The Bones of Joseph
“By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones” (Heb. 11:22).
- Hebrews 11:22
The patriarchs are excellent examples of persevering faith for us because they not only lived their lives in faith, they also died in faith. Today we will look at the example of Joseph who also persevered in faith over his lifetime and so also died in faith.
We read that by faith, Joseph mentioned the Exodus and gave directions concerning his bones to Israel (Heb. 11:22; see Gen. 50:22–26). This was done at the end of his life, demonstrating faith that God would fulfill His promise to give the land of Canaan to His people.
Joseph’s mention of the Exodus demonstrates great faith in the promises of God. It would have been easy for Joseph to tell the Israelites that Egypt was their new and permanent home. After all, he had risen to great prominence and wealth in the Egyptian Empire. Secure in his position, he could have exhorted his bretheren to stay.
However, to encourage the Israelites to stay in Egypt would have shown disbelief in the promises of God. For even though Egypt had blessed Joseph, the success she offered could not compare with the blessing of God. Despite his wealth and status, he was still in exile. Despite all appearances to the contrary, Joseph was not in the Promised Land. To believe that God still had something better for him and for his sons required faith that trusted not in what he could see but what he could not see — the future promises of God. As Calvin wrote, “wealth, luxuries, and honours, made not the holy man to forget the promise, nor detained him in Egypt; and this was an evidence of no small faith.”
Joseph also told the nation to take his bones with them when they left Egypt. He did not want his body to be buried in exile but rather to be buried in Palestine. He wanted to dwell in the Promised Land.
This hope for burial in the Promised Land foreshadowed the hope of resurrection revealed more clearly later on in Scripture. Joseph knew that God is Lord of the living (Mark 12:27a). He knew that the only way to dwell with God would be to dwell in His holy land. Thus, Joseph’s desire to be buried in Palestine reflects hope that God would visit His people there and raise him from the dead. This hope is ours, for we know that all believers, who are the Israel of God, will one day rise to inherit an earth made holy by Christ (Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:1–4).
The Bible does not teach that we will spend eternity as disembodied spirits. Rather, it teaches that one day our physical bodies will be transformed along with all of creation, and that we will live on in glorified bodies. Rejoice that God will make even our flesh new, and look forward to the day of resurrection.
Passages for Further Study
- Ps. 73:24
- Isa. 26:19
- John 11:23–24
- Rom. 8:16–17
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