Carrying More Than Bones
By Bible standards, I am likely in the “older man” category. The Bible doesn’t talk about middle age. There’s the young. There’s the old. That’s it. So, whether I like it or not I am probably closer to the latter group.
As I grow older, I think more about the things I want to one day leave behind for my children. I look at the legacies of Bible men and women. I suppose that none of them is more impressive to me than the legacy of Joseph.
Picture with me that grand processional of the Israelites as they left the clutches of Egypt to pursue freedom in God’s promised land. A conservative figure shows 1.5 million people traveling through the desert. Somewhere among the living are some bones; skeletal remains of Joseph. Although not alive to see it, what’s left of Joseph’s earthly tent is making its way to Canaan. On his death bed, Joseph had said, “God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Gen. 50:25). Israel honored his dying request (Exodus 13:19).
May I suggest that if only they had reflected on it, they were carrying more with them into the land than just the bones of Joseph. They were carrying a legacy worthy of imitation. If they had really contemplated Joseph’s life and imitated it their entire history would have been different. A nation full of Joseph’s would never have been “vomited” out of the promised land and into captivity.
Let us consider what they were carrying.
Godliness means that we live every day with reverence being shown toward God and a keen awareness that all we do is done in His presence. Could there be a better portrait of it than Joseph?
If ever a man could have been bitter against God, Joseph could. He was thrown into a pit by his brothers who first wanted to kill him. He was sold to a band of Ishmaelites and then into Potiphar’s household. Bitterness could have caused him to say, “I’m done with God. Why should I serve Him? I’m in a pagan land. No one will ever know what I do. Why not just live it up in sin?” Joseph never did that. A lusty woman gave him every chance to do just that and yet what did he say? “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God” (Gen. 39:9)?
Who would know? God would. Joseph’s godliness kept him reverent toward God knowing there was an “all-seeing eye.”
What about you, dear reader? How do you do at the office when none of your spiritual acquaintances are around? What about when you are on vacation? What if you are a young person who is dating and you know there are lots of places to find seclusion?
Godliness will hold you in check. I wish Israel had carried Joseph’s godliness into the promised land with them, but I’m afraid all they carried were bones (Isa. 29:15-16).
Joseph’s Forgiving Spirit
Oh, the things his brothers did to him and all it lead to!! In his life he was hated, almost murdered, sold, lied about, thrown in prison and then forgotten about. The poison of a bitter and unforgiving spirit could have eaten him alive!
The most touching of all moments comes at the end of Genesis when Jacob dies. The brothers are thinking, “Joseph will harm us now”. But Joseph says, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God” (Gen. 50:19). He comforts them and speaks kindly to them.
What about you? Do you have a forgiving spirit? Is there anyone you have written off for life? Is forgiveness difficult for you?
In my early days of preaching there was an older man I spent a lot of time with who loved me as his own son. He was like a father to me. At this moment, I am sitting next to cabinets he and I made together for my books. A picture of him is within reach. I’ll never forget him telling me once, “Jeff, I don’t know why it is but the two most important things in life people need to say, they have so much trouble with. Why do we struggle to say ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you’”? I need to carry that with me. My friend was buried not long ago but for me he left behind a lot more than bones.
I wish Israel had carried thas spirit across the Jordan but by the time Jesus came many of them were full of hatred and bitterness. Forgiveness did not come easy (Mt. 18:21-22).
Joseph’s Care For His Family
While Joseph was in Egypt, back home his dad was growing old and needed lots of help. News that Joseph was alive would now allow him to go to his grave with some relief (Gen. 45:28). His pilgrimage had been evil but Joseph would see to it that he was taken care of in his final days (Gen. 45:9-11; 46:29-34).
Do we do the same? What will our attitude be when our family members enter the difficult days and they need us? God is clear in his expectations (1 Tim. 5:4,8).
It is so sad to see parents in our society left lacking in love and care and support while their children go on their merry way. I have always appreciated the Jewish proverb which says, “One woman can take care of ten children but ten children can’t take care of one woman.” It is true too many times.
If only Israel had carried that same care into the promised land. Instead, many of them turned out to be neglectful to widows, aged people and their own parents. It left Jesus infuriated (Mark 7:9-13). Joseph didn’t do that. Bless his bones.
Joseph’s Awareness of God’s Providence
Even when times are tough in our lives, we need to know God is working. The things that are happening may not be good but God is working it all for good. It’s sort of like a cake. Who would eat Hershey’s cocoa by itself or raw eggs or flour? But all together, it works for good.
Think about Joseph. Now there was a life that could leave a bad taste in your mouth! Yet, all his troubles worked for good.
This next thing I will share is amazing to me. Let’s back it up. Our Savior came out of a great nation. But there can’t be a great nation without a place for them to grow and prosper. We need to get those twelve sons of Jacob to Egypt. We can’t do that without Joseph being in a position of power to help them. We also need a famine to make them go to Egypt. We can’t get Joseph to Pharaoh without him meeting the king’s butler. The place to meet the king’s butler is in a prison and you can’t get to the prison without a lying and lustful woman who makes false charges. To meet such a woman, you need to be sold into her house. You can’t be sold without the hatred of your brothers. You don’t become hated without your coat of many colors and dreams. Do you see God’s providence? Joseph did (Gen. 50:20).
I could only wish Israel had carried that confidence of God’s providence into the land of Canaan. When things were bad, they turned against God (Dt. 1:26-27,31-32). Oh to God they had stopped to think about what they were carrying. It was surely more than bones.
So, I stop here to ask myself a question. When my children carry me to my earthly resting place to await the resurrection, will they carry more than bones? May God be blessed for what He made of Joseph and may such legacies bless our lives greatly.