|* Index - Mendelsohn's Sermons on Joseph
* Online Scripture text: Genesis 50
Today is an ending, yet a day of new beginnings. We finish our one year series of Bible talks on the book of Genesis today. Shelli will complete a grueling year and a half of studies today. Also today is a new beginning. We unveiled the new logo plaque for the scroll atop the ark. Designed by some friends of mine in the US, and handsomely constructed by Ross and Lilian, it adorns our sanctuary in a new and honorable way. It represents the dove of the Holy Spirit, the flame of the Power of the Almighty, and the letter Shin, reminding us of the Three-yet-one God El Shaddai. We also have our first Beth Messiah Bat (or Bar for that matter) Mitzvah. We are finally not using Tobias challahs, but today use the new Baking Company variety. It's a new season in so many ways.
Some use the term 'commencement' for graduation. That's reasonable. At the end of the long study period, the student graduates and leaves school. Then he commences a journey into the real world. Shelli, you are not commencing a 'real world' journey just yet in the sense of leaving school or sitting the HSC, but you are counted as an adult now in the community of faith. You are beginning something new today.
Today we are going to study three coffins, not a usual topic for a Bat Mitzvah, I know, but one with great hope for each of us in our relationships with each other.
Back in the 60s, when I was Bar Mitzvah, some shots rang out and three noble men died. John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr, and Bobby Kennedy. Sure there were four dead in Ohio and tens of thousands killed in Vietnam and heaps more in Indonesia, and even here in Australia violence rang out. But for me as a young American Jewish student, learning his lines for his Bar Mitzvah, the Kennedy brothers and Dr King were heroes. Their deaths were heralds of a new era as well. A darker era with mistrust and continued violence. When they died, something was produced. So we read here.
We have just read the story of the ending of the men Jacob and Joseph in the Bible. There was conflict as is usual in the book, but there is a season of conclusion, and with that conclusion comes peace. The difference from the guns in the 60s to the Genesis account is found in one word: forgiveness. We will study three coffins to learn how to live in forgiveness.
The death and burial of Jacob
Literally Jacob was dead already as the chapter begins. He had instructed his sons both personally and privately about his passing. (47.27-31, 49.29-32) Joseph was to be in charge. Joseph weeps again, now the 6th time in the book, and falls on his father. (v 1) They were to take him back home to bury next to the family plot in Beersheba, in Hebron, in the cave of Machpelah. Abraham and his whole family were buried there. Jacob wanted to be far from the gods of the Egyptians. Joseph understood that and called for the doctors, not the embalmers to perform the final disposition. (v 2) We get our 'chevra kadisha' tradition from this. They mourned for 40 days and 70 days all no doubt concurrent, and the sitting shiva of a Jewish family for the 7 days is drawn from this text as well.
His coffin was taken by his sons. They had been renting the facility of the threshing floor, but now the sons were pallbearers and took dad to the burial plot. (v 13) Included in the procession had been Egyptian royalty and Jewish shepherds. Amazing mixing, eh? What a fulfillment of the prophecy to Abraham that his family and all families would be blessed as one. So it was then; so it is today.
The second coffin was that of Joseph, 2ic in Egypt. Jacob dies and then his 110 year old son dies. The embalming of the body was a wrap with spices that was very elaborate. It was designed to take care of the body until such time as the body resumed, and went back to its current occupation. This was according to the Egyptians no less than 3,000 years in the future. Shame befell those like the baker whose body was hung outside, eaten by birds. They would not have been able to resume their work and life. Each person had markers such as the way they laid their hands to help us know who they were inside something like a pyramid. But Joseph also left specific instructions about his burial, didn't he?
Verse 25 says, "Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here."
Joseph knew of the return of the Jewish people to the land of Canaan. He knew of the prophecy of the 400 years in a foreign land. So in due course, he reminded his brothers, please take me with you (or whomever you instruct about this in the future) to the land of our fathers.
Pastor Leslie Flynn from Nanuet, New York says that Joseph's body remained in Egypt as a reminder of three things, 1) of the fact of death, 2) of God's pledge to give them the promised land, and 3) a reminder of status. Flynn says that each time the Jewish people would walk past the tomb they would know of their own mortality. That's good. Most of you young people here do not usually think about death. I understand that. I was young once too. But as certain as life begins, life will end. And what we do with those years in between will make a world of difference, not only for us, and those we love, but for all the world.
Flynn goes on to comment about the pledge of the promised land. I like that. It's key to the whole story. God began the world in Genesis 1, and if we only look at the ending of Genesis, we might lose hope. But Exodus follows and Leviticus and the whole of the 66 books of the Bible remind us of God's story, of His plans and of His eternity. He will fulfill his promises. He will bring us back to Israel. As Shelli said in her speech, faith and courage are evidences of the people of God. With each we can be there to see God's purposes and His plans unfold and take shape, even in our lives and the lives of those we love.
Finally Flynn talks about status. The status is about the destiny of the people of God. We were designed for life in God and not in Egypt, not in the settled pleasures of the palace, but for the rugged plains and terrain of Israel. The bones of Joseph would remind the Jewish people in the future of their home being impermanent.
Flynn well considers with these three thoughts the 2nd of our 3 coffins today in his book Joseph, God's Man in Egypt. (Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1981)
The third coffin: forgiveness
But I told you there were three coffins today. And we've seen two patriarchs fill the first two. So which is the 3rd? It's the most important for you. Shelli It's crucial for you. It's crucial for your parents. It's crucial for your friends. It's the most important coffin of all. There we bury resentment and there we deal with past hurts and there we plant the praises of God into the worst of our situations.
In the story of Esther, Shelli read about Mordecai encouraging Esther to trust the Almighty. She did and buried her fears and faithlessness and found strength to do God's bidding. In the story here, Joseph showed his brothers the coffin in which he had buried personal hurts and pains, and they finally saw it.
Let me explain with a bit of review.
Joseph's brothers had been very mean to him as a youth. They taunted him and hated him, so the Bible says. They eventually sold him to a band of slave traders passing by and Joseph their baby brother at 17 became a slave. The brothers invented a lie about him, dipping his special robe, his coat of many colors in blood and returning it to their dad, Jacob. They said that Joseph must have been killed in the field by an animal. They lied. They lived in that lie for 20 years. After the decades, they had to go to Egypt and buy food during the famine in Canaan. God had miraculously preserved Joseph and made him vice regent in Egypt. At the scene of the revelation of the brothers, Joseph wept and they fell on each other's necks and were reunited. He assured them that everything was fine. But they always wondered if they were in deep trouble. They were not sure of forgiveness for their very visible sins.
So in today's story, the father dies. And the boys who are all men ride back to Egypt, like the men of the Ponderosa returning from Carson City. Adam, Hoss, Little Joe, you can see them, can't you? (v 14)
The brothers invent a story saying, Dad told us to tell you to forgive us. But they didn't need to flash the trump card, the wild card of the name of their dad. They also invoked the name of God. Look they were still thinking about their sins. They were filled with regret. The animal of fear was still alive in their lives. They had to kill it and bury it. They also needed a coffin. Listen to their travelling conversation:
Gen. 50:16, “Your father charged before he died, saying,
Gen. 50:17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph, “Please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”
Joseph began to cry. Twice he tells them not to fear. With the words of assurance and guarantee that would seal the nation of Israel to this day, he spoke kindly saying, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Vay'daber al libam)
Joseph buried the axe; he buried the pain; he buried resentment. The brothers experienced forgiveness and entered into the relationship they had not had since he was 17. Freedom and rest, all wrapped up in the name of forgiveness. You hear the exasperation becoming expressions of elegant sighing. You feel the release of the pain.
Jesus did this at the end of his life didn't he? He had certainly tried to live it and teach it. He forgave people their sins. He taught about living in grace with one another. And he demonstrated it most acutely in the scene of the crucifixion. He was hanged between two thieves and died an ignominious death, executed for crimes he had not done. But in his dying he declared, "Father forgive them, for they don't know what they are doing." To the end then and continuing in his resurrected ministry today, Y'shua still wants to forgive us of the sins we so often commit.
For us in our days, relationships are still the most important possession. Rene Rivkin might think it's health or freedom from jail each weekend, but really it's his relationships that are the most relevant and important thing he owns. So it is with you. It won't make the 7:30 report, but if your relationships with friends and family are good, you will be a happy person. Nothing else matters in this life, really. Not the size of your wallet or the sounds of crowds and their affection. Praise of men comes and flees very quickly. But what will remain is relationship.
Most central to all our other relationships is the one we have with God. Joseph could answer the brothers because he had sorted out the evil that the brothers did from the plan of the Almighty. God had a plan for Joseph and Joseph understood it. He lived in it. Thus the purpose and plan of the Lord are always right and no one can thwart it.
Here are some things I see as we conclude, and you can add your thoughts to your own list.
Dear friends, we have eternal life due to the Saviour Y'shua, due to His love and forgiveness. His Resurrection has proven His new covenant. His teaching is great, and yet it goes well beyond that to His life and death. No amount of good works will give us enough information to help us overcome evil. No amount of information will help us overcome our own evil inclination. Only the messiah can repair our relationship with God, which will in turn give us pleasure with Him.
If you have never experienced this eternal and new life about which we are speaking, if you are yet outside the relationship with God, then pray with me. If you haven't yet been restored into fellowship with Him, maybe God is vindicating you today. Won't you pray this prayer and ask God to forgive you of your sins, whatever they might be, and come home to pleasure with God? Lord forgive me in the name of the Messiah, the Serpent Bruiser, Y'shua himself. Forgive me for all my sins, and make me clean again. Give me eternal life in the name of Y'shua and make me born again. I trust you.
If you do that, it will certainly be a commencement for you, a day of new beginnings. Tell us if you do or did, ok?
|* Index - Mendelsohn's Sermons on Joseph
* Scripture text: Genesis 48