Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't Bury My Bones in Egypt

Joseph could have had a pretty impressive résumé. After being sold into slavery as a boy, then falsely accused and imprisoned, somehow he made the best of his circumstances and was promoted to the highest office in the kingdom, next to the pharaoh. In the process, he uses his God-given wisdom to avert a national disaster—a famine—and saves everybody. Yet, this great hero is only memorialized in the New Testament for one thing:

"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)

After all he did, the highlight of his 93-year career is one line--that he wanted his bones buried in Canaan?

Let’s take a look at this closely to see how this is significant. The ancient author writes, “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to you and lead you up from this land to the land he swore on oath to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ [Canaan] Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He said, ‘God will surely come to you. Then you must carry my bones up from this place.’ So Joseph died at the age of 110. After they embalmed him, his body was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis 50:24-26)

Why was that statement of his a big deal? What is the paradox of this? Several reasons. Being in Egypt of all places, having a monument after the death of a high official would be a big deal. Yet, Joseph didn’t want to be buried in some pyramid in Egypt. He wanted to be buried in Canaan.

But Joseph had lived most of his life in Egypt, and his family had followed him there from Canaan. Why would Joseph want to be buried in a country that he had not lived in since he was a boy?

For him or for them?
Joseph’s instructions were essentially a reminder to his followers that God would not forget them, but would take them out of Egypt back to Canaan. God had foretold a long period of suffering but promised that one day, they would populate a great nation: “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.” (Gen. 15:13-14).

Doubt or belief?
The paradox here is the tension between our tendency to doubt versus Joseph’s decision to believe an old promise. Rather than building any monument to himself, he sought to inspire faith in his followers and descendents. By asking them to take his bones back to Canaan, he was giving evidence of his conviction, essentially saying, “I believe God’s promise; you may or may not, but here is the evidence that I do.”

Worldly protector or God as protector?
The second paradox is the tension between our tendency to look to worldly protectors and looking to God as our protector. As Joseph was dying, the sons of Israel may have been afraid that they were losing their protector and benefactor in Egypt, since he was the highest-ranking officer and happened to also be a Hebrew. But now, Joseph felt it necessary to turn their attention to God and tell them essentially, “God is your protector and benefactor, not me, He will visit you, and take you out of this land.” He was inspiring them with faith, and they would remember the instructions 400 years later.

Egyptian or Israelite?
The third paradox is that even though he had lived in Egypt for almost a century, he saw his identity as being a citizen of God’s promised kingdom. The tension here is between identifying with the people around us and identifying with God’s kingdom, or seeing ourselves as “settlers” or as “pilgrims” passing through. Essentially Joseph was reminding them that Egypt was not their home. His coffin, or tomb, became to the wanderers in Egypt a constant reminder of the promises of God, that their permanent home was to be the land of Canaan and not Egypt. Rather than use his death as a way to glorify himself, he used it to strengthen the faith of his fellow brothers.

Why is it important to remember that Egypt was not their home? Egypt had a strong culture steeped in idol worship and beliefs in the afterlife. They were to remain true to their identity as Israelites. If they didn’t have that strong anchor, they may have merged with and been submerged by the Egyptian culture.

Therefore, Joseph showed where his allegiance really laid. Joseph had every reason to settle and be comfortable in Egypt, but this revealed where his heart really was. “Honored as he had been in the land of the Pharaohs, Egypt was to him but the place of his exile; his last act was to signify that his lot was cast with Israel.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 240)

Joseph did many great things to help people. And I’m sure he wouldn’t have been able to do them without faith in God. But what he’s remembered for is that he did more than help people in the end; he inspired faith in others. Let's do more than just good things--let's inspire faith! I have to remind myself that even though I work in communications for a ministry, am I doing it just to help people, or to inspire faith? You may ask yourself something similar. Do you want to be a doctor/nurse/counselor/etc. just to help people, or do you want to inspire faith in others? Is going to church an end in itself, or is it a way to reach others and share our faith? I’m not saying that helping people is bad. Joseph saving thousands from starvation was very good. But we can go beyond that. Something I appreciate about my colleagues is that they always find some way to uplift God naturally in their daily conversations and it is contagious, which reminds me how I would like to also inspire faith in others too. What has God given you to point others to heaven? How can you live a life of faith that shows people that God is real?

1 comment:

  1. You can take pleasure in all of the social features of a on line casino from home or wherever you might be} on the earth. Despite our 카지노 complete overview of the preferred Live Casino video games, lots of|there are many} video games on the market that simply don’t match into the classes above! Dice video games, like Sic Bo, Dice Duel and Craps, additionally be|may also be|can be} present in our Live Casino lobby, together with distinctive video games like Fan Tan, Football Studio, and Cash or Crash. Find the perfect Live Blackjack table on your type and preferences here – let the playing cards surprise you. Here at UrbanMatter, we pride ourselves on main the cost phrases of|in relation to} entertainment.