Joseph Lived And Died By Faith - Hebrews 11:22
As many of you know, I was in construction for twenty years. One of the most memorable people that I ever built a house for was a man named Don Perubeck. Don was retired and everything about his life seemed to be managed flawlessly.
He had a perfectly put together home and his yard was the envy of everyone. His oversight did not stop at his property line. No, over time his neighbors began to call him the ‘Governor’ because he oversaw everything that happened in that neighborhood. It was not unusual for me to drive by his home and see him standing at his front window with binoculars. He kept his eye on everything and very little happened in his house or in his neighborhood that he did not have some knowledge about.
One day I was at his house doing some work and he began to tell me what he wanted to be done with his body after he died. He said that he did not want to be put below ground where it would be cold, damp and dark. Therefore, he had come up with a plan. A plan that he thought everyone should implement upon the day of his death.
He said to me, ‘I want to be propped up against my gravestone facing towards the west with my binoculars.’ Then he asked, ‘Do you know why I want to be faced towards the west?’ Obviously I did not know why he wanted this. Then he said, ‘There is a softball diamond in that direction and I want to be able to watch the games.’ His wife rolled her eyes and she told him to let me get back to work.
Don and his wife have now passed away and I know one thing for certain. Don Perubeck has not been left leaning up against his tombstone with his binoculars facing towards the west. I can guarantee you that he has been buried six feet under ground where it is cold, dark and damp even though this was against his instructions. Don could manage so many things when he was alive but when he died managing things became much more difficult!
I mention this story because we are considering Joseph andHebrews 11:22. Joseph came to the end of his life and he made a demand to his family concerning what should happen to his body after he died.He speaks ‘to his brothers’ and he makes them promise that they will not leave his body in Egypt when God delivers His people. Joseph had lived in Egypt for ninety-three years but his heart had always longed to be in the Promised Land.
Don Perubeck’s influence as the ‘Governor’ was seen and felt in two distinct areas: his personal life and his neighborhood. Over the years I saw that his influence ebbed and flowed in two ways. First, some days he walked in favor with his wife and neighbors and some days he found himself out of favor with them. Secondly, there were some days when he seemed to operate with wisdom, but then there were other days when he did not.
In the scriptures we discover that Joseph was also a ‘governor’. We see this when we read in Acts 7:9, “God was with him and rescued him out of all of his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and over all his house.”
Joseph was made a ‘governor’. And Joseph fulfilled his responsibility in two areas. First, Joseph stewarded all of Pharaoh’s house. Secondly, Joseph oversaw operations throughout the kingdom of Egypt.
As the ‘Governor’ Joseph had been given staggering responsibilities. He had to prepare for a long and harsh famine. He had to build storehouses to keep the food safe. He had to guard and protect these storehouses from empires who might attempt to take these provisions. He had to be fair, wise, and shrewd in business. In the end, he proved to be a faithful steward over all of Egypt and over all of Pharaoh’s house.
Joseph did not accomplish all of this because he was naturally gifted. Nor did he accomplish this because he was lucky. We know this because when Joseph was a teenager, 17 years old, he seemed to be unwise when he boast of his dreams to his family. He seemed unlucky when his brothers hated him, wanted to kill him, and then they sold him into slavery.
For the next thirteen years his life was full of high’s and low’s. Joseph found himself being exalted in Potiphar’s house. But then he was cast into prison because of something he was not guilty of doing. God blessed his time in prison but he had been forgotten there in that dungeon. But then, unexpectantly Joseph was brought out of prison and taken to see Pharaoh. Soon he was exalted over all all of Egypt and over all of Pharaoh’s house. From that time on Joseph succeeded at everything.
How did all of this happen? We are told, ‘God was with him and rescued him out of all of his afflictions…’. Thank goodness for God’s power that rescues us from calamities, prisons, troubles, trials and temptations. But we also should thank God because he gives us many more blessings. We read that God gave to Joseph, ‘favor and wisdom before Pharaoh king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and over all his house.’
Left to his own abilities and wisdom Joseph would not have been able to please Pharaoh for very long. Like Don Perubeck, Joseph would find himself falling in and out of favor all the time. God rescued Joseph from all of his troubles and afflictions but He also gave him the graces he needed to do his calling.
Joseph’s faithful stewardship over these two things should have been all that he could have handled. And yet, Joseph was also managing his family andthe household of Israel. The LORD’s grace toward Joseph was not simply to be spent on stewarding the affairs of Pharaoh and Egypt; these graces were more importantly given to him so that Joseph could lead his family and God’s covenant people. How desperately each of us need God’s grace!
God’s grace enabled Joseph love God’s people, to provide for them, to care about them, to prepare them for the future. This grace also made Joseph desire to be with them in the Promised.
Oh to have this Grace in my life! To have the grace that fills so fully and completely that it provides me with the wisdom and the ability to do all things well. The grace that enables me to be a good steward in all my responsibilities.To have this grace that allows meto love my neighbors, the strangers, and the covenant people of God. Oh, to have this grace that bears fruit in all areas of my life! What is this grace that I now possess that seems so sparse and easily worn out?
Because of these gracesJoseph never lost sight of the Promised Land even though he lived in Egypt. Because of these graces Joseph never forgot that the LORD had made a promise to deliver Israel from Egypt. And it was these graces that enabled him to understand and believe in God’s promises.
I would like to read Hebrews 11:13-16 says,
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Hebrews 11:13-16 reminds us that all of these Old Testament saints like: Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. And others like: Able, Seth, Enoch, and Noah all died in faith concerning the promises of God. They had faith even though they had not received the things that had been promised. Instead they greeted these promises from afar, acknowledging that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. These saints desired a heavenly country. Because of their faith we are told that the LORD is not ashamed to be called their God and that He has prepared for them a city.
As we consider Joseph we see that he had a faith that ‘saw and greeted God’s promises from afar’. Joseph possessed a faith that made him a ‘ stranger and exile on the earth’. Joseph’s faith made him ‘seek a homeland’, ‘a better country’, ‘a heavenly one’. Joseph had a dynamic faith! He had a faith that Jesus would have marveled at if he saw Him in His day.
Our attention is drawn to Joseph this morning because of Hebrews 11:22 which states, “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”
Our consideration of these things will take us toGenesis 50:22-26. There we read, “So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father's house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph's own. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the landthat he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
In the verses preceding this text Jacob has died. Because of this Jacob’s son’s are filled with fear. They believe that Joseph will want to take revenge upon them for all the evil that they have done to him. When Joseph hears of this he begins to weep. He speaks with his brothers and he says these words, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (50:19-20)
When you consider all that Joseph experienced in his life you begin to realize that only God’s grace and wisdom could keep him through it all. And keep him these things did! Joseph’s kind words to them comforted his brothers (21). Joseph was a godly, faithful, wise and gracious leader of God’s people. For the remainder of his life he cared for his entire family. Jacob’s sons and their families enjoyed living in community with each other even though it was in Egypt and not in the Promised Land.
Considering these things can gives us some understanding of how important Joseph had become to God’s people. Their ability to trust and to depend upon Joseph gives us an appreciation for how terrifying the words of Joseph would have been in Genesis 50:24 when Joseph says, “I am about to die…”.
The church in America has seen many faithful ministers and theologians die in recent years. On November 15, 2005 Adrian Rogers died. On December 14, 2017 R.C. Sproul died. On February 21, 2018 the evangelist Billy Graham died. On April 18, 2023 Charles Stanley died. On May 19,2023 Tim Keller died.
Many more faithful ministers and theologians are getting older and they are beginning to plan for the end of their ministries. John Piper is now 77 years old. Charles Swindoll is now 88 years old. John MacArthur is now 83.
Although we grieve and mourn the loss of ministers such as these we still may not be able to understand the fear, anxiety and tension that Joseph’s words may have brought to the hearts of his brothers. We can listen to tapes and still enjoy their teachings. We can read their sermons and books. We have a pretty good idea of what Christian leaders will replace these men.
When Joseph dies, however, his voice is gone for good. There is no other Israelite who has the same power, influence, stature, and standing that Joseph had among the Egyptians or the Israelites. None of Joseph’s brothers shared his strong faith. Think of all the millions of Israelites who lived in Egypt for four hundred years and only Joseph’s bones are brought out because of the faith that he had.
When Joseph died no Israelite would have the ear of the Pharaoh like Joseph did. Therefore we read in Exodus 1:8, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” After Joseph God’s people had no representation before Pharaoh. They would all be dealt with shrewdly by the Egyptians and they were all made to be slaves. Taskmasters were set over them to afflict them with heavy burdens (Exodus 1:8-14). Surprisingly, the LORD would not raise up another person to lead the people of Israel again for another three hundred years when God raises up Moses (Exodus 3).
If Jacob’s sons were fearful when he died how much more would they fear when Joseph dies? (Genesis 50:15-21)
Lovingly, Joseph, does not want God’s people to fear. Joseph does not want God’s people to have their faith resting in him. Therefore, Joseph who has always been quick to give comfort and kind words to his family, immediately says to them, “...but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
In this fearful moment Joseph points them to the LORD and to His promises. The LORD has given these promises to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. The patriarchs discovered that they could trust the LORD; therefore, Joseph knows that the LORD will be faithful to future generations concerning these promises. (Including ours!)
Joseph does not stop giving encouragement to his brothers after having said those words. He is so confident in what God is going to do that he tells them in Genesis 50:25, “God will surly visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”
The LORD had saved Joseph from the pit that his brothers put him in (37:24). The LORD had delivered Joseph from prison (41:14). Is it any surprise then that Joseph wanted the LORD to deliver him out of Egypt? Joseph knew that the LORD would deliver His people out of the land of Egypt Joseph wanted to be brought out with God’s covenant people.
Joseph knew that God’s deliverance was centuries away, many generations away, so he says, “...carry up my bones from here”. So much time would pass since the day of his death that his body would have decayed and all that would be left would be his bones.
Joseph knew all of this because the LORD had told Abraham two centuries earlier in Genesis15:13-14, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.”
Sometimes as I have prepared this sermon I found myself thinking about how Joseph remembered this 200 year old promise. I think that many in our generation would find it strange that Joseph would have remembered these things. They would think it strange that Joseph would have believed and trusted in these old, ancient, out of date promises (their view of these things and not mine).
Our generation seems to stick our noses up at previous generations of Christians and try to be nothing like them. We want to blaze a new path and find new knowledge and wisdom. We are like children who sees nothing good when they consider their family and their upbringing and they want to be nothing like them. We are more concerned with our present pragmatic views. And when these things don’t work we adopt the next new pragmatic view.
But God loves those who love His truth, who believe His Word, and trust His promises. Such people don’t seek to reflect and speak the wisdom of this world. They ‘desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one, and God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.’ (Hebrews 11:16)
Joseph believed the promises that God had spoken two hundred years earlier to Abraham. He believed everything that God had promised in previous generations. We are never told in scripture that the LORD spoke directly to Joseph like He had done to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But we know that Joseph knew that the LORD had spoken to his forefathers and he believed these things and he wanted to be part of it. It was his faith in these promises that Joseph is commended for in Hebrews 11:22.
It would be three hundred years later that the people of Israel fulfilled this promise to Joseph. I have often thought about how long three hundred years is and I wondered how the people remembered this promise? Pharaoh quickly forgot about Joseph but the people of Israel never forgot the promise that they made to Joseph. Think of how many generations came and went in that time. Surely, they did not forget because God would not let them forget.
Three hundred years after Joseph dies God raises up Moses who then begins to fulfill this promise. We read in Exodus 13:19, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones with you from here.”
After Moses the LORD raised up Joshua to complete this promise. At the end of the book of Joshua we read, “As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Schechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.” (Joshua 24:32)
Joseph, who had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers is returned by the future generations of Israelites. Our generation needs believers with such faith who will remember the Word of the LORD and will live and die by faith in these things. By the grace of God may it be so.