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The Bones Of Joseph

Hebrews 11:22
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.

Matthew 6:21
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

To many of us, this question of where to bury the bones after passing away might seem to be an insignificant and unimportant matter. But to God, this issue is a matter of faith and heart.

God said that Joseph was a man of faith. By faith, Joseph, as he was approaching the end of his earthly life, confidently spoke that God would deliver the people of Israel out of Egypt. As Joseph was assured of the sure promises of God, he instructed them and their future descendants to carry his bones with them upon their Exodus.

The story of Joseph the dreamer is one of my favorites in the Bible. Out of the 50 chapters in the Book of Genesis, 14 chapters were about his life (Genesis 37-50).

Joseph was the son of Jacob and Rachel. He lived in the land of Canaan with ten half-brothers, one full brother, and at least one half-sister.

He was the firstborn of Rachel and the eleventh son of Jacob. Of all the sons, Joseph was the favorite of his father. Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all of them, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.

When Joseph was seventeen years old, he had two dreams. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers were out in the field binding sheaves. But his sheaf stood up, and the sheaves of his brothers gathered around it and bowed down before it. In the second dream, the sun (father), the moon (mother), and eleven stars (brothers) bowed to Joseph.

These two dreams really made his brothers furiously angry. The dreams implied that Joseph would be supremely more powerful than his brothers and even his own parents. They then plotted to get rid of Joseph.

Joseph was a dreamer. Instead of beginning to live those dreams out, he went through a lot of interesting detours including being sold into slavery and wrongfully imprisoned. Everything seemed to be going in the opposite direction of the dreams that God had placed in his heart. Totally different from what he could ever imagined.

After being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, he eventually rose to become vizier, the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh. And his presence and office in the courts of Pharaoh caused Israel to leave Canaan and settle in Egypt.

Joseph was the first of his family to go down into Egypt. It was all in the divine and perfect plan of God. God sent Joseph to Egypt ahead of time to preserve lives and to keep his family alive.

Genesis 45:4-8
4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.
7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

But to remain in Egypt forever was not Joseph's dream and desire! Joseph's dream was remarkably more and better! Not to be just powerfully rich and famous in Egypt, but to return to the land that God had promised to Abraham, his great grandfather!

Since it was his own family who sold and sent him to Egypt, it had to be his family who would eventually carry him out of Egypt and back to Canaan.

After surviving the famine and enjoying some good years while Joseph was still known and honored in Egypt, the children of Israel then went into oppression and affliction, becoming slaves in the land of Pharaoh for 400 years. But God promised a deliverer who would rescue them, and bring them back to their Promised Land. And Joseph didn't desire to remain in Egypt, whether alive or dead!

Joseph desired to be buried where his forefathers were buried. His father Jacob also had the same heart desire. When Jacob died in Egypt, the whole family and even the Egyptians, mourned him for seventy days.

Joseph had his father embalmed, a process that took forty days to complete. Then he prepared a great ceremonial journey back to Canaan to bury Jacob. The servants of the Pharaoh, the elders of the houses of Israel and Egypt went on a very long funeral, journeying beyond the Jordan River.

They stopped at Atad, and observed seven days of mourning there. Their lamentations were so great that they caught the curiosity and attention of surrounding Canaanites who remarked “This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel Mizraim, which was beyond the Jordan.

So the sons of Jacob did for him just as he had commanded them. They carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place. After they had buried their father, Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt. The Biblical account of the death and burial of Jacob can be found in Genesis 49:29-50:14.

Likewise, Joseph desired to be buried in the same land where his forefathers were buried. Why? Because he desired to be with his family. It is in the land of promise, and not in the land of punishment and slavery. It is not just a place of burial but also a place of resurrection when their Messiah comes! It is going back to Eden! Back to be with God!

Before his death, Joseph made his brothers promise with an oath that they would take his body back with them when they returned to Canaan. Joseph died at the age of 110, and they embalmed him, and his body was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Genesis 50:22-26
22 So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years.
23 Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.
24 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.”
25 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.”
26 So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.

Throughout 400 years of affliction and slavery in Egypt, the children of Israel remembered their oath. When they left Egypt in their Exodus, Moses took Joseph's bones with him.

Exodus 13:19
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.”

As the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they carried the bones of Joseph with them throughout their whole journey. After entering the Promised Land, they buried the bones in Shechem, in the plot of land Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor. This land was located in the territory assigned to the tribes of Joseph.

Joshua 24:32
The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.

Joseph's dream was not to be prosperous and powerful in the pagan land of Egypt. He had higher aspirations and godly desires. When God came to deliver Israel out of Egypt, he didn't want to be left behind! He desired to be buried in the land that God had allocated to him and his children! Nothing less.

The hope of Joseph was echoed in a Jewish poem that in due course became the national anthem of Israel. It was called "Hatikvah" or "The Hope":

As long as the Jewish spirit
Is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East,
Looking toward Zion,
Then our hope –
The 2000-year-old hope –
Will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

Even at his death, Joseph still trusted the promises of God. He was living by faith even when he was dying. Always believing and trusting God throughout the journey of earthly life and beyond. He had a heavenly hope and home.

Hebrews 11:13-16
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.
16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Though Joseph was the second most powerful man in Egypt next to Pharaoh, his heart was not fixed and focused upon earthly treasures and riches.

Matthew 6:19-21
19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Joseph knew that he was just a stranger and pilgrim on earth! He desired something more heavenly and divine! He was laying up treasures in heaven. He had a home in the city of God! He was no fool who gave what he could not keep to gain what he could not lose.

Matthew 16:25-26
25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

Today, God is raising up a Joseph Generation. They are not a people who are super rich, know how to make good money and bring some into the household of God to build bigger and grander churches. They are not aggressively doing social networking and promoting business ventures in the marketplace.

I believe that the Joseph Generation is a last-day remnant - a people whom God is raising up to help His church survive through a time of spiritual famine! They are called to preserve lives and not to make lots of money!

And they will be tested by God Himself. The true result is not about financial possessions, social positions and powerful prestige. God is testing the integrity, magnanimity and truthfulness of their hearts!

Psalm 105:16-22
16 Moreover He called for a famine in the land;
He destroyed all the provision of bread.
17 He sent a man before them—
Joseph—who was sold as a slave.

18 They hurt his feet with fetters,
He was laid in irons.
19 Until the time that his word came to pass,
The word of the Lord tested him.

20 The king sent and released him,
The ruler of the people let him go free.
21 He made him lord of his house,
And ruler of all his possessions,
22 To bind his princes at his pleasure,
And teach his elders wisdom.

This Joseph Generation is wholly dedicated and devoted to the Lord. They commune with Him daily as they are led by the Spirit in every area of their lives. Some of them are now coming out of great trials and testings to enter a place of effective ministry, revelation, wisdom and fruitfulness.

May we be like Joseph, living by faith and looking beyond our earthly life and hoping for a better home in heaven. May God be not ashamed to be called our God. Jesus had gone to prepare a place for us in eternity. To dwell with Him forever in the house of the Lord!

Psalm 23:6
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

While on earth, let's live by faith, and lay up treasures in heaven. His goodness and mercy shall surely follow us all the days of our life!

Written on: 29 January 2018