To Be Continued

“Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here’” (Gen. 50:25).  

- Genesis 50:22–26

Salvation through suffering appears frequently in Genesis. The Lord said He would bruise the woman’s seed in order to crush the Devil (3:15). Abimelech and the Philistines harassed Isaac before he could live safely in Canaan (26:6–33). Joseph saved the world from famine after living in slavery (chap. 37–41). Of course, the presence of this theme is not surprising, especially since the eternal redemption of God’s people came only through the suffering and death of a new Joseph — the Lord Jesus Christ (Isa. 53; 1 Peter 3:18).

He rescued the world, but Joseph died before seeing the Lord consummate His redemption, as today’s passage indicates. Jacob’s favorite son certainly led a favored life, for he ruled over Egypt (Gen. 41:39–43) and fathered two tribes of Israel (48:1–6). Furthermore, Joseph enjoyed a great blessing in seeing many of his grandchildren, some of whom he adopted as his own (50:23; Ps. 128; Prov. 17:6). He also lived to age 110, the ideal lifespan according to the ancient Egyptians. Still, Joseph died outside of the Promised Land (Gen. 50:26), the place where our Father pledged an abundant and secure life to all who kept the covenant (Gen. 15; 17:1–14; 22:15–18; 35:9–15).

Joseph realized the Lord saves all who believe and follow His word, even if salvation’s greatest reward is not received until after death (see 2 Tim. 4:6–8). On his deathbed, he exhorted his family to wait for God’s sure deliverance and to bring his bones up to Canaan (Gen. 50:24–25), an affirmation of Joseph’s trust in God’s covenant promise. Death does not have the last word; Joseph knew Yahweh would one day rescue His people from oppression (Ex. 3:7–8), and finally, as the New Testament reveals more clearly, resurrect His people to dwell in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21). As John Calvin comments, the burial of Joseph in Canaan “plainly signified that, by the death of men, the eternal covenant in which Joseph commands his posterity safely to rest, had by no means become extinct.”

Genesis ends with Joseph’s death and God’s people awaiting His visitation. Thus, Moses tells us that Israel’s story continues in the centuries afterward, in which the Lord finally destroys sin and death.

Coram Deo

The history of Israel — the history of all those who by faith in Jesus alone are reckoned as God’s people — continues today. The story did not end when God closed the canon of Scripture, the church continues to wait for God to fulfill His covenant promise through the return of Jesus. We are all an important part of God’s story, called to obey His Word, so that by our witness and repentance we may hasten “the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:11–12).

Passages for Further Study

Gen. 21:1–7
Jer. 27
Luke 7:11–17
Heb. 11:22
Rev. 22:20

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.