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When we hear about Joseph, we no doubt think about the coat of many colors his father gave him to wear, a coat that singled him out from his other brothers and spoke to his father’s favoritism. Or maybe we think about how his brothers did him dirty and sold him into slavery in Egypt. Or maybe one of the highlights that sticks out in our minds is the fact that he became the viceroy in Egypt, second in command to the Pharaoh. Perhaps your mind also goes to the famous meet up with his brothers where they had to come face to face with the brother they sold into slavery and instead of seeking revenge on them, he gave them this stunning announcement in Genesis 50:20-21- You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

But it wasn’t any of those moments that were picked up by the writer of Hebrews. Instead, the scene, much like his dad before him, was an end-of-life moment when he demonstrated great faith.  Here is what it says:

Hebrews 11:22: 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.

We get a fuller picture from the account in Genesis 50:22-26.

Genesis 50:22-26 22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees.[c]  I love this image of Grandpa Joseph bouncing Manasseh’s son on his knee. What a sweet moment.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

Come to their aid? That was a curious statement. They were all doing just fine in Egypt. Why would they need God to come to their aid? The Promised Land? Could it be better than what they were already experiencing?

I don’t know how everyone was processing his words. As Joseph was directing everyone’s attention to the future, he was giving them an invitation to believe God with him and to be believe beyond his life that God would do for them what had been promised to Abraham.  He said, “God will SURELY come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land He promised.”  Joseph was certain of it, and he wanted his brothers and their families to live sure. To live certain. To live with hope.

26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Scripture tells us that Joseph was eventually buried in Shechem. It was in the heart of the Promised Land. (Ex. 13:19 and Joshua 24:32) Why was it so important to Joseph that he would not be buried in Egypt but would instead be buried in the land God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? I’ll address it in the second part of this message.

Remember, the patriarchs never lived to see God’s people take the Promised Land, but they all died in faith believing it would happen. The promise God gave to Abraham about that special land extended to his descendants. Joseph, died in faith, believing the Israelites would indeed possess that land.  Egypt had been good to him. He had risen to prominence in Egypt. His sons were born to him in Egypt. He had made a name for himself in Egypt, but his heart wasn’t tied to Egypt and the life it had afforded. His heart was anchored to the promises of God which included another land. He wasn’t living for the luxuries of Egypt, for the amenities of Egypt, but for the promises of God. He lived with an assured hope in his heart that all God had promised would indeed come to pass.

I would submit to you today that faith produces hope. Let me remind you of the words of Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

God is always pointing His people to a future hope. Hope is always in front of the people of God. Remember, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived in tents. They never “settled” in the Promised Land. God was teaching His people that it wasn’t about an earthly land, but it was about being able to count on God to supply, on God to guide, on God to provide, and it was about a future hope that far outweighed anything we could realize in this world.

When you analyze Joseph’s life, you see it was a life filled with ups and downs, just like ours. I would venture to say his downs were lower than most of us will ever experience and his ups were a kind of euphoria and success many of us could only dream about. The pendulum was always swinging in Joseph’s life. You might think that would create instability, frustration, and anxiety. Apparently not. Apparently, the constant changing of circumstances helped to cement Joseph’s faith not on an earthly circumstance but on the promises of God.

Each of us will have moments to enjoy and moments to endure. When things are on the upswing, it is easy to wonder how long the good times will last and live in anticipation that something will soon go wrong which can produce anxiety. When things are low, it is easy to succumb to negative thinking as well, the kind that becomes pervasive and destroys your hope for things to ever change.

Do you ever try to forecast in your mind how life will be for your children? Do you wonder if they will get to enjoy life or if they will simply have to endure it? Do you ever worry about what the future will hold for them? I believe this was a question Joseph wrestled with, whether consciously or unconsciously, but when faced with death, he exercised faith in the promise of God that one day God’s people would possess the land they had been promised by God. To be clear, Joseph wasn’t exercising faith to believe for land for his descendants. He was exercising faith in the promises God had made to his family. He did when he said, “Don’t bury me in Egypt; Bury me in the Promised Land.” 

When Joseph’s family joined him in Egypt, life was good for them. It was an unexpected, sweet reunion between Joseph, his brothers, and his father. Because of Joseph’s position, Joseph’s extended family was living better than ever.  Joseph was a rock star in Egypt. He was the man to know. He had gotten them through tough times with his leadership. Scripture says that as Joseph mourned the death of his father, Jacob, those in Egypt mourned with him. That speaks to how much they thought of him. His family was held in high esteem.

Egypt had proven to be a good place. There were many blessings to enjoy. Even though Jacob had passed away, Joseph’s family could all say, “God is good.” Their family had come together by the grace of God and had everything they needed, but Joseph didn’t want everyone to be comfortable in Egypt, to be satisfied with the status quo, and to be so settled in Egypt that they would actually settle and miss where God had promised to take them. He also knew they couldn’t expect life to continue on a high note. Things change. Life happens.

And so, he pointed them to their future, a future anchored in the promises of God. His faith was an encouragement to stay God-centered, to stay Covenant-centered, and not to give up faith in what had been vowed by God.  I hope I can speak that way in my final weeks, days, and hours. 

As we consider Joseph’s example, I would ask us to consider this question: Does our faith display an element of hope that inspires other people to hold on to the promises of God? It’s one thing to tell people to hold on; it’s another thing to help them hold on to the promises of God.  What you hold onto determines how you move through all of life’s highs and lows.

Joseph wasn’t just a glass-half-full positive person, but he was committed in faith that what God had spoken would come to pass. God’s Word impacted his outlook. It anchored his future to something good. Why were these last words of faith so important? There was coming a time when things were going to get really hard for God’s people in Egypt. The Pharaoh who loved Joseph was going to pass away and a new Pharaoh would eventually come on the scene, one who would say, “Joseph who?” Joseph’s family would lose their status as social elites and become slaves in Egypt. That is WHY God would be coming to their aid. A high time in life was going to be followed by the lowest of lows.

They would need to hold on to the promises of God about the Promised Land. They weren’t going to be slaves in Egypt forever, and they needed faith to help them get through those dark days. The only things that last forever are eternity and the Promises (Words) of God. Your current circumstance, my current circumstance, they aren’t going to last forever. All we have to hold onto in this life that can see us through are the promises of God. If things are going great for you, I don’t need to tell you that you don’t know how long your good season is going to last. You have to hold on to the promises of God!  If life is squeezing your resources, your health, your relationships, and your joy, you don’t know how long your rough patch will endure, but holding on to the promises of God will take you beyond it!

God WILL come to your aid, just like He came to the aid of the Israelites. There is an Exodus coming in your life. Someone needs to hear that today. The army coming after you is going to be defeated. The waters in front of you are going to be parted. A new path will be created for you, and it will lead you out of oppression and into a better place.

After God got them to the Promised Land there were still ups and downs. There were times of trial and testing. There were battles to fight. As they stayed in step with God, He always brought them through. The people who got the honorable Hebrews 11 mention all believed and experienced just that.

Our faith in God and His Word tells us to live each day with hope in our hearts. God will come to our aid. And so, Joseph, as He was dying, not only pointed his family to the promises of God and gave them reassurance that God would come to their aid, but he asked that his bones be taken to the Promised Land when the exodus would happen. He actually made his people swear they would follow through and bury his bones in the Promised Land. It was clearly a big deal to him.

It had been a big deal to his father as well. He said in Genesis 47:29-31, 29 When the time drew near for Israel (Jacob) to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” “I will do as you say,” he said. 31 Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.[d]

The Hebrew writer wants us to understand that Joseph, like his father Jacob, was exercising faith by making this request. How did that action amount to exercising faith? In His covenant with Abraham, God had chosen a land that He would bless. That Promised Land is a picture for us of Heaven. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all looking for Heaven. They saw beyond a temporal, earthly blessing. They saw an eternal, spiritual one.

So, when Joseph made his family swear to get his bones to the Promised Land, he was actually extending his faith in a statement that said, “When I die, I will enter into all that God has promised, and as a symbol of such, take my bones to that promised earthly place.”  Joseph’s bones were kept and then carried as a sign of hope.  It wouldn’t just be the living who would inherit the promises of God, who would realize all that God had vowed to them, but those who would die in faith would absolutely enter into all that God has promised as well.

Joseph’s body was placed in a coffin, and even that became a sign of hope.  How so? In those difficult days as slaves in Egypt, as God’s people were suffering, they could look at that coffin and be encouraged by the request Joseph had made. His bones weren’t staying in Egypt. They would be moved to the Promised Land. If his bones were going, they were going because they were going to have to carry the coffin. Isn’t that amazing? Even a coffin was a sign of hope, hope that resulted from faith.

Oh Church, we also have a sign of hope to live by. It’s much cooler than a coffin. It’s not a coffin filled with bones that lies in hope of being carried from one place to another, but it is an empty tomb which stands as a beacon of hope for us all. Christ is risen. Christ has conquered death, hell and the grave! Christ has ascended into Heaven. Christ is waiting for us in the ultimate Promised Land, and because He is there, if we are in Christ, we can live with certainty that one day we will be as well.

There is hope while we live and there is hope when we die because of our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Can I take us back to Hebrews 11:1? Now faith is confidence in what we HOPE for and ASSURANCE about what we do not see.” If you have faith, you will also have hope.  Your hope is tied to the quality of your faith!  Where there is faith, hope will follow, and Hebrews 11:1 tells us our hope is assured. It is guaranteed. There is power and authority to back it up.

I Peter 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a LIVING HOPE through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!”

Christ is our living hope! Are you walking in the hope that comes from faith in Christ or is your hope more like a wish, a dream, a desire? Is it a longing but something you aren’t sure about? If so, you need a hope that comes from faith in the promises of God and in and through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Hope.

Listen, faith isn’t positive thinking. Faith isn’t mind over matter. Faith isn’t following a hunch or hoping for the best. Faith isn’t an optimistic feeling. Faith isn’t a form of self-confidence. Faith has nothing to do with wishing on a star or crossing your fingers. Faith results from receiving and trusting the promises of God! And without it, you won’t have the kind of hope that anchors you in troubled times.

Paul said in Ephesians 1:18, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,”-Ephesians 1:18

Hope is something you can know because HOPE is a Person! His name is Jesus! If you have faith in Him, you will never live without hope.

Do you realize that it was 179 years from the time Joseph died until his bones were buried in the Promised Land? That means that everywhere the Israelites went, they were carrying the coffin with his bones in it.  That means as they were rushing to leave Egypt and came to the Red Sea, and as Pharaoh’s army was pursuing them, they were carrying those bones. They were carting that symbol of Joseph’s faith in the promises of God that said they would one day be helped by God and would possess the Promised Land.

And as they were disciplined by God sometime later for their disobedience and spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, they were wandering with those bones. They were carrying the symbol of Joseph’s faith that one day God’s people would make it to the Promised Land. On days when they wondered if they would ever make it, the bones screamed, “You’re going to make it!”

Can you just picture the conversations that might have taken place as new generations discussed why they had to cart that coffin everywhere they went? Like what difference would it make? Joseph was dead. I think Joseph made his family swear to bury him in the Promised Land because they would need a constant visual reminder of his faith to encourage them to keep on keeping on. And so, every time they pulled up their tent stakes and moved at the command of God, someone said to at least two people, “It’s your turn to carry the coffin with the bones,” and off they went. They didn’t know how many years they would be lugging those bones, but by having to drag them around, they would be reminded of Joseph’s words and hear, “You’re going to make it!”

And when they got to the edge of the Promised Land and started strategizing about how to battle their way in, how to take what God was giving them, a couple of people would be designated to make sure the coffin didn’t get left behind. That coffin of bones remained as a beacon of hope, an assurance that what God said would be realized. They were going to make it to the Promised Place.

Joseph’s faith lingered long after his earthly life, and finally we read in Joshua 24:32 that Joseph’s bones were buried at Shechem.  Faith produces hope. Joshua’s faith extended to his descendants to remind them of the hope and future God had for them.

God has a hope and future for you, Jeremiah 29:11. Look at what God has done for you in Christ, reach out to Him and faith, keep the cross and the empty tomb in your heart, anchor your faith to those realities and know that you’re going to make it!

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