Christ Covenant Church
Series — Joseph: Stories of God’s Providence for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Text – Genesis 49:28-50:14
May the grace and peace of God be with you all.
Our sermon text for today is Genesis 49:28-50:14.
All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him. 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. Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel. Forty days were required for it, for that is how many are required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days. And when the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, “If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, “I am about to die: in my tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there shall you bury me.” Now therefore, let me please go up and bury my father. Then I will return.’” And Pharaoh answered, “Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear.” So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen. It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they lamented there with a very great and grievous lamentation, and he made a mourning for his father seven days. When the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. Thus his sons did for him as he had commanded them, for his sons carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite to possess as a burying place. After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
Friends and family, we are gathered here today, in the land of Canaan, at the cave of the field of Machpelah, to bury the patriarch Jacob and pay our last respects.
We want to thank Joseph especially for making all the funeral arrangements and covering the costs of preparation, travel, and burial. He had to cut through a lot of red tape to get this done.
Jacob was born 147 forty years ago to Isaac and Rebekah. He was the grandson of Abraham and Sarah who came from Ur of the Chaldees to settle in this land. He was married to Rachel and Leah, the daughters of Laban. He is survived by fourteen sons. Twelve by birth and two by adoption. Not to mention many grandsons and great-grandsons, and many friends.
Jacob was born to Isaac and Rebekah 147 years ago. He was the younger twin of Esau. As you know, when he was born he came out clutching the heel of his brother Esau. That simple act earned him the name Jacob which means grabber, reacher, or cheater. His mother had no way of knowing that he would in fact become a man who sometimes made his way by hook and crook.
Before her twins were born, God revealed to her that the older son would serve the younger son. So, she probably thought her son Jacob was just going to become a powerful and successful man. But she soon realized that the line from babyhood to adulthood was not straight and smooth, but twisted and jagged.
Unlike his brother Esau, Jacob was a home-body and a momma’s boy. He liked to work around the house. He took care of the sheep and he enjoyed cooking. One of his specialty dishes was red-stew. It was so good that he sold a bowl of it to his brother for the price of his brother’s birth-right. In other words, he bought the inheritance of the first-born son.
Later on his brother tried to back out of the deal. So, with the help of his mother no less, Jacob pulled the wool over his father’s eyes to make sure that he got what he felt he deserved. As you can imagine, that controversial act led to a life or death conflict with his brother that lasted for several years. They sorta patched things up, but they kept their distance from each other. Sadly, they only saw each other at funerals.
Long before the brothers patched things up, Jacob took his mom’s advice and moved out of state. He put as much distance between himself and his brother as possible.
Jacob was not a very devout person in his early years. But one night as he slept God appeared to him in a dream. He saw the Lord standing atop a stairway to heaven. From that night on his heart was changed and his long struggle with God began.
After that he took a job as a shepherd among his relatives. He was a hard worker and God blessed the work of his hands. After several years of hard work, he married the daughters of his boss. Yes, both daughters. That’s a whole other story. Over time his wives bore him sons, and his family grew.
They moved around a lot, looking for work, looking for places to pasture their sheep, looking for water wells. Life was hard. Death took his beloved wife Rachel. His daughter was sexually assaulted by a young man. Enemies threatened his family.
As his sons got older, some of them did crazy things. Problems with money, sex, power, and violence seemed to follow the sons wherever they went. They were sorta wheels off. At times it seemed like the whole family was going to unravel and fall apart.
Not all the sons acted that way, or caused so much trouble. Joseph, the son of Rachel, was different and Jacob treated him differently.
He gave him special gifts, like a coat of many colors. That coat was a sign to all the brothers that Jacob thought less of them and more of Joseph; and that Jacob considered Joseph as the first-born son, and the successor to lead the family.
Over time I think Jacob realized that some of his actions inadvertently sparked rivalry among his sons. But that was not his intention. He was just looking out for the well-being of his family. Joseph seemed more trustworthy and reliable than the other sons.
Nevertheless, his sons decided to get rid of Joseph by selling him into slavery. They led their father to believe that he had been mauled to death by wild animals. So for years and years, Jacob grieved the loss of his beloved son, thinking he was dead, and wishing his frozen heart could join him.
Through it all, Jacob continued to walk by faith in God Almighty. He prayed and worshiped and served him. One night he even wrestled with an angel in the mud of the Jabbok. It was an epic fight that Jacob won, yet lost. Turns out it was God who had disguised himself as a man. At the end of that wrestling match, he struck Jacob on the hip and changed his name to Israel.
From that time on the cheater was called the wrestler. He was handicapped by the Lord and That is why he walked with a limp everywhere he went after that. In his daily weakness he felt God’s eternal glory.
Over time, things began to change in his life, in his family, in his sons. Things got better, not worse.
Then that infamous famine hit and nearly wiped him out completely. Jacob kept up with current events and world affairs. He heard through the grapevine that there was plenty of food and water in Egypt. So he sent his sons down there to buy some for his household.
That’s how they learned that Joseph was the vicegerent of Egypt. When Jacob heard all that news he said, “My son was dead, but now he lives again.”
Maybe someday someone will break down and tell the story about how the brothers explained their role in this tale to their father, but up till now, their lips have been sealed.
Anyways, Joseph moved Jacob and the rest of his family down to Egypt. They have been living there in Goshen, the land of drawing near, ever since.
About seventeen years ago, the Lord God appeared to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.” (Genesis 46:2-4)
That gave him the courage he needed to go down to Egypt.
Though Jacob did not always walk God, God walked with Jacob from womb to tomb. At the end of his days, Jacob was still praising God and confessing his name.
So, there is no doubt in our hearts and minds, that Jacob loved the Lord and limped with him all the way to the end of hs life.
He believed that his only comfort in life and in death is that he was not his own, but belonged body and soul, to “the God before whom his fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who had been his shepherd all his life long to the end of his days, the angel who had redeemed him from all evil.” (Genesis 48:15-16)
What a comfort to know that his heart, mind, soul, and strength were so God-centered! I pray that we will all become God-centered and God-conscious in that same way.
Just a few hours before Jacob was gathered to his fathers, he sat on the edge of his death-bed and “blessed each with the blessing suitable to him.” That’s a diplomatic way of saying, “He cursed some and blessed others.” (Gen 49:1-28) For better or worse, he told each of his sons exactly what he thought of them.
I won’t repeat everything he said to all of them, but I do want to repeat what he said to Joseph, for without Joseph, Jacob would have perished a long time ago.
“Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, 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 that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.” (Genesis 49:22-26)
When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people. Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. And his hand closed his father’s eyes.
Now, death is an enemy that we do not understand. But I do not want you to be uninformed about people like Jacob who are resting with their fathers and asleep in the Lord.
We don’t want you to grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that God is the God of the living not of the dead, we believe that one day God will bring with him all those who have fallen asleep in him. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. They will be raised, and we will be changed.
Death is not the end; the end is Life. Death is just a rest stop on the way to our final destination. Therefore, comfort one another with these words. (Based on 1 Thess. 4:13-18)
Jacob’s dying wish was that his sons would bury him in the land of Canaan, in the cave of the field at Machpelah, to the east of Mamre, which he purchased long ago (Gen 49:29; 50:5, 13).
That is what brings us here today.
We commend unto the hands of our most merciful Father, the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Explanation / Meaning
Now, you might be wondering why so much time, money, and effort were put into this funeral. Perhaps it seems like an unnecessary waste of resources to some of you. But I want to encourage you to look at it from a different point of view. Think of it as a symbolic investment in the future — a sign and seal of your hope, faith, and love in the promises of God.
Jacob asked his sons to bury him in Canaan for several reasons:
First, he believed that God will give the land to him and his offspring. He wanted you to remember that are aliens and strangers in Goshen, but their true heartland is Canaan.
Second, he believed that God will raise his household up from Egypt. Just as he died in Egypt and raised up to Canaan, so you will die in Egypt and be raised up to Canaan.
Third, he believed that God will grant him rest with his fathers, and that there must be life beyond the grave.
Fourth, he believed that God will raise up a good shepherd over his people, and place a living stone under his people. From Jacob will come the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel; the King and the kingdom of God’s glory.
Finally, he believed that God will bless all the families of the earth through his seed. Even now, as we look around, we see all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s household, gathered together in one place around one person.
All this is just a shadow of things to come. God is a promise maker and a promise keeper.
Evangel / Christotelic Connections
Now, as we have said many times before, all these people and their stories are true and real. They are historical, and they happened in real space and time.
If we stop right now, we will have told a good Bible story from Jewish history. But since we read the Bible backwards, with Christ in mind, we always ask “what does this story have to say about Jesus?”
So how does this story point us to Jesus?
You have probably seen glimpses and heard whispers of Jesus already. But here are a few more shadows and echoes that I want to point out as well.
Joseph spoke to Pharaoh and asked to take away the body of Jacob and Pharaoh gave him permission. (Genesis 50:4-6) // Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus and Pilate gave him permission. (John 19:38-42; Luke 23:50-53)
Joseph commanded his servants to embalm his father, and so the physicians embalmed Israel according to the custom of the Egyptians. (Genesis 50:2-3) // Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, a mixture of myrrh and aloes about seventy-five pounds in weight, as is the burial custom of the Jews. (John 19:38-42; Luke 23:50-53)
Joseph laid Jacob’s body in a cave hewn out of the ground. (Genesis 50:5, 12-13) // Joseph of Arimathea laid Jesus’ body in a tomb cut in stone. (John 19:38-42; Luke 23:50-53)
Egyptians and Hebrews gathered at Jacob’s tomb in Canaan. (Genesis 50:7-8) // Romans and Jews gathered at Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem. (Matthew 27:62-67)
Why do I point out these things?
First, because it is really cool to see the unity and integrity of the Holy Scriptures. Second, because it is so important to see that the Holy Scriptures are ultimately all about Jesus Christ! He is not the termination of the OT, but its destination.
Now we would remind you, brothers, of the gospel we preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word we preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For we delivered to you as of first importance what we also received:
Jesus is the true and better Jacob who died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, who was wrapped in linen and buried in cave, who was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
Jesus is the Shepherd of Jacob who laid down his life for the sheep and took it up again.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:22-25 cp Gen 49:24)
Jesus is the Stone of Israel who was rejected by the builders, yet became the cornerstone.
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 cp Gen 49:24)
Man that is born of a woman has but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He comes up, and is cut down, like a flower; he flees as it were a shadow, and never continues in one place.
Let us bow our hearts in prayer:
In the midst of life we are in death:
from whom may we seek for comfort, but from you, O Lord,
who for our sins are justly displeased?
Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.
O Lord, you know the secrets of our hearts;
shut not your merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy,
O God most mighty, O holy and merciful Savior,
you most worthy eternal Judge,
suffer us not, at our last hour,
for any pains of death,
to fall from you.