to-late seventies. They would have been not only fathers, but they would have been great grandfathers, because we see from verse 23 that Joseph got to see down to the 3rd generation of both boys.
We don’t know any of Ephraim’s children’s names but we do for Manasseh. Verse 23 says Manasseh’s son, Makir had placed his own sons on Joseph’s knees. These would’ve been Joseph’s great grandchildren. We learn some of their names too: Gilead, Peresh and Sheresh. These would’ve been the wiggly, chubby babies Joseph got to hold when he was old. APPLICATION: Enjoy those grandbabies!
APPLICATION: Life goes on. Wave follows wave on the ocean, flower follows flower in the field, and generation follows generation among mankind. Life goes on. God will see to man’s existence all the way to the great Eschaton – the Coming of Jesus Christ and Judgment. It is wise to step back regularly and be reminded that your days are short, a mere handbreadth.
APPLICATION: We need to be humble. Not only are our days short, but God doesn’t need us. God used Joseph but God didn’t need Joseph. The nation of Israel did not depend on Joseph, it depends on God. Joseph would die, but God lives on forever because He is the living God, the I am. And it is God, not Joseph, that would ensure Israel’s surviving and thriving. Is that not a lesson for us?
APPLICATION: God blessings are not dependent on our cirumstances. Life was good for Israel under Joseph in Egypt. But after Joseph and his generation died, and a new Pharaoh rose to power, life became bitter for the Israelites in Egypt. Yet they kept multiplying and growing. Even though they became pariah to the Egyptians, were oppressed and enslaved, as a nation they were fruitful and increased tremendously in numbers. That is a great blessing from God. The blessing of deliverance would come, but let us see the blessing God gave in the middle of their hardship. Do we see the ways God blesses in the midst of our hardship?
CARRY ME TO CANAAN (24-25)Next we see the promise. Read verses 24-25…
Joseph makes them swear a promise. He makes them commit to taking his bones back to Canaan. But not right now. He would be buried in Egypt and only at a time later on when God would bring the Israelites out of Egypt and back to Canaan would they then have to grab his casket with his bones in it and carry it back to CanaanTells them that he wants his bones to be carried back to the land of Canaan. Think of the faith of two people here.
First, the faith of Joseph. These instructions were born out of his firm belief that God would come to get them and take them back to Canaan to settle them there. Joseph’s faith in God’s promise is what formed his desire to have his bones carried back to Canaan.
Second, Joseph knows his God. He knows that His God is the God of his fathers Abraham and Isaac. He knows that his God promised his fathers the land of Canaan. He knows that his God promised that land to their descendents, which included him, his brothers, all their children, the grandbabies bouncing on his knees, and their children and grandchildren too, continuing into the future. Joseph knows who his God is, what he has done in the past, what he has said, how he has been at work in his own life. Joseph knows his God.
APPLICATION: DO WE KNOW OUR GOD?
Third, notice the timing of Joseph’s wishes. Why did he want to be returned to Canaan later at the time the Israelites would leave Egypt? Why didn’t he do what his father Jacob did and have his body immediately brought back to Canaan? And why didn’t Joseph say, “Well, boys, you all go ahead into Canaan when God comes to get you and go ahead and leave me here in Egypt. When the resurrection happens I’ll hitchhike out of Egypt on some camels and meet up with you in the Promised Land.” Joseph was specific: “When God comes to your aid and takes you up out of this land to bring you back to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, THAT is when you are to grab my bones and bring me with you.”
Why? I think there is a symmetry in this plan. Joseph was the reason they went to Egypt in the first place, and he would leave with them when the time was over. God used Joseph to get the Israelites into Egypt, later he would use the Israelites to get Joseph into Canaan. Many Israelites died in Egypt and their bones stayed in Egypt for sure over the coming centuries. But the honored place Joseph has in Israel’s history with Egypt would be why they ensured his remains would travel out of Egypt in the future.
Fourth, we have to see not only the faith of Joseph, but the Israelites.. Joseph spoke directly to his brothers and his family alive at that moment. But they would all be dead and gone by the time his bones would need to be carried away. So really, Joseph was speaking to them, but through them, to their descendents, the nation of Israel that was growing from them.. The promise of “God coming to their aid and resettling them in the promised land” would be passed on to each new generation. Parents and would teach their kids that Egypt was not their forever home, that God was going to come get them. It was discussed in the coffee shops and the jobsites and around the tables. Old Joseph probably spoke of it to those kids bouncing on his knees. And each new generation would have to believe it to pass it on to the next. The coming deliverance of God became their national hope. Think too that God gave them a timeframe, he said in Genesis 15 that they would be mistreated for 400 years. And in faith, on the night of Passover, the leadership of the Hebrews made sure that on their To Do List someone had the bones of Joseph packed up on a mule ready to go.
APPLICATION: What ceremonies are important in our faith? God was going to deliver the Israelites even if they forgot Joseph’s bones. But it was important to remember those bones. It was proper for the moment. What ceremonies or rituals do we have in our faith that while they don’t effect our salvation are nonetheless proper and important? We have two from Scripture: communion and baptism. There are things God puts in place that should be observed because it is right and appropriate. They fit or “decorate” the situation. Think of Christmas season. “It’s not christmas without a tree, or without baking, or without lights up on the house.” These are all things that adorn the Christmas situation but Christmas will come and go with or without them. But it is appropriate to do these things to decorate the season. Or think of a wedding. You can go stand in front of a judge and say some vows and walk out the door just as married as anyone else. But for many they couldn’t conceive of a wedding without flowers, invitations, a beautiful venue, many guests, gifts, and all the plans that go into making a big deal out of a wedding. Those things don’t make you married, but they go along with the situation of getting married. For some, it would be inconceivable to get married without making it special with different things.
In our faith there are things to do that aren’t salvific but are very fitting for us because of our faith in Christ.
Notice too the language Joseph uses: “God will come to your aid.” He says it twice. It indicates that the Israelites would be in some kind of trouble. Yet, at the moment he spoke those words, life was good for the Israelites in Egypt: they lived in the best place in all of Egypt, their brother ruled Egypt and provided for all their needs and certainly more. What was he talking about? Joseph knew the prophecy God gave to his grandfather Abraham back in Genesis 15, “Know for certain that your descendents [Israelites] will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated.” God’s aid would certainly be needed if you’re enslaved and mistreated. Joseph knew that because God said it and he heard it from his grandfather and father. And that is exactly what happened. Turn to Exodus 1:6-14 with me and follow along.
APPLICATION: God’s faithfulness. Knowing God’s promises is necessary to glorifying him as a faithful God. How can we know and live with the confidence that God is faithful if we don’t even know what God is faithful to? If we’re not informed by His word, what He has said, then we begin to imagine things about God on our own, and we begin to think he is this way or that way, that he will do this and he won’t do that, because that’s what we imagine about him. Knowing God is not an exercise in imagination, it is a commitment to His self-revelation.
JOSEPH DIES (26) Joseph lived 85% of his life in Egypt – 93 years of his 110 years. He lived in Egypt, died in Egypt, and was buried in Egypt.
Genesis – the book of beginnings – closes with Joseph closing his eyes in death. Why? Why doesn’t Genesis continue to trace the lives of those generations after Joseph? Similar to the silent period in between the OT and NT, and similar to the silence in between Jesus’ birth and his ministry as an adult, there is a silent period in between the Israelites arriving in Egypt and being delivered from Egypt.
The events in between are unimportant to God’s purposes of Redemption and the nation of Israel. All we need to know is that in that time the nation was exploding in population. They were a nation growing within a nation. Egypt was like a womb and Israel was an infant that was going to be born. Its kind of poetic actually, Joseph’s life ending, the nation of Israel’s just beginning.
APPLICATION: The certainty of death. Joseph died. The book of beginnings comes to an end. You will die. That’s for certain. Hebrews 9:27 announces, “It is appointed for everyone to die once, and then face judgment.” When the book of your life closes, and your eyes are shut in death, what will happen to you on the other side?