From chapter 37 on Joseph has been the believer through whom God has worked to display His faithful purposes for His people. It His life is so exemplary and so parallel to Christ’s redemption that Joseph has often been viewed as a type of the Lord Jesus. But now his life on earth is drawing to a close. And with it the book of Genesis ends. But it is not the end—only the end of the beginning. There is much more to come.
Because every true believer in God as Savior is part of His redemption history, it is never the end when one of God’s people dies. Because of what God is doing and because He never lets go of His own, there is much more to come. The End it is not.
Joseph’s dying words give us great light into his understanding of the future.
I. A Dying People—“I am about to die”
Living to be 110 years would be extraordinary in most periods of history. It was shorter than the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but longer than most people.
But for the prophetic dreams of Joseph at 17, one would doubt whether Joseph was going to make it out of his teens. His brothers’ hatred nearly led to murder, and being sold as a slave to Egypt doesn’t sound like a good plan for longevity.
But he lived 93 years in Egypt and 80 of those years as second ruler in the kingdom. He got to see the reuniting of his family. He had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He had a long, full life that made its mark on history and benefited the lives of countless lives.
But he is dying nonetheless.
We saw it in the early chapters of human history: before the flood amazing longevity into the 900s of years. But the cadence of the record is still “and he died.” Whether you live to be 10 or 110 or 910, it always ends the same: and he died. We are a dying people. And Genesis has told us why. “In the day you eat of it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) you shall surely die.” After our first parents Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, He passed the death sentence on them (Genesis 3:19).
And that is the way it has been ever since. “In Adam all die.” Humanity with all its vaunted achievements cannot stop the river of death and escape the dirge. God alone is the Source of life. God alone can rescue us.
II. An Attentive God—“God will visit you.”
The history in Genesis shows God’s pattern of care.
Called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees
Jacob’s dream—ladder between heaven and earth
Joseph knew firsthand God’s faithful care. In his darkest years, falsely accused, cast in prison, the history text repeatedly testifies, “the LORD was with him.” That entirely altered his life equation—as slave to Potiphar, facing temptation from Potiphar’s wife, falsely accused, cast in prison, forgotten by those he helped, but the Lord was with him. How he viewed his entire personal history—why he had power to forgive his brothers. On his deathbed what Joseph has in mind is God’s delivering the descendants of Israel from Egypt 350 years in the future. (From 1662 to now). He guaranteed that in Exodus 3:7-8.
The exodus is in view, but even that is part of a bigger Divine history. All along God had not been insensitive to the plight of the human race. Even on the day He pronounced the curse on man and the earth because of sin, He gave this ray of hope: the offspring of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.
Later, He promised to bless all the families of the earth through the offspring of Abraham. Through the mouth of Jacob on his deathbed, God revealed that the coming one was a King, and that He would be of the tribe of Judah. As the centuries rolled by, the picture of this coming One became more and clearer through God’s messengers the prophets.
The Offspring of David, The Anointed One, God’s Son, Virgin born, Emmanuel—With us, God! The One in whom the Gentiles would trust. He was to be executed for the sins of His people, yet somehow dividing the spoils of victory and seeing His posterity. The Son of man would come from the clouds of heaven. He would be the ruler of an everlasting kingdom that would smash all other kingdoms of men.
God pays attention to the human race. He looks into the lives of His people and takes action on their behalf.
He would literally visit His people in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word (John 1:14). No wonder the angels exclaimed to shepherds near Bethlehem on the night of His birth (Luke 2:10-11)! No wonder Isaiah had prophesied that he would be called, Emmanuel—God with us. Without an attentive God, we would have no hope.
III. A Certain Future—“And will bring you up.”
Two realities: First, God’s people would survive. Joseph’s prophecy affirms that centuries after his death, the Israelites would still be a people. Second, God would bring them out of Egypt into the land promised to their forefathers.
We need life. And we need a homeland (Genesis 13:15, Genesis 15:7, Genesis 26:3, Genesis 28:13-14, Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16, Hebrews 13:14, Psalm 23, Matthew 8:11, Matthew, 25:34).
IV. A Personal Faith—“You shall carry my bones up from here.”
Similar to his father Jacob’s command, who made his sons swear to bury him in Canaan, not in Egypt.
But Joseph’s solidarity with his people was both in their sojourn in Egypt and in their exodus to the Promised Land. His children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations yet to be born were to hold fast to the promise—and they did. That sarcophagus holding Joseph’s bones bore mute but powerful testimony that deliverance was coming (Exodus 13:19, Joshua 24:32).
God’s people have a certain inheritance that is more than just real estate in the Middle East (Colossians 1:12, Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Peter 1:3-4). For us to enjoy our eternal inheritance, we have to have eternal life. And having eternal life, we yearn for our eternal home in the presence of God (Revelation 21 and 22).
Have you personally identified with the people of faith in their present suffering and in their promised reward? Are you sure of your inheritance? Then no matter what stage of life on earth, down to your last breath, it is not the end—only the end of the beginning.