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God’s Word for You

Hebrews 11:22

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, December 22, 2014

22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.

In April of 1446 B.C., on the night of the Passover, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to the east, toward the Red Sea. Moses “took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath” (Exodus 13:19). The Patriarch had died more than 350 years before, but his embalmed remains traveled throughout the entire exodus—all forty years of it—until Israel finally arrived in Canaan and Joseph’s descendants, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, could bury him in the cave of Machpelah which Abraham had bought from the Hittites (Genesis 50:13). Joseph wanted it this way to make a point.

My wife and I attended a wedding a few months before our own, and one of the requests of the bride and groom was that no children under a certain age would attend. The groom in particular had a strong feeling that children should not make any noises or other distractions that would detract from the solemnity of the occasion. Kath and I had a completely different feeling about our wedding, which we saw as a model of what our marriage would be. I was in training for the ministry at that time, and we wanted our families (many of whom had attended or knew about the restrictions of the earlier wedding) to see that “solemnity” in church and a true faith in God are not necessarily the same thing. So we requested that the baptismal font would be moved front and center of the aisle of the church, so that the whole wedding party would have to march around it, and in the wedding sermon my godfather mentioned that we had requested its placement as a reminder our baptisms and as a public prayer that God would bless our marriage with children (a prayer God answered with sons). We also had a choir of family children sing at the wedding. Sometimes such living demonstrations are more effective than words. This is what Joseph’s funeral was.

Joseph’s request to be buried in Canaan was not a superstitious request, nor did it come from a distaste for Egypt (he was a very important Egyptian official). His request was a confession of faith in God’s promise about Canaan. He wanted even his own funeral to be a sermon to his children. Their father would be buried alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because God promised all of them that their descendants would one day possess that land.

This was a promise God kept, although this passage make it abundantly clear that Joseph himself did not live to see it happen. His faith was in God’s promises about things to come. His request would have made no sense at all if he had not known about or believed in the promise to possess Canaan. As a high Egyptian official, particularly living as he did during Egypt’s Twelfth Dynasty, Joseph could have been buried in a magnificent tomb of his own—a display of his power and importance for all to see for generations and millennia to come. Instead, he wanted his family to remember their inheritance in a more permanent home than Egyptian tombs in the sand. He wanted them to know that God is the true God who keeps his promises. He wanted them to know that through faith they had a place with God in heaven forever. Through the same faith, we have the same certainty, and the same place with God in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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