22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.” (Hebrews 11:22 (ESV)
It interesting that the writer of Hebrews did not include Joseph’s prophetic faith in his revelatory dreams (Gen. 37:5–10), his righteous faith in renouncing the advances of his master’s wife (39:7–9), or his persevering faith in interpreting the dreams of the Pharaoh’s servants in prison. The book of Hebrews does not either include Joseph’s role in interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams (40:8, 41:16).
Additionally, the writer of Hebrews did not record the patience of Joseph’s faith. He waited for years, after his exaltation in Egypt, and did not seek to retaliate against his brothers in Canaan. Joseph patiently waited in the confidence that his brothers would yet bow down to him, according to his dreams (Gen. 37:5-11). What is also not recorded is Joseph’s forgiving faith toward his brothers. This was after suffering so much rejection and betrayal at their hands (Gen. 45; 50:15-21).
Rather, to illustrate the “faith that pleases God,” the writer of Hebrews chose to direct us to consider Joseph’s instruction for his burial rite — an account that climaxes the Book of Genesis (Gen. 50:24–26).
Why would the writer do this? How does today’s text demonstrate the noteworthy faith of Joseph? Dr. Warren Gage, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. provides us four possible reasons.
“First of all, Joseph’s refusal to be interred in Egypt had an evangelical purpose among the Egyptians. According to the Egyptian cult of the dead, resurrection to the afterlife was only possible to those buried in Egypt. By refusing Egyptian interment, Joseph testified against the false Osirian theology of the priests of Egypt.”
“Second, by refusing to be interred in Canaan like his father, Joseph left a memorial among the sons of Israel, who were to suffer the bitterness of Egyptian bondage. Joseph’s cenotaph was left as a reminder among the generations of Israelites to come — a memorial during those difficult days that God had sworn Israel’s deliverance and that at the appointed season He would bring them up out of Egypt in a great Exodus (Gen. 50:22-26).”
“Third, Joseph’s direction regarding his bones was intended to accomplish a redemptive purpose. The very brothers who had disregarded and betrayed Joseph and sold him into Egyptian bondage would themselves suffer bonds in Egypt. But in the day of deliverance to come, the sons of those very same brothers would lovingly bear the bones of Joseph home so that Joseph could be gathered to his fathers in the land of promise. And God did visit Israel in Egypt during the days of Moses as God had sworn (Gen. 50:25).”
“Finally, the body of Joseph was removed from Egypt, the land of the graves (Gen. 37:35; Ex. 14:11) in order that Joseph might be gathered to his fathers in the land of promise. This constituted a beautiful testimony to Joseph’s faith in resurrection. Joseph suffered a virtual death when he was sold into Egypt by his brothers (Gen. 42:13). The return of his bones to Canaan, therefore, foreshadowed his resurrection.”
With this in mind, let us begin our study of the Journey of Joseph when next we meet. I encourage you to begin reading Genesis 37.
Soli deo Gloria!