Today we’re finishing off the book of Genesis. How’s it going to end? What are going to be the final words? The final three chapters of Genesis are filled with final words. The final words of Jacob, the final words of Joseph, but these are also the final words of Moses as he closes this book of beginnings. It is not the final final words of Moses, obviously, he wrote four more books, the five together we call the Pentateuch; however, he write them not as one book, but as five books, and here we have the conclusion to his first book, and so the final words here both sum up some of the key theme in Genesis, and prepare us for the next book and indeed the rest of the storyline of the Bible, which would to be developed out in writing over then next 1500 years by 40 different authors guided by the Spirit of God, and would be carried out in history even to this day until Christ returns. And so, what is the Spirit of God in Moses going to leave us with at the end of this first book?
We find here the final of three sojourning principles: how are we to live in light of the fact that we are not residing in the land of promise, nor has God brought about the fulfillment of his promise, but we dwell in a nation, and among a people as citizens of another kingdom, seeking a promised land.
The setting of Genesis 50 jumps back and forth between Egypt and Canaan, between the land in which the children of Israel have their dwelling, and the land in which the children of Israel find their promise. And so the major concern here a the end of Genesis, that we are left with, is the plight of the chosen people of God, dwelling outside of the land of promise, awaiting the appointed time to receive their inheritance in the land. We actually know from prophesy given within the book of Genesis and from the unfolding of the next few books of the Bible, that they will dwell in Egypt for generations to come, sojourning outside of the land of promise.
This connects with one of the major themes both in the book of Genesis, and in the larger scope of the storyline of the Bible - that we human beings are alienated, in fact exiled from our home. You hardly get 3 chapters into the story of humanity and we are exiled from eden, having rebelled against God to worship and serve ourselves and own interests. At the end of chapter 3 God drove us away from the paradise he had created for us to dwell in Eden, that we all, all of humanity live in exile, cut off from our Creator, longing for our home. This storyline of sojourning in exile only truly finds its ultimate resolution in the final pages of the Bible, when agains the dwelling place of God will be with mankind. So it is only appropriate, that Genesis, this book of beginnings should end precisely with where we find ourselves, dwelling just as much outside of the land of promise and Joseph and his brothers.
And so in the final chapters of the book of Genesis we find these sojourning principles - we’ve looked at two already:
Intentionality: Having been called to be a holy nation, God’s people must with intention preserve their distinctiveness during their sojourn in a land of idolatry.
Blessing: During the time of our sojourn, we bless our neighbours with our words and work for their good as we watch and wait for God's kingdom to come
Faith: During our sojourn in this age, the repentant live by grace and in faith experience exodus through death, awaiting God’s visitation.
the repentant live by grace:
So how are we to live? Well, these final verses of Genesis point us toward an answer, and again, it is an answer that connects with one of the major themes both in the book of Genesis, and in the larger scope of the storyline of the Bible - the repentant will live by grace. In verses 15-22, we get almost a replay of an earlier scene in Genesis - and the fact that it is a replay here is so significant, as if the Lord is through Moses the author telling us, do not miss this!!! See, the very reason the son’s of Israel found themselves in sojourning in exile, and indeed the reason we find ourselves alienated from God, longing for our home, is that through our wickedness, we have turned from God and cut exiled ourselves. And so the key scene in chapter 50, is Joseph’s wicked brothers turning back yet again to him, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation for all the wickedness that their evil hearts had committed against him. The brothers, well aware of their own sins, understand that unless they truly are forgiven, their very lives are at risk. And so they send a mediator to Joseph, acknowledging their sin, asking for forgiveness, presenting themselves to him as servants, completely at his mercy.
Gen. 50:15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”
Gen. 50:17 Joseph wept when they spoke to him … 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Ironically, even though Joseph states, “Am I in the place of God,” Joseph does indeed represent God’s deliverance of not only his brothers, but of all who are in exile on the basis of their sin, for Joseph assures them of their forgiveness of the basis of the key theme of the entire book of Genesis - what man intends for evil, God intends for good.
God is able to forgive us of our sin and we are able to forgive one another of our sins against one another, when we see that even though our sins have alienated us from God and separated us one from another, God is directing history through all of that is done to bring about his deliverance of sinners like us.
That’s why this series was called the Faith and Failings of our fathers:
Abraham: The Father of Faith: An undeserving idolator with a dead-end wife are chosen to be the recipients of a promise of a great legacy and to be the head of nation and offspring that will bring blessing to the earth. The great act of faith is immediately followed up by failure, as no sooner does Abraham enter the promised land as he leaves it and makes his wife dispensable.
Abraham very slowly begins to apprehend the implications of God’s promise on his life. He often lags behind or drifts toward seeking to fulfill God’s promise through his own manipulations or plans, rather than trusting in the absurdity of God’s grace toward him. High-points of faith and obedience are juxtaposed with episodes of lack of trust and disobedience, leading to significant consequences for himself, his family, his servants, and even the surrounding nations. However, God makes it abundantly clear to Abraham that the fulfillment of the covenant will rest not in Abraham’s ability to keep it perfectly, but upon God’s faithfulness to his promise. As Abraham learns to walk by faith, God unfolds more and more of his promise and reinstitute his covenant with him.
Abraham’s faith is tested over decades. He seems to learn from early failures to grow in faith and obedience in later tests. God’s grace carries Abraham through the victories of faith and the episodes of failure. In short, Abraham is presented as the prototypical man of faith, who trusts in the fulfillment of God’s promises, however imperfectly.
Jacob: The Chosen Heel-Grabber: God chose Jacob before he was born - a good thing because no one would have chosen him after! Jacob displays uncanny manipulation and deceit throughout most of his life. He takes what is not his and seeks to usurp others for his own sake. This leads him to be on the run from his family for most of his life. He is always burning bridges.
When God reveals himself to Jacob, Jacob acknowledges the Lord, but doesn’t claim him as his own God unless God should come through for him. Even though God is more faithful and generous to Jacob than he deserves, Jacob doesn’t truly come to God until he is in a place of desperation, at which time God changes Jacob’s name to Israel and gives him and ever-present reminder of his authority over Jacob’s life.
Jacob’s faith, like his grandfather Abraham’s, remains imperfect, leading to significant consequences to his own family, so that his own testimony is that the days of his life are evil and few. However, we do see growth in maturity, faith and obedience, especially near the end of Jacob’s life, particularly in pausing before migrating to Egypt, blessing his sons, and demanding that he be buried in the land of promise. In short, Jacob is presented as the prototypical man of struggle, who contends against the fulfillment of God’s promises, yet is chosen and blessed solely as an act of grace.
Joseph and Judah: Providential Pictures of the Deliverer
Joseph, the favoured son, is presented as a sacrificial lamb, through his suffering, he brothers are redeemed and the nations are blessed. The lamb, Joseph, receives the birthright of Jacob.
Judah, the fallen son, is presented as an unexpected substitute, who offers himself in the place of his condemned brother, for the sake of his father’s love. The lion, Judah, receives the blessing of Jacob, that the deliverer will come through his bloodline.
The Major Theme of the Book of Genesis is that despite the sin and failings of the covenant people, God directs history toward the redemption of humanity through them; this is because the promise rests in the faithfulness of God rather than the faithfulness of man. Or quite simply
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
And that is the key theme of the Bible: no of us are worthy of God’s grace, no one has the perfect family, the perfect life. But God is working his good through and in us by his grace. and so we are to live repentant life - retuning to God, seeking his forgiveness, and hope.
and in faith experience exodus through death
This point may seem a little less positive, but it is a key theme of the entire book of genesis, brought to the forefront here in this concluding chapter: life in exile is filled with violence, wickedness, sorrow and misery, yet this world is not our home. That until the kingdom comes, we will die in the faith that the world is not our home. I call this exodus, because that is what this chapter points to: Jacob’s funeral procession is a picture of exodus. Joseph approaches Pharaoh and says let me go and bury my Father, and Pharaoh says, “Go”, and an entire procession travels from Egypt to the land of Canaan that Jacob may be placed to rest in the land of promise. At the end of the chapter, Joseph commands his sons to do the same to him:
24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” 26 So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
That’s the final words of the book of Genesis: he was put in a coffin in Egypt. Yet here has the writer of the Hebrews sets Jospeh’s final words:
Hebrews 11:22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
And so both Jacob and Joseph knew that their deaths were experiences of exodus. That until God brings in the kingdom and sets all things new, we dwell in a world of sin and violence, of idolatry and darkness, from which death is our exodus.
Luke 9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
By grace, having received the forgiveness of God, we by faith understand that we will likely die before the kingdom comes, and therefore death is an exodus to the one who believes.
awaiting God’s visitation.
Twice in the final 2 verses, Joseph uses a significant phrase - throughout the book of Genesis, we have been waiting for a son, the seed of the woman, the offpring of Abraham, the deliverer Messiah, to come and redeem humanity, set up the kingdom and bless the nations. However, here Joseph tells his brothers, that what they are to wait for, is for God himself to visit them.
Luke 19:41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
This visitation is future to us, amazingly in that same passage in 1 Peter that we found the new Testament Application of the other two sojourning principles, we find this one as well:
1Pet. 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation
The first advent and the second advent.