Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 17. Faith and Holding to the Plan (1)
Heb 11:22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.
God had a plan and God has a plan. It is a plan that has been contested by the enemy and the world almost from the moment He first spoke it out on the earth. Joseph now understands this plan because, even as we read in the previous meditation, old man Jacob had instructed him, “Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.” (Gen 47:29,30) He had then gone on to explain, “Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and there he blessed me and said to me, `I am going to make you fruitful and will increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.’” (Gen 48:3,4) Note the word ‘everlasting’ when there are disputes about the land of Israel.
The reality of Joseph’s understanding of this plan comes through some time later when he is about to die: “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.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” (Gen 50:24,25) This is now a faith action. God has said Canaan is to be our land; our father is buried there and his land is my land, so bury me there as well. The unfortunate thing is that Joseph is a top Egyptian in the eyes of Pharaoh and the brothers have no power and so we read, “So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (v.28)
But look what he had said in the earlier part to them in verse 24: “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.” He restates the Lord’s will – God will take them back to Canaan. Of course they had to wait for the Exodus but God DID do it. Joseph states it as a declaration of faith: God has said it so He will do it, so keep your minds focused on that. Faith is sometimes – as we saw in respect of Abram looking for a city – holding the goal before you and looking for it, even if it doesn’t come this side of your time here on this earth.
Now amazingly, although the brothers were not able to carry out Joseph’s wishes, Moses did centuries later, to fulfil the promise they made: “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.” (Ex 13:19) Not only that after the conquest of the land, Joshua made sure it was literally carried out: “And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.” (Josh 24:32)
Now note something here: Jacob declared God’s will as conveyed to him by the Lord and passed it on to Joseph. Joseph accepted it for what it was. But it goes back beyond Jacob. It started with Abram: “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen 15:16), continued with Isaac, “Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.” (Gen 26:3) and eventually to Jacob, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28:13-15) That “I will bring you back to this land” was twice fulfilled, fist when he returned from living with his uncle and later when his body was brought back by Joseph to be buried.
We have already seen how he conveyed that to Joseph and now Joseph gives instruction before his death, instructions to continue the plan, instructions for his bones to be returned to Canaan. Now the use of the word ‘bones’ is interesting because he did not say his ‘body’ for burial. Did he perhaps have a prophetic sense that his embalmed body would not get there but that years would pass and the body (perhaps not looked after properly by the Egyptians that followed) would decay so it was just the skeleton to be taken back. Both the Exodus and Joshua verses speak of just ‘bones’.
God has a plan and faith involves being aware of living within that plan. You may know one of my favourite verses is, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph 2;10) which speaks of God’s sense of pre-planned purpose. Ephesians has much more of this sort of language, for example, “he chose us in him before the creation of the world ….he predestined us … the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ…. him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…. that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” (Eph 1:4,5,9,11,18,19) It’s all the language of The Plan, formulated from before the foundation of the world and you and I are part of it. Amazing! Live it by faith.