************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:22 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on March 12, 2017

Genesis 50:22-26
Hebrews 11:22
"Joseph's Faith"

In A.D. 202, the Roman Emperor Severus prohibited conversions to Christianity. In the wake of that act, severe persecution broke out against Christians, particularly in North Africa. Living in Carthage at the time was Perpetua, a young noblewoman and new Christian who was preparing for baptism. Though Perpetua was only about 22 years old, and was still nursing her infant son, she was arrested and thrown into prison.

While she was under arrest, her father, out of love for her, was trying to persuade her and shake her resolution. "Father," she said, "do you see this vase here?"
"Yes, I do," said he.
And she told him: "Could it be called by any other name than what it is?"
And he said: "No."
"Well, so too I cannot be called anything other than what I am, a Christian."

On March 7, 203 the day of their victory dawned, and she and other Christians marched from the prison to the amphitheater joyfully, as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear. Perpetua went along with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone’s stare by her own intense gaze.

When it was her turn, Perpetua screamed as she was struck on the bone. Then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat.
We see something similar in Hebrews 11:20-22. As with Perpetua, we see great faith in the face of death on the part of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Of the three, Joseph's faith shines the most brightly. Of the three, Joseph best prefigures the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and all the blessings that follow.

Today we look at what Hebrews says about Joseph's faith:
(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.

Let's make sure we understand this correctly. Hebrews is not telling us that Joseph was predicting the future Exodus. Rather, Hebrews is telling us that Joseph, by faith, believed in the promises of God about the Exodus from Egypt.

You might ask, what promises? When did God tell Joseph about the Exodus? Joseph knew about God's Exodus promise from great grandpa Abraham; this promise of God was passed down through the generations from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph and his brothers. I am thinking of what Scripture records for us in Genesis 15. The setting is God's covenant making ceremony with Abraham:
(Gen 15:13-16) Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. (14) But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. (15) You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. (16) In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here ...
Abraham was told five things that concern us today. First, Israel will be in Egypt. Second, Israel will be mistreated for 400 years. Third, God will punish Egypt. Fourth, Israel will come out of Egypt with great possessions. Fifth, the people of Israel will end up back in Canaan. This is what Hebrews has in mind when it says
(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.

I By Faith Joseph Gave Instructions
A By faith, Joseph believed these promises of God. Therefore, by faith, Joseph gave instructions about his bones. Our translation uses the word "instruction" but "authoritative command" is probably a better translation. Do you remember what Joseph commanded? We read from Genesis 50 what Joseph said to his brothers.
"My brothers," said Joseph, "I command you to include me in the Exodus. I command you to carry my bones from this place when God delivers you from Egypt."
Do you realize that when Joseph gave these instructions 200 years have passed since God first made the promise to Abraham. Two hundred years since the promise! According to Hebrews, Joseph gave this command "by faith."
(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.

B Everyone knows about the pyramids of Egypt. They were the tombs of the Pharaohs. They were monuments to their life and accomplishments. The pyramids tell us how Egyptian's royalty was treated after death. Perhaps you saw King Tut's tomb when it toured our country. Tut was a minor Pharaoh with a very brief reign yet the discovery of his tomb and its riches was probably the most remarkable archeological find of the 20th century.

Keep in mind Joseph was Prime Minister of Egypt. He was the second most powerful man in the land. He was put in charge of the whole land. He wore Pharaoh's signet ring. He was dressed in robes of fine linen. A gold chain hung around his neck. He traveled throughout Egypt in a chariot; when he traveled, men shouted before him, "Make way!" He was treated as royalty. He was married to the daughter of the Egyptian high priest. When Joseph died, guess what the Egyptians expected to do with his embalmed body? They expected his embalmed body to be placed in some pyramid type building. They expected some monument to Joseph's life and accomplishments.
"No," said Joseph. "Forget about a pyramid for me. Instead, place my embalmed body in an unburied coffin. And, when the children of Israel leave Egypt, they are to take my bones with them."

Joseph didn't want to be buried like the Pharaohs. Nor did Joseph want to be buried immediately in Canaan as was done with Jacob after he died. Rather, Joseph commanded that he be included in the Exodus. Why?

C Don't forget, Joseph made this command "by faith." It is a statement of faith on his part. It is a statement of faith for the benefit of the Israelites in Egypt.

Don't forget what happened after Joseph died and a pharaoh came to the throne who forgot about Joseph and all that he did. The Israelite baby boys were drowned in the Nile. The Israelites were forced to build the Egyptian store cities. Their work was increased. Their supplies were decreased. Egyptian taskmasters were whipping and beating them to work harder and faster. What do you think encouraged the Israelite slaves in Egypt? The bones of Joseph! Those bones were a reminder of God's promise that someday Egypt would be punished, that someday Israel would come out of Egypt with great possessions, that someday Israel would be back in the land of Canaan. That someday, as Joseph said, "God will surely come to your aid" (Gen 50:25).

As the people groaned under the weight of slavery they encouraged one another: "Remember how Joseph believed the promises to Abraham." As the people wondered if God has forgotten them they encouraged one another: "Remember the bones of Joseph." As the people wept and cried over their babies they encouraged one another: "Someday God is coming to our aid, we are leaving, and Joseph is coming with us." With the eyes of faith, we see Joseph's bones even speaking of the deliverance that is ours in Christ.

D Ancient peoples got buried in the land of their fathers. That's where your parents were buried. That's where you expected to be buried. That's where your children someday would be buried. So, by asking for burial in Canaan, Joseph were saying it was the land of his fathers. By faith, Joseph was saying Canaan -- not Egypt -- was his home!

Think about this from the perspective of the children of Israel as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan. They were in the bleak and forsaken desert. Over and over again they cried about how they missed Egypt with its variety of food and water (Num 11:4-6). "Stop crying about Egypt," says Joseph, "because you are going home just like my bones are going home." By faith, it was a homecoming to Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah. Similarly, Paul says that when we die we are away from the body and at home with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8). In other words, death for the Christian is a homecoming. We go to be home with the Lord.

E As you know, four hundred years after Joseph died God did rescue Israel from Egypt. And, on their last night in Egypt the children of Israel remembered Joseph's bones. The crypt -- or wherever the coffin was kept -- was opened and the box with Joseph's remains was taken out.

From Egypt, Joseph's bones were taken across the Red Sea. They were taken to Mount Sinai. They were taken back and forth through the wilderness for forty years. They were taken across the Jordan River. They were taken through Jericho. After the land was divided among the twelve tribes, some 440 years after his death, the bones of Joseph were finally buried in the Promised Land. They 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 (Josh 24:32; cf Gen 33:19). I doubt if Joseph had a grave stone but if he did it would say "God Keeps His Promises."

Now, don't forget, the original audience of Hebrews knew all of this. So, with just a few words the author of Hebrews reminded them God is faithful to His promises. As they faced persecution for their faith Hebrews points them to the message of Joseph and his bones: God is faithful to His promises. As they faced insult, prison, confiscation of property, and the threat of death Hebrews points them to the message of Joseph and his bones: God is always faithful to His promises. They are reminded God will provide rescue.

II Despite Spiritual Darkness, Pagan Marriage, Power
A Joseph gave commands by faith when his end was near. This is remarkable when we consider where Joseph lived for the last 93 years.

Joseph was 17 years old when he was taken to Egypt. He was taken from his family, his land, his culture, his religion, his god. He had no Bible, no devotional booklet, no app with its thought and verse of the day. He had no fellow believers to pray with and worship with. He had no Bible studies to join. He had no spiritual fellowship. He had no mentor keeping watch over his soul. He was thrust into the heart of pagan darkness. He was in a place where idolatry abounded as the sun, moon, stars, animals, plants, and crocodiles were all worshiped. He was even given a pagan name and a pagan wife. He was exposed to the fleshpots and self-indulgence of Egypt. What 17 year old here would keep their faith in such an environment? Yet 93 years later Joseph still has his faith.
(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.

B I didn't say much about it when I preached on Genesis but think, for a moment, about Joseph's marriage. His wife was Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On; Potiphera was high priest for the Egyptian sun god revered by Pharaoh. Asenath was given to Joseph by Pharaoh. Back then you didn't say "NO" to Pharaoh. So Joseph had no choice but to enter into a marriage with a sun-worshiper. And don't think the marriage was a sham because by her Joseph had children.

Do you think Asenath would have encouraged Joseph to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Or do you think she would have wanted Joseph to go with her to the temple of On? Do you think she would have reminded Joseph to circumcise their boys -- as was done by the wife of Moses? Did she help him raise their children as covenant children? Do you think she even said the name of Yahweh? Joseph was unequally yoked. Yet Joseph was still a man of faith at the end of his life.
(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.

C For 80 of his years in Egypt Joseph was surrounded by all the trappings of power: wealth, slaves, chariots, horses, mansions, people bowing before him. His word was law. We have a saying in the English language: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." We see the truth of this statement when we look at North Korea, China, Russia under Stalin, Germany under Hitler, Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, and so on.

"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." Yet, after 80 years of power Joseph is still a man of faith.

Did the promises of God lose their allure for Joseph during his 80 years in Pharaoh's court? Did he exchange his soul for the treasures of earth? Did he pursue the adulation of the crowds instead of the treasures of the kingdom? At the end of his life, it is clear that God and His promises captivated his heart.
(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.

By faith, Joseph staked everything on the promises of God. Today, thousands of years after Joseph, we are called to do the same thing by faith. We are called to stake everything on the promises of God. Promises that in Christ He will wash us from our sin, redeem us from the power of the devil, rescue us from darkness, raise us from the dead, glorify us for all eternity.

Do God's promises mean as much to us as they meant to Joseph? Do we, by faith, live and die according to these promises?
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