Joseph is a picture of glorification. Joseph is the young man who was loved by his father, Jacob, and mistreated by his brothers. They pounce on him and sell him into slavery, yet even in the chains of a slave, God exalts Joseph.
His life is a roller coaster of highs and lows: he is given a position of prestige by Potiphar, then cast down into prison by the lies of Potiphar’s wife, then is again exalted, taken out of prison, and made an advisor to the pharaoh of Egypt himself! Ultimately, he becomes the second highest leader in the land.
Here in the life of Joseph, is a symbolic picture of the hope of all believers.
What do we look forward to after death?
Deliverance from the darkness and pain of this earthly existence, and from the prison house in which we have lived our years – deliverance and exaltation to the very throne and presence of God Himself!
And how did Joseph appropriate God’s deliverance and exaltation in his own life?
Faith is the only method by which human beings can reach God and appropriate His delivering power. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” says Hebrews 11:6. As you act in faith, it all becomes true. Note that in Joseph’s life and in ours, faith does not mean giving intellectual credence to God’s promises by stepping out and acting on His promises; when we act in faith, it all becomes true in our experience.
Joseph’s character is presented to us with almost unblemished consistency. He is often considered symbolic of Christ, since he was beloved of his father but rejected by his brethren, sold into slavery for twenty pieces of silver, and seemingly dies (or so his father thought) and was “brought to life” again as a triumphant king instead of a suffering servant. Like our Lord, he forgave his brothers for their treatment of him and was used to save them from death and preserve the family line.
Whether you look at Joseph as a son, a brother, or an administrator, he was certainly an exceptional man. Because of Joseph, many lives were saved during the famine, including his own family; and therefore the future of the people of Israel was guaranteed. If the family of Jacob had died out, the world would have been deprived of the Word of God and the Son of God. So we owe a lot to Joseph.
The Death of Joseph!
So Joseph and his brothers and their families continued to live in Egypt. Joseph lived to the age of 110. He lived to see three generations of descendants of his son Ephraim, and he lived to see the birth of the children of Manasseh’s son Makir, whom he claimed as his own.
Genesis 50:22-23 (NLT)
Joseph was seventeen years old when he was taken to Egypt (Genesis 37:2), and he lived there ninety-three years, fifty-one of them with his beloved family near him. During those years, he saw to it that the Jewish people were cared for and protected: for God had a special work for them to do. He became a grandfather and then a great-grandfather! Joseph adopted Manasseh’s grandchildren just as Jacob had adopted Joseph’s children. How this affected their future isn’t explained.
“Soon I will die,” Joseph told his brothers, “but God will surely come to help you and lead you out of this land of Egypt. He will bring you back to the land he solemnly promised to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”
Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath, and he said, “When God comes to help you and lead you back, you must take my bones with you.”
Genesis 50:24-25 (NLT)
“By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones” (Heb. 11:22). God’s promises to Abraham (Gen. 15:13-16) were passed along to Isaac and Jacob, and Jacob shared them with Joseph (Gen. 48:21). Faith isn’t a shallow emotion that we work up by ourselves, or an optimistic “hope-so” attitude of “faith in faith.” True faith is grounded on the infallible Word of God, and because God said it, we believe it and act upon it.
True faith always leads to obedient action (James 2:14-26). Joseph knew what he believed and where he belonged. Therefore, he didn’t want his coffin to remain in Egypt when God delivered his people. He made his brothers swear that they would instruct their descendants, who would then pass the word along to future generations; and they kept their promise. Moses took Joseph’s remains with him when the Jews left Egypt (Ex. 13:19), and Joshua buried him in Shechem (Josh. 24:32; see also Gen. 33:19). Since Shechem became the “capital” for Ephraim and Manasseh, the tribes founded by Joseph’s two sons, that was the ideal place for him to be buried.
When you stop to consider the matter, it’s really remarkable that Joseph had any faith at all. He had lived apart from his family for many years, and a powerful false religion in Egypt surrounded him. There was nobody in Egypt that we know of who could encourage his faith. If Joseph had resorted to the excuses people use today for rejecting God’s promises, he would have ended up a pagan himself.
His “believing” brothers had treated him cruelly, the Lord had caused him to experience severe trials, and the people he helped forgot about him in his hour of need. “If that’s what a life of faith is all about,” he might have argued, “then I’m not interested.” But Joseph’s faith, though tested, didn’t falter. All he had to go on were his dreams, but he clung to the promise that one day his brothers would bow before him; and the Lord didn’t disappoint him.
So Joseph died at the age of 110. The Egyptians embalmed him, and his body was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
Genesis 50:26 (NLT)
Fifty-one years after Jacob’s death, at the age of one hundred and ten, Joseph died. He probably outlived his older brothers, but his own grandsons knew their grandfather’s wishes regarding his mortal remains. Joseph’s coffin in Egypt was a constant reminder to the Jewish people to have faith in God. When their situation changed in Egypt and the Jews found themselves slaves instead of resident aliens (Ex. 1:8), they could look at Joseph’s temporary burial place and be encouraged. During their wilderness wanderings, as they carried Joseph’s remains from place to place, he ministered to them and urged them to trust God and never give up.
“A coffin in Egypt” may appear to be a discouraging way to close a book, but from the viewpoint of faith, it couldn’t be more encouraging. After all, even though Joseph was dead, his witness was still going on.
The Secret Of Life
The tread that runs throughout all fifty chapters of Genesis is that there is a secret to living and that we will never experience completeness of life until we have learned and experienced this secret. The secret is simple – yet so many people in this world tragically miss it. The secret is friendship with God. Without God you cannot understand the world around you. You can’t understand yourself or your neighbour or God Himself. You will never have any answers without God. But with Him, everything comes into focus, everything makes sense.
The secret of life is a personal, daily relationship with the living god who was in the beginning, who made the heavens and the earth, who created the human race in His own image, and who wants to have fellowship and a living relationship with the people He has so lovingly created.
This is the first note sounded in the very first chapters of Genesis, and you will see that when we have concluded our adventure through the Bible, it is also the concluding note sounded in the book of Revelation. From beginning to end, The Bible is a love letter to the human race. And we have examined only the first chapter of that love letter.