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I wonder if you remember where you were on August 30, 2020. Besides being one of my children’s birthdays, although it’s not hard to land on one of their birthdays, it’s also the day that we began studying from the pulpit the book of Genesis, almost two years ago. I know some of you were here two years ago, and many of you were not. It seems like a long time ago, August of 2020. Still relatively speaking at the beginning of COVID, though we thought we were at the end. Months before the election, many more months before withdrawal from Afghanistan or the war in Ukraine, or $5 gasoline.
And though some of you were here then, I doubt that any of you, not even my wife, has probably heard every one of the sermons from Genesis. I thought about having you guess, but you can just make a guess in your mind. Today we come to the end of the book, the last of 52 sermons, so you can see we had different sermon series along the way, taking breaks, but 52 sermons on Genesis, and here we come to the last.
The section we are covering this morning is a long one. You can turn in your Bibles to the end of chapter 47. We’re also going through chapter 48, chapter 49, and all of chapter 50. No, it’s not just an attempt to rush and get this done before we start the summer. There really is a reason to take all of these sections together, as you’ll see.
I’m not going to read straight through 3+ chapters, but we are going to read through various sections along the way. Arguably, there are four main themes in the book of Genesis. Now, obviously four is not some infallible number. You could find 10 main themes, or you could narrow down to two or three, but by my reckoning there are at least four main theological themes in the book of Genesis.
Here they are: Promise, blessing, providence, and faith. Promise, blessing, providence, and faith.
I think you could make a good case that those are the four big theological themes across these 50 chapters in the first book of the Bible. We’re going to see each of these four themes in this last section of Genesis. So this works well as something of a summary of where we’ve been and also an exposition of these last three chapters. Four themes in these chapters and four themes in the book of Genesis.
So here’s the first: Promise.
If you’ve been here for even just a few weeks of this series, you should know that this is a book full of promises. God made a promise to Adam and Eve in the garden that a child would come, a seed of the woman, to crush the head of the serpent. God promised to Noah and to every living thing that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. God promised to Abraham that He would bless him, He would make him a great nation, and He would make him the instrument through which the world would be blessed.
Chiefly, He promised three things – progeny, promised land, and His presence. You’ll have a child, I’ll give you Canaan, and undergirding all of it I will be with you. I’ll be a God to you and to your children after you. Throughout Genesis, God has been heaping up promise after promise.
That promise made and repeated to each of the patriarchs now passes on to Jacob’s son. But instead of going to Jacob’s firstborn son Reuben, the promise is going to move actually to two different sons. In one sense it goes to Joseph, the firstborn of his favored wife Rachel and to Joseph’s two sons, but in a more significant and eternal sense that promise is going to go to his fourth son, Judah, from whom kingship and authority and eternal dominion will come.
Look at chapter 48. I hope you have your Bibles open. Look here at verse 1: “After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And it was told to Jacob, “Your son Joseph has come to you.” Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed. And Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.’”
There is the Abrahamic promise, given to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. It’s the promise of land and descendants. And now He is going to pass on that same promise to Joseph and actually to Joseph’s two sons.
Verse 5: “And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.”
What follows is actually a, it seems elaborate to us, but it’s really a rather simple, well-developed adoption ritual. Jacob is adopting Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons, replacing his firstborn sons Reuben and Simeon, and we’ll get to the blessings in just a moment, actually anti-blessings for Reuben and Simeon and Levi. Reuben because he went up to his father’s concubine and had sex with her, and Simeon and Levi because they proved themselves to be full of vengeance and bloodshed. So in place of those two firstborn sons, he’s going to give the promise to Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.
What follow then is this somewhat confusion ordeal where Joseph is trying to align Manasseh, the firstborn, Ephraim, the younger, to receive the blessing as he thinks they should, that is the firstborn gets the more prominent blessing and priority, the right of primogenitor, and then the second-born son would get a lesser blessing.
But as we would come to expect in the book of Genesis, things are not the way that we would expect them to be.
Look at verse 12: “Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near.”
Okay, you want the right hand, the dominant hand is the hand of supreme blessing.
“And Israel,” verse 14, “stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn).”
Ah, Joseph, you thought you had this all planned out. You have your aged father who can barely sit up in bed and you’re going to make sure that the right hand, the supreme hand of blessing, goes to the firstborn, but at the last minute, whoops, Jacob does a switcheroo, crosses his arms, and Ephraim will receive the blessing of the firstborn, though he is the younger.
Ephraim, if you know something of your Old Testament history, will become the name for the northern half of Israel. After 40 years in the wilderness, Ephraim and Manasseh will have grown from 72,700 to 85,200 while Reuben and Simeon, the first- and second-born, will decrease from 105,000 to 65,000. So indeed, this blessing will come true in time as Ephraim and Manasseh will increase and Reuben and Simeon will decrease.
Now you have to remember that Moses is writing this down, putting together what we call the Pentateuch, penta meaning five, the first five books of the Bible, for the generation that’s wandering in the wilderness on the cusp of entering the Promised Land. After they had been slaves for four centuries in Egypt, now wandering because of their disobedience and about to re-enter the Promised Land.
And with that in mind, Genesis is meant to be a constant reminder to God’s people that God keeps His promises, He keeps His promises, especially when it looks as if there is no way that God can keep His promises. Abraham and Sarah were childless. Isaac needed a wife. Jacob had to run away from home. He was cheated by Laban. He feared for his life from Esau. Over and over again, surely from a human perspective, this family was done. Not only that, but along the way the patriarchs encounter famine, each of them, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all encounter a famine. Hostile armies, hostile neighbors, and worst of all, hostile relatives.
Yet through it all, God’s promise never lets them down.
Look at chapter 48, verse 15. There’s a wonderful, you might call it doxology of promise here that Jacob gives. Verse 15: “He blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.””
Do you notice this threefold ascription of praise to God? He describes God as the One before whom my fathers walked, as the God who has been my Shepherd all my days, and as the angel of the Lord who has redeemed me from all Israel. In other words, as Jacob is coming to the very end of his life, blessing his offspring and his grandchildren as they move forward into the future, he wants to recount for Joseph and Ephraim and Manasseh just what God has done for him.
We never know how many days the Lord gives us, but as some of you approach your final laps in the race, I hope you’re taking opportunity with your children, with your grandchildren, or with your spiritual children or spiritual grandchildren, to recount to them the faithfulness of the Lord. We will never be confident in future promises unless we take time to recount past promises. You reflect upon all that God has done for you, it’s very easy, very natural, very human, to just see the pain that you have in front of you and I know many of you have very real pain, fear, circumstances you would not have chosen for yourself or for anyone. You have to, as you’re looking forward with anxiety, you have to look back with gratitude. You have to have the eyes to see what God has done.
Now it’s not to say that everything up to this point in your life has just been easy and smooth, but surely if you have the eyes of faith, you can look back and recount the many, many times that God has been gracious to you, that God has been faithful to you.
There’s a reason that this whole section comes up again in the Psalms. Psalm 105: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples.” And then what does the psalmist recount to make known those deeds among the people? Well, he talks about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When they were few in number, of little account, sojourners in the land, wandering from nation to nation, God allowed no one to oppress them. He rebuked kings on their account. When He summoned a famine on the land, broke all supply of bread, He sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, sold as a slave, until what he had said came to pass. The Word of God tested him, but the king released him. On and on the psalmist recounts the wonderful deeds of the Lord. Faithful in His promise in the past, He will be faithful to His promise in the future.
Here’s the second theme, promise and then blessing.
Now we have the blessing of Ephraim and Manasseh in chapter 48. Go back and look at chapter 49 now. The blessing for the 12 sons of Jacob. These blessings are, you might say, future-oriented final words. They’re descriptions of praise or blame. Often there’s a kind of wordplay, often the sons are likened to an animal or often there’s some sort of play on their name as signifying something about who they are and what they will become.
There’s a famous Latin phrase, nomen est omen, which of course Latin wasn’t around then, but it’s from the ancient world. Nomen est omen. I bet you could figure it out. Your name, your nomen, is your omen, meaning your name is a sign, your name signifies something about the future.
That’s certainly true in the Old Testament. These predictions are not just some sort of, “Hey, good luck, and God bless you,” but they are really predictions that have efficacy and power in themselves. Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, verses 3 through 7, they’re blessings are sadly actually anti-blessings.
Verse 3: Reuben, you are my firstborn, might, and the first fruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. But unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence.
Verse 5: Simeon and Levi, brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council.
The first three sons receive anti-blessings.
The blessings for the other brothers, most of them are quite brief. You can look at verse 13 and following.
Zebulun will be a haven for ships. Issachar, who we don’t hear from very much after this, will be something of a lazy one, lying down between the saddle baskets that a donkey would carry. Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, biting at the heels of the horse. Gad will be attacked. Asher will have good food. Naphtali will be beautiful. Benjamin will be a ravenous wolf, verse 27.
And you think about it, if you know your Old Testament history, Benjamin, the tribe of Benjamin would be highly regarded for their military skill and bravery. Recall in Judges when the other 11 tribes get pounded by Benjamin’s much smaller army for two days. Actually, that territory of Benjamin will be in constant warfare in between the bigger plots of land, Judah in the south, Ephraim in the north. Benjamin will be a ravenous wolf.
But, of course, the two most important sons in these blessings are Judah and Joseph. There are 25 verses of blessing for these 12 sons, and 10 of the 25 verses to go 2 sons. So 10 of the sons get 15 verses, and 2 sons get 10 verses. So you could see there is something of a climax.
Look at verse 25. Joseph, who will be a fruitful bough, his branches will run over the wall, verse 25, “by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep…, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parent… ” Do you get the idea that Joseph is to be supremely blessed? He is receiving the blessings of the firstborn. To Joseph, and as we’ve already seen, to his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
But chiefly the supreme, we might say eternal blessings, don’t even go to Joseph, but they go this rascal Judah. Look at verse 8: “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine, his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.”
Judah, you may recall, sounds like the Hebrew word for praise, and so it begins by saying “your brothers shall praise you.” Judah will be the largest of the 12 tribes. Later in Israel’s history, as they arrange the 12 tribes around the tabernacle, he will be the one to lead them in battle. Judah will become the namesake for the southern kingdom, Israel in the north, Judah in the south. Sometimes Judah will be the namesake for all of Israel. The blessings upon Judah are extravagant.
Look at verse 11. Wine, remember wine is to gladden the heart, wine is this precious gift here, it’s seen as, you know, if you don’t want wine, I might insert Mountain Dew, you can do Cheerwine or something, but think of something precious. Wine is flowing so abundantly they wash their clothes in the best wine. That’s how lavish the blessings are on Judah.
And the promises made, remarkably, that the scepter, verse 10, will to depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet. He is called famously a lion’s cub there, what Revelation 5 terms “the lion of the tribe of Judah.” This is a messianic expectation. There’s even some indication that some of the Jews among the Qumran Caves in the time leading up to Christ understood this to have a messianic expectation.
Notice Joseph is called the prince among his brothers, but Judah will be their king. To Judah is given the everlasting kingdom.
This Judah, just to refresh your mind, who of all the dirty rotten scoundrels in this chosen family, makes a pretty good case for being the worst, or at least starting out as the worst. Not giving his son to his daughter-in-law, then sleeping with his daughter-in-law, but hey, well, you know, he thought she was a prostitute and then lying about it. I mean, this is a dirty rotten scoundrel. But he’s a man changed, just as Jacob has become a man transformed, and from Judah will come the messianic king.
Promise, blessing, and the third theme, providence.
Now if you turn to chapter 50, we see this theme most famously at the very end. Jacob has died. Joseph was 17 years old when he was sold off into slavery, and then he’s reunited when Jacob is 130 and Jacob dies at 147, so you do the math, he has 17 years with his beloved son Joseph at the beginning of his life and he has 17 years at the end of his life with joseph. So this reunion, this reconciliation we saw last week, happened 17 years ago and yet the brothers are still nervous.
Chapter 50, verse 15: “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.””
Notice, they take responsibility. They understand that what they did, they did evil. Now Joseph’s going to explain once again that ultimately God had a plan in it, but they recognize we did evil. And they’re thinking even after 17 years, perhaps little brother has just been biding his time and just for the sake of our father that we would all pretend to be getting along on this family holiday here in Egypt, but 17 years later now we’re going to get it.
“So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’”
And let’s take the brothers’ word for it that they just didn’t make this up out of thin air, they’ve been known to do that, but that Jacob actually said this, they repeated to him, “And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”
So they’re taking now, pleading, “Okay, before dad died, he wanted you to know one last time, would you please forgive us?” They still have not come to believe that they fully have been forgiven, that they really have received mercy from God and from their brother. I wonder if there’s people in your life who still wonder if you’ve really, truly forgiven them.
Joseph’s response: He wept. He wept when they spoke to him. Perhaps weeping because he can’t believe that they still are concerned about some vengeance in his heart, or perhaps weeping because they’ve lived for 17 years saddled with a burden they didn’t need to have, but he weeps. “His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?””
That’s a really good point there, Joseph. Because ultimately what many of us want is to be in the place of God, to right every wrong just the way that God could do, to see the end from the beginning, to affect some sort of cosmic justice that only God can do, to judge as only God can judge.
Joseph says, “I’m not God. I’m not here to punish you.” And then once again he leans on the theological belief in providence.
Verse 20: “As for you, you meant evil against me,” that is true, they already said in verse 15, “We did evil.” They were responsible. God’s sovereignty does not remove their human responsibility. They sinned. “You meant evil… But God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear.”
Now notice as I’ve said before, it does not simply say, “What you meant for evil, God turned for good.” That would be amazing. Some of us think of God’s sovereignty like that. “Well, we sort of messed things up, and then God swoops in and He says, ‘Okay, I can clean up this mess.'”
You know, mom coming home after dad’s been in charge of the kids for a while. All right, all right, you made a mess of things, but I know how to put things back into order.
That’s not what it says. God’s sovereignty is much bigger than that. It doesn’t say He figured it out and fixed it, it says all the while you meant evil, God was doing something different through all of that. God meant something good, so don’t be afraid.
We see God’s sovereign hand leading Joseph once again to this place of supreme compassion and mercy. We also see God’s sovereignty, or His providence, back in the blessing of Ephraim instead of Manasseh, the switcheroo with the hands.
Joseph says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, Dad. Hold on a minute. I know you’re old. You don’t see very well.” And we can excuse Joseph for thinking that Jacob is making a mistake. After all, remember it was Jacob’s father Isaac when he was old and he was blind who mistakenly gave the blessing to Jacob instead of Esau. So Joseph’s going, “Whoa, we’ve seen this movie before. Old man Dad can’t see straight, gives the blessing to the wrong son.”
But Jacob makes clear he intentionally means to bless the younger instead of the older. Though failing in his sight, Jacob sees more clearly than ever before.
Isn’t it true that throughout this book, we see God’s grace is sovereign and free. This is why when people come to the, sometimes called the doctrines of grace, it can feel like a second conversion, and why people rebuff against it because it is so free, and when you come to embrace it, you come to see something essentially true about God, that He alone sovereignly dispenses His mercy as He sees fit. Praise be to God.
What we see throughout Genesis is that God’s grace does not have to align with those we think naturally quote/unquote “deserve it.” The blessing was so often given to those who could not claim it as any sort of right.
Abraham. Who’s he? Well, he’s a pagan idolater in Ur of the Chaldees. Why should God call him? Well, because God likes to do things like that.
Isaac. A miraculous child. He shouldn’t even be there.
Jacob is a schemer, a deceiver, the younger son.
Ephraim is the younger.
Judah is the worst of the lot of them.
And God over and over again says, “I’ll dispense My grace as I see fit.”
So there’s a warning here for any of us who presume to be on top, who feel like I’m kind of doing it in life. I’m kinda making it. Look at where I live, look at the money that I make, the job that I have.
Anyone who feels like you’re on top, now we see a number of rich, well-to-do people follow Jesus, it’s not that you can’t do it, but there’s a danger in thinking that this thing that we sing about called grace, deep down you feel like, yeah, you kind of deserve this grace. If you think that, that ain’t grace.
There’s a warning against presumption and there’s also a hope for anyone who’s at the bottom. Anyone here poor in spirit, I absolutely don’t deserve anything from God. I have so messed up everything in my life, I’ve never got anything straight. If people knew who I really was and what’s really going on and where I’ve really been this week, on my computer and in my thoughts and with my sight, nobody would think anything of me. God says, “That’s the sort of heart I love to bless.”
It’s a reminder about who is God and who is not. Blessing comes always by grace, and sometimes God’s ways confound us and do not match our desires or the way we think things ought to work.
Look back at chapter 48, verse 18: “Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He shall also become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.””
Can you see there in verses 18 and 19 the anguished heart in so many of God’s people? How many of us at some time in our life have wanted to say to God, and it’s not, and it may not even be out of anger, it may be out of just profound grief, exactly what Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father.” Have you ever said that to God, “Not this way, my Father. Why would you do it this way? This isn’t the way I asked for. This isn’t the way things are done. This is not the best way. You got something mixed up here.”
And then our heavenly Father says to us, just as Jacob says to Joseph, he doesn’t rebuke him. Jacob’s become a tender father. He says, with a loving voice of a loving dad, “I know, my son, I know. I know this isn’t the way you want it to be. I know this isn’t the way things are usually done. I know that this is confusing to you and it doesn’t make sense. I know all that, my son. I love you. And I’m telling you that I know what I’m doing. And I have a plan.”
It reminds us who God is and who we are not, and though His ways confound us and do not always match our desires, yet we can trust as Joseph says at the very end of the book, that God means for good even what we may think is for evil.
Which leads to the final theme, faith.
Look at back at chapter 47. We see several times throughout the book different sections are bookended. We see this here at the end of Jacob’s life. There’s a bookended request that he would be buried in Canaan. Look at chapter 47, verse 29: “And when the time drew near that Israel must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If now I have found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place.” He answered, “I will do as you have said.” And he said, “Swear to me”; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed.”
Then turn to the end of chapter 49. We see again as he’s just ready to breathe his last, he makes this request one more time. Chapter 49, verse 29: “Then he commanded them and said to them, “I am to be gathered to my people; bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite, in the cave that is in the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife. There they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah— the field and the cave that is in it were bought from the Hittites.” When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.”
This is a request of profound faith. Jacob is a man who has been transformed. Who was his beloved wife? Rachel. We read back in chapter 48 that Rachel died on the way to Ephrath, that is, on the way to Bethlehem. She is not buried in that cave that Abraham bought for Sarah, the cave in Machpelah. But Jacob says, “Don’t bury me in Egypt. You bury me back in Canaan in the tomb of my fathers, the one piece of land that we have deed to in the whole Promised Land.”
What do they have at this point in their history? They have a grave and a cave. That’s all they have. And Jacob says, “I want to be buried there.” Yes, where Leah is buried. He understood that he belonged in Canaan more than he belonged with Rachel. A profound act of faith.
And the goal of Genesis is that we would be a people of faith. Look at the very end of the book. It may seem somewhat anticlimactic, but there’s more here than meets the eye.
Verse 22: “Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. The children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were counted as Joseph’s own. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
This may just seem like wrapping up the lives of the patriarchs. After all, four-fifths of Genesis covers the lives of just four people. You get the first 11 chapters, which sweep through on an epic scale, thousands of years. Then the rest of the book just four people: Abraham lived to be 175, Isaac to 180, Jacob to 147, Joseph to 110.
But don’t think that this is just about family history. This is about faith. Just like theirs, our faith will be struggling, growing, changing, imperfect, sometimes stumbling, but we must have faith that God can do and will do what He promised for His people.
Although I said there are four of these lessons here, the singular lesson that’s drawn for us in the book of Hebrews is that Genesis is a book of faith. That famous chapter in Hebrews 11, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen.” In Hebrews 11, there are 36 verses commending to us the faith of God’s ancient people, 36 verses. Twenty of those verses harken back to Genesis, seven to Exodus, nine to the rest of the Old Testament. Twenty of the 36 go to Genesis.
So for the author of Hebrews, Genesis is the example supremely of being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. By faith God created the world, seen out of what was unseen. By faith we read of Abel. By faith we read of Enoch. By faith Noah. By faith Abraham. By faith Sarah. By faith Isaac. And then in Hebrews 11 we come to Jacob and Joseph.
“By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.”
You see, with each of them, as the end of Hebrews 11 tells us, “All these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should be made perfect.”
Have you ever noticed the very last word in Genesis, this is the last word in English and it’s the last word in Hebrew. It’s an ominous word – Egypt.
So this whole story, this magnificent story in the first book of the Bible and the very last word for God’s people, but they’re in Egypt, they’re not in the Promised Land. There are but 70 people. They haven’t grown into a great nation. They haven’t seen the people fill the entire earth. They’re not enjoying the land of Canaan. They end the book in Egypt because faith is believing what we cannot see.
So they’ll take the bones of Jacob back, we read that in chapter 50, but then they return to Egypt, and it will be another 450 years before they can come back with the bones of Joseph. At this point at the end of Genesis, all they have is a cave and a grave, and they have to trust God for all that is yet to come.
But did you notice Joseph’s final words before he dies? Twice he says, “God will visit you.” “God will visit you,” in 24 and 25, “because He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” So surely though I am about to die, God will visit you. “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you.””
This is important language. It’s Joseph’s way of saying, “I’m about to die, but God is coming. His blessing is on its way and He will visit you. You don’t see it yet, but blessing is coming.”
Have you ever noticed every major section in Scripture ends this way? We see it here in Genesis. We see it at the end of the Pentateuch, in Deuteronomy 34: “The Lord said to Moses, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.””
There it is, Moses. But you don’t have it yet.
It’s the way that the whole Old Testament ends. Malachi 4 announces the day of the Lord is coming, behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great awesome day of the Lord.
So between the Old and the New Testament is a promise. God will visit you. You’re not there yet.
And it’s the way the whole Bible ends. Revelation 22: “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
God will visit you. Faith is to be certain of the things that we do not yet see, and it’s the lesson of Genesis, the lesson of the Pentateuch, it’s the lesson of the Old Testament, it’s the lesson of all the Bible. Can you believe for all that you do not now see that God will visit you? And though you may be in the land of Egypt, He will soon bring you home to the land of Canaan.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Word for all that we have seen in Your holy and inerrant word through these studies in Genesis. So we pray, O Lord, that You would bless us. We need You every hour and we pray for Your blessing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.