Have you ever had a date in your diary that you have been dreading? It could be something fairly minor such as an appointment with the dentist. On the other hand, it could be something serious like a major operation, the day when you find out some test results or the day when you know an important decision is to be made. If you are anything like me, you can avoid thinking about it while it’s some way off but of course time never stands still, eventually the time will come, eventually we have to face reality.
We know from the way the brothers were so concerned with Jacob’s welfare when there was a prospect of Benjamin being taken from him, that they really did love their father. They must have been grief-stricken at his death but we see they experienced another emotion as well; fear. They knew Joseph would never have caused pain to their father by punishing them while Jacob was alive but now he was gone and all of those feelings of being powerless when the man they had treated so badly had so much power were rushing back.
Fear is the enemy of faith and often as here, it leads to sin.
“Your father left these instructions before he died: This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” (50:16-17)
Did Jacob really leave those instructions? I don’t think so. They were afraid and so they lied.
The thing they were struggling with was grace. Did they deserve punishment? Yes of course they did. Did they deserve to be forgiven? No they did not. But Joseph saw that God had a purpose (45:5, 50:20) and as one the clearest pictures of Christ in the Old Testament, he forgave them. As Stuart said a few weeks ago, the brothers only understood the extent of Joseph’s forgiveness after the death of Jacob. I feel sympathy for the brothers here; it’s a path that I have walked myself. How can God forgive me? I don’t deserve it. But it isn’t about me any more than it was about the brothers; it’s about the one who forgives. Jesus has died for me, he has paid the price in full and the debt cancelled. To doubt my forgiveness is to doubt what Christ has done. No wonder Joseph wept (50:17), who knows; perhaps heaven weeps when we doubt his grace.
As we sign off from Genesis we have another funeral and a burial planned. This time it’s Joseph, he lived to see the third generation of Ephraim’s children (50:23). God had truly made him fruitful in the land of his suffering (41:52). Like his father, Joseph was determined to be buried in Canaan. He had left aged seventeen and apart from Jacob’s burial, had spent his whole adult life in Egypt but his heart was in Canaan;
“And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.’ So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (50:25-26)
“By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” (Hebrews 11:22)
“And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.” (Joshua 24:32)
When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey. (John H Sammis)