Frank Sinatra was a global superstar for many decades of the twentieth century but in 1971 he announced his retirement (which had been rumoured for some time), with the words; ‘Excuse me while I disappear’. The truth of course was that he didn’t disappear for very long and was soon back in the limelight with world tours and new recordings. His final public performance came in 1995 just before his eightieth birthday. Maybe Sinatra took inspiration from Jacob, he’s been talking about dying since Joseph disappeared (37:35), and at the start of our reading today he is still going thirty years later (49:29).
I’m sure Joseph was familiar with his father’s wishes, after all, he had told him before (47:29-31). The fact that Jacob felt the need to repeat the instructions to Joseph, the son he loved and was completely trustworthy, reveals just how strongly Jacob felt about it. He was, as we have seen, trusting in God’s promises and even in death he clung to them. This was a hope that went beyond death.
The respect that was shown to Jacob by the Egyptians speaks clearly of the way Joseph was seen. New leaders often enjoy a honeymoon period of popularity. The fact that they are different from their predecessors counts for something. But as time goes on the electorate become aware of the leader’s weaknesses and often the leader can perhaps gain a distorted view of their own importance. Very few people remain popular over time. Joseph it seems, was the exception, as we have seen before, he was respected by both the population and by Pharaoh; that couldn’t have been easy. When he asked for time to grieve and worship, he was given space and help to fulfil the wishes of his father. The challenge for us is to live with integrity as we seek to honour Christ.
“Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
As we come to the end of Jacob’s story there’s a lovely picture of the future. We would expect Jacob’s sons to follow their father’s requests and to see that he was buried in Canaan but what is interesting here is that so many Egyptians were present. As we imagine this ‘very large company’ (50:9) traveling to Canaan we see hints of a future day, one Isaiah spoke of;
“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’” (Isaiah 2:2-3)
We’ve said it often enough on our journey through Genesis, God was going to bless all nations; Egypt, Wales, – all nations.
In death, In life, I’m confident and covered by the power of Your great love.
My debt is paid, there’s nothing that can separate my heart from Your great love…
(One Thing Remains – Jesus Culture)