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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder


Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

One must consider the faith of Joseph in light of his trials, tribulations, and persecutions he faced in his lifetime. In descent, he was the eleventh son of Jacob, with Benjamin being his only younger brother. The dreams he had, indicating his prominence over his brothers, led them to a jealous plot to slay him. However, at the last minute they decided to sell him to slave owners on their way to Egypt. To cover their actions, the brothers convinced their father, Jacob, that Joseph was slain by an animal. Joseph was sold, as a slave, to an Egyptian army officer named Potiphar, whom he served well to the point where he was promoted to be Potiphar's chief assistant. However, Potiphar's wife made advances toward Joseph, and when he refused to give in to them, she falsely accused him of making advances toward her. Joseph was put into jail for this false indiscretion.

While in jail, Joseph became noted as an interpreter of dreams. When Pharaoh had dreams, Joseph was summoned to give their interpretation. The dreams foretold that Egypt would have seven years of abundant harvests to be followed by seven years of famine. This pleased Pharaoh to the extent that he made Joseph his second in command. Under the leadership of Joseph, crop surpluses were stored, which gave them more than enough to sustain them during the seven years of famine. Even the sons of Jacob, Joseph's brothers, were sent to Egypt to buy grain for their sustenance. When they came into Egypt, they did not recognize Joseph, but he knew them as his brothers. With a tender heart, Joseph revealed himself to them, forgave them, and then moved his father, Jacob, and all of his brothers to Egypt, where they fared sumptuously.

The birth of Joseph is recorded in Genesis 30:23-25. In Genesis, chapter 37, we find the conspiracy against seventeen-year-old Joseph by his brothers that resulted in him being sold into slavery. Beginning with chapter 39 through the remainder of Genesis, we find recorded the remainder of the story of Joseph. The final chapter of Genesis closes with this statement: Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which He sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt (Gen. 50:24-26). For ninety-seven years, Joseph dwelt in Egypt, and his faith in God never wavered. Even at the time of the death of Joseph, the land of Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had not been inherited. Yet, by faith, all of these patriarchs, including Joseph, himself, believed in God's promise that it would surely take place. Joseph's faith was so strong that his final request to his descendants was that ye shall carry up my bones from hence into the land of promise.

No doubt Joseph could sense the persecution of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt. He knew the trials they would face, and that it would be necessary for them to break the bondage that was designed to keep them under the control of Egyptian rulers. Yet by faith, he knew that God would protect them, make them to prosper, even under extremely difficult conditions. He also knew, by faith, that, one day, they would be led into the Promised Land of Canaan. This was God's promise, and Joseph believed it without any doubting. And there he desired his bones to be buried. Why? Certainly he knew his soul would not be jeopardized regardless of where his bones were buried, but symbolically, Joseph wanted to physically inherit the land of promise along with his Jewish family. For all he had done for Egypt, Joseph could probably have had a majestic burial in the land he spent most of his life diligently serving. Yet he preferred a quiet burial in the land of Canaan without pomp and celebration. The biblical scholar, Matthew Henry, makes the point that Joseph preferred to die as an Israelite rather than as an Egyptian.

Joseph's faith in the promises of God, proved true. God, through his servant Moses, delivered the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straitly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and ye shall carry up my bones away hence with you (Exod. 13:18-19). And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, ... and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph (Josh. 24:32). The obedient faith of Joseph has also been given to us in God's Word as another example of faith!