“By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:22). The children of Israel were living high in Egypt. But Joseph said, “You will be leaving here. God will take you to the Promised Land—and when you go, take my bones with you.”
FAITH REMEMBERS GOD’S PROMISES
“So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. …And Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here’” (Genesis 50:22, 24-25).
How was Joseph so certain? He knew the Word of God. God had promised Abraham, 300 years before this: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:13b-14).
God said it; Joseph believed it. You must have the Word of God to have faith. (See Romans 10:17.) Your faith is measured by your knowledge of and love for God’s Word. Faith is not positive thinking, self-confidence, following a hunch, or hoping for the best. Faith is believing what God has said, and acting upon it. You do not claim it and name it. God names it, and then you claim it. (See 2 Corinthians 1:20.)
FAITH RELIES ON GOD’S POWER
When you have the promise, you then need someone with the power to fulfill the promise. “Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out…’” (Genesis 50:24a; emphasis added).
Circumstances should not shake your faith.
When Joseph gave this prophecy, this commandment about his bones, there was no reason that the Hebrews should leave Egypt. They had it made! Joseph was the Prime Minister! Yet he said, “You’re coming out.”
Feelings should not shake your faith.
Feelings are fickle and deceiving. Your feelings do not change the Word of God. The devil wants you in the realm of emotions, away from trusting the Lord. The next time Satan tempts you to doubt, point him to the Word of God. Let the argument be between him and God. God will win.
Delays should not shake your faith.
Joseph knew it was a long time coming. His body would molder and decay. But time cannot erode God’s promises. “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3).
FAITH RESULTS IN GOD’S PEACE
There’s no hint of panic in Joseph. He speaks with certainty and victory. Where did he get this peace? He remembered God’s promises and relied on God’s power.
Was Joseph’s faith rewarded?
“So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea. And the children of Israel went up in orderly ranks out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you’” (Exodus 13:18-19).
There go the Hebrews, through the Red Sea, carrying with them a box of bones. Things will always be just as God says they will.
What is the blessing in a box of bones? Why did Joseph say, “Take my bones with you”? Joseph wanted to be a part of what God was up to. He wanted to be linked with the people of God.
Think of the power Joseph had: in Egypt, the mightiest nation on Earth, he was the one running everything for Pharaoh. (Read Genesis 41:39-44.) Egyptians of wealth built great pyramids for when they died, monuments for themselves. But Joseph did not build one. Among the mummies in the London Museum, there is no glass case with Joseph lying there. Joseph built for himself a monument of faith, by believing God.
Joseph could lie down in the grave and rest because he knew he was part of God’s plan. He also knew that there is a great resurrection day coming. All will be raised, saved, and lost.
“And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).
Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His [Jesus’] voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29, word in brackets added).
Won’t it be great to be raised and see Jesus face to face? “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
Will it not be fearful to rise in the judgment and face a God you do not know? What will you say when you see Him? You will face Him. He is inescapable. “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11). You cannot crawl up in the grave, pull the dirt over your face and hide from God. (See Revelation 6:15-17.)
We don’t know how much of this Joseph knew, but he lived by faith. Paul said, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21a).
God’s law says that sin must be punished. (See Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23.) But thank God, those who are saved are not under the law, but under grace. (See Romans 6:14.) Jesus has taken the sting out of death, the pain out of parting. And He says, “Because I live, you will live.” (Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-22.)
Paul said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Steadfast—that’s constancy. Abounding in the work of the Lord—that’s fervency. Knowing your labor is not in vain—that’s expectancy.
In prosperity and ease in Egypt, the Hebrews could look at that box of bones and say, “Don’t settle down—we’re leaving here.” And in slavery and misery, they could look at it and say, “This is not forever. We’re leaving.” That box of bones reminded them of the brevity of life and the length of eternity.