On Sunday April 10, 2016 we began a journey through what I dubbed the “Genesis of Grace” … This morning, some 54 studies and approximately 2700 minutes of teaching time later, we’ve reached the final chapter. I pray you’ve enjoyed Genesis as much as I have.
Known as “The Book of Beginnings” there is no doubt Genesis has lived up to its billing by explaining the origins and therefore the purpose of the universe, earth, life, man, women, genders, marriage, children, evil, sin, judgment, redemption, salvation, language, order, government, clothing, continental drift, priesthood, communion, etc… Literally every single doctrinal or theological concept in your Bible finds it’s beginnings in the book of Genesis.
And it’s because this is the case that Genesis has helped us unpack answers to many existential questions we as human beings face: Why do we exist? What is the meaning of life? Why is the world so messed up? Is there any hope we can be saved from this mess?
And yet, while all of this is extremely helpful, as we noted in our very first study, Moses’ fundamental purpose for authoring/compiling Genesis was much larger than all that.
In recounting four events where God directly injected Himself into human affairs (Creation, Fall, Flood, and the Tower of Babel), as well as recording four people God specifically interacted with (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph) Moses was illustrating to the Nation of Israel an important reality. They were God’s chosen people for only one reason… Grace!
As we’ve seen the Hebrew people weren’t chosen because of some inherent goodness, merit, deservingness, or ethnic purity… Instead, God’s favor was given independent of their actions and therefore the continuance of this favor rested on His faithfulness and not theirs.
You see this simple context is what makes Genesis the most grace-centered book of the Bible! Not only does Genesis recount God’s interactions with humanity prior to the Law (which was given to Moses in Exodus 20), but every Scriptural argument made by the New Testament writers advocating God’s grace pulls directly from the pages of Genesis.
In a profound sense what Romans and Galatians lay out doctrinally, it is Genesis that illustrates practically. It is by design and with this very specific intention that within every verse of this book Moses wants you and I to see “The Genesis of Grace!”
In our first study I mention that every single story in Genesis oozes the grace of God! Instead of law or some standard to measure worthiness, Genesis presents example after example of men and women who, through faith in His promises, come to experience the transforming power of God’s amazing grace… It’s been my prayer this study has accomplished this aim.
As we wrap up Genesis, I want you to know I’m going to take a simple approach to this mornings study… First, we’re going to take some time to effectively work through the nuts and bolts of the text. Then I’m going to close by placing this final chapter into the larger context of the amazing grace of God. Let’s recap where we are in the larger story…
Genesis 50:1-3, “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 him, for such are the days required for those who are embalmed; and the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.”
Following the death of Jacob, in addition to Joseph “weeping”, we’re told most incredibly all of Egypt “mourned for him seventy days” out of reverence and a deeply held respect.
While you can read up on the Egyptian “embalming” process on your own, what is worthy of note is that in most every circumstance this 40 day procedure was tasked to the priests and possessed a spiritual element. In contrast and likely because this was the case, we’re told Joseph “commanded his physicians to embalm his father.” On a related note… In case Caitlyn Jenner is listening, this is the only time in the Bible a daddy transitions into a mummy!
Genesis 50:4-9, “Now when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh, saying, ‘If now I have found favor in your eyes, please speak in the hearing of Pharaoh, saying, ‘My father made me swear, saying, ‘Behold, I am dying; in my grave which I dug for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.’ Now therefore, please let me go up and bury my father, and I will come back.’ And Pharaoh said, ‘Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear.’
So Joseph went up to bury his father; and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the house of Joseph, his brothers, and his father’s house. Only their little ones, their flocks, and their herds they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering.”
What a scene! Not only does Joseph and his family head to Canaan to bury their father (leaving behind “their little ones” as a guarantee they’d return as Joseph had promised Pharaoh), but we’re told “a very great gathering” of Egyptians joined in the journey… “The servants of Pharaoh, the elders of Pharaoh’s house,” as well as “all the elders of the land of Egypt” (which was likely a reference to the nobility and ruling class - Joseph’s peers).
There is no doubt this “great gathering” making such a trek from Egypt to Canaan serves as definitive evidence that Joseph had left quite an impression on this pagan nation he’d been called by God to serve. It’s also worth pointing out this journey to Canaan was the first time in almost 40 years that Joseph has returned to the land of his fathers.
Genesis 50:10-11, “Then they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, and they mourned there with a great and very solemn lamentation. Joseph observed seven days of mourning for his father. And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, ‘This is a deep mourning of the Egyptians.’ Therefore its name was called Abel Mizraim, which is beyond the Jordan.
Upon their arrival “to the threshing floor of Atad” which was in the western part of the Promised Land just “beyond the Jordan”, Joseph along with this great company “observe” another “seven days of mourning for Jacob.” It would appear their mourning was so great and their presence so massive that all of the Canaanites living nearby took notice.
Following these seven days, Moses tells us only Joseph and his brothers continue further into the land in order to bury their father in the “cave of Machpelah” which already contained the bodies of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah. It’s interesting but today somewhere in the land of Israel rests a mummified Jacob waiting to be discovered.
Genesis 50:12-14, “So Jacob’s sons did for him just as he had commanded them. For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place. And after he’d buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers and all who went up with him to bury his father.”
There is one question that does demand a moment of our consideration… Why did the children of Israel remain in Egypt especially when you take into account the famine that necessitated their initial move had ceased some twelve years earlier?
Answer: I don’t think they were allowed to return! Two things are evident from our text: First, though powerful in his own right, there was a limit to Joseph’s authority. Before taking his father back to Canaan for a proper burial, he had to first seek the permission of Pharaoh.
Secondly, Pharaoh didn’t want them to leave Egypt. Understanding that Pharaoh feared he and his brothers might be tempted to stay in the land when they went back to bury their father, Joseph offers to leave behind their children as a surety they would return to Egypt.
Though most scholars see the ultimate enslavement of the Hebrews in Egypt occurring gradually following Joseph’s death, Genesis 50 seems to present evidence this dynamic had already begun. The fact “Joseph spoke to the household of Pharaoh” instead of speaking directly to Pharaoh himself might be evidence a regime change had already occurred further adding to this new relationship between the Hebrews and Egyptians.
Genesis 50:15-21, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.’ So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, ‘Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: ‘I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.’
And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”
I want to push my commentary on this section to the end of our study…
Genesis 50:22-23, “So Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he and his father’s household. And Joseph lived one hundred and ten years. Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.
What a wonderful heritage Joseph possessed. We read he “dwelt in Egypt” and “saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation” as well as “the children of” his grandson “Machir, the son of Manasseh.” Joseph not only lives to see the birth of his great-grandchildren, but lived long enough to have a profound influence upon them.
We’re told these kids “were also brought up on Joseph’s knee.” For just a few minutes I want us to think of the stories Joseph no doubt passed along to these children…
Adam & Eve…
Cain and Abel…
The Old World…
Noah and the Ark…
Nimrod and the Tower of Babel…
Abraham and his call…
Abraham and his failings…
Abraham and his faith…
Isaac and Rebekah…
Jacob and Esau…
Joseph and his brothers…
Joseph and his plight…
Joseph and his ascent…
Genesis 50:24-26, “And Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’ Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’ So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”
As we seek to put a final period on our travels through Genesis, I’m deeply struck with how this book ends - especially as it pertains to the context of being all about God’s grace.
First, this book of Grace closes with a lot of death. Not only does the final chapter record the death, funeral, and burial of Jacob, but it also ends with the death of Joseph. How ironic that a book that began with creation and a garden ends with a coffin and a funeral!
All the way back in Genesis 2:17 God had been clear to Adam that human sin would yield a certain death. Rebellion would isolate man from God. God warned, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” In Romans 6:23 Paul reaffirms this reality saying, “The wages of sin is death.”
The Book of Genesis provides substantial proof that God indeed meant what He said and that His Word is sure. No one (exception: Enoch and Melchizedek) escaped this certain fate.
Adam and Eve, their children (Cain, Abel, and Seth), every generation leading up to the Flood, the family of Noah afterwards (Shem, Ham, and Japheth), Abraham, Sarah, Lot (his wife and family), Isaac, Rebekah, Ishmael and Hagar, Laban, Esau, Jacob and his wives Rachel and Leah, Jacob’s sons, even Joseph all die as a result of sin.
Understand, it was a manifestation of God’s grace that all of these saints died for human death is the first step in God’s plan for salvation! Because of man’s fallen condition God graciously eliminated his access to “the tree of life” introducing death to the human condition.
Here’s why death is so gracious… Eternal life lived in a fallen state separated by God is the very definition of hell! So in an act of His grace God allowed death so man would not be forced to live in his fallenness forever. Death affords man a new chance on life.
Ironically, it would have been just for God to have allowed humanity to live eternally in our sinful condition! And yet, God graciously instituted human death specifically in order to separate man’s life into two basic sections: the temporal and the eternal.
In a sense God allows every human a taste of hell… We are all born into a fallen condition and into a fallen world. Everyone knows first hand what life separated from God is like; and yet, because of the sweet grace of death such a state does not have to last forever!
The incredible reality of death is that it affords man a choice he would never have been given if he’d remained in the Garden and retained access to the Tree of Life: Continue forever in hell through a separation from God or choose a new life to be lived eternally in God’s presence! It is death that allows the temporal man (including all of these characters we’ve come to know in Genesis) an opportunity to choose a different existence in his eternal state.
Which leads to the second theme the closing of Genesis centers upon… Though death is a certainty, Joseph’s final words point to a most glorious reality - A Savior! In verse 24 we read that “Joseph said to his brethren, ‘I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land which He swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’”
While in its literal application Joseph was speaking of One who’d deliver the children of Israel from their captivity in Egypt, I’m convinced he saw so much more than this. In a reference to Genesis 3:15 when God promised a Savior who’d come miraculously through the “Seed of the woman” Joseph removes all the mystery when he says “God will surely visit you.”
Yes, Joseph was a type of savior in the same way Moses would become; and yet, both of these men knew they were but a shadow of a more excellent Savior to come. God would visit His people and become the ultimate Savior from sin and the hell it creates!
Note: This statement where Joseph refers to “the land which God swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” implied much more than a plot of turf located in Canaan. “The land” promised to Abraham - the land in which this Savior would lead them - was undoubtedly heaven!
Consider Hebrews 11:8-10 where we’re told, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”
Heaven in the presence of God was the destiny with the death of this mortal body being the gracious passage between the two, but it was these men’s faith in this coming Savior that would ultimately lead them home! This is why on his deathbed Jacob cries out for “the salvation of the Lord” and why we’re told over and over again the men who died in faith were “gathered to their people” following their physical deaths.
You see grace demands death for heaven to be a reality… Specifically grace received by faith in the atoning death of Jesus! Though these Old Testament saints only possessed a limited understanding of this, they knew a Savior would be provided when “God visited” His people. Today, we see that it was through Jesus’ death that we might be saved!
Friend, if you reject this fallen world and are reconciled to God through Jesus, death will end your torment as you instantly enter His glory. However, if you choose this fallen world and reject God’s Savior, death continues your torment as you are cast forever from His presence.
It’s been said, “For the believer this life is the closest to hell you’re ever going to get. And yet, for the unbeliever this life is the closest to heaven you’re ever going to get!” In Christ Jesus the lowest point of your earthly life will be the lowest it’ll ever be for you; and yet, apart from Christ the highest point of your earthly life will be the best it’s ever going to be for you!
But there is one more reality Genesis 50 presents for us along this entire train of thought - Grace is a difficult concept to personally accept. It’s not an accident the final picture we have of the Children of Israel is them doubting the grace of their savior Joseph.
Though it’d been 17 years since Joseph had revealed himself to his brothers… 17 years since he’d forgiven them for their wicked deeds… 17 years since he invited them and their families to come and live with him in Egypt… 17 years since he saved them from the famine… 17 years since he afforded them a wonderful life in Goshen… Though it’s been 17 years that they’ve been lovingly cared for by Joseph and prospered immensely as a result…
The very moment Jacob finally passes away, a nagging doubt immediately surfaces… What if Joseph had only been kind on account of their father? What if Joseph had been concealing his true feelings all along? Wasn’t the way he handled it all to good to be true?
Instantly these thoughts cause these men to fear how Joseph will treat them now that he doesn’t have to take Jacob into consideration. In such a state these men cowardly send an intermediary to express their concerns unwilling to approach Joseph face to face.
Ultimately, we understand their fear was rooted in the disbelief that their crime could really be forgiven and that Joseph could be so benevolent. In a sense their fear fundamentally questioned the motivation behind Joseph’s incredible kindness - his grace.
It’s sad, but Genesis closes with the children of Israel doubting the forgiveness of their savior. Instead of accepting Joseph’s favor and enjoying the life he provided them, they instead offer to be his servants in order to demonstrate their worthiness. Ironically, as we’d seen with the Egyptians in previous chapters, such a perspective will always lead to Law.
How insulting it must have been to Joseph for these brothers to again seek forgiveness for a crime he’d already forgiven. How hurtful it must have been to have his goodness called into question - his love doubted - his motivations impugned. I’m not surprised that Joseph reacts to this development by simply “weeping.” Note: This is the 7th time we see Joseph weep.
Church, I don’t believe it’s an accident we close the “Genesis of Grace” with the people of God questioning whether or not such a thing as grace could be real… A group of people doubting whether or not they’d really been forgiven… A group seeking to earn such things from a savior through service because they didn’t believe he could really be that kind.
I find this to be so incredibly relevant because it describes so many Christians today. Sure, while no one would come right out and question God’s grace people’s actions say otherwise.
Please understand… Anytime you seek to earn that which Jesus has already given (when you substitute His work of forgiveness with your attempt to be worthy) you’re in a sense calling into question the sufficiency of His work on the cross, the magnanimity of His grace, and ultimately His love. It’s what makes legalism such an abomination.
This image of Joseph weeping reminds me of John 11 where we’re given an incredible picture of Jesus standing before the tomb of his dear friend Lazarus “weeping.” But note… Jesus was not weeping over the death of his friend. Instead, “Jesus wept” because His love had just been called into question by Lazarus’ sister Mary. In verse 32 she accused him of tarrying to long by saying, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
As illustrated in this account of the reaction of Joseph to his brothers, how the heart of Jesus must break when we also doubt the goodness of His grace… How it must grieve Him anytime we attempt to earn the very forgiveness He’s already given!
Friend, the only way you can fully receive the grace of God is when you first accept His love… A love so deep it was demonstrated through the horrors of the cross. May I ask… Like I’m sure Joseph wondered concerning his own situation, what more can Jesus honestly do to express His love for you… What more can He do to say you’ve been forgiven?
In closing it’s fitting that a book of Grace ends with a savior… The story of Joseph. But how equally fitting it is that Joseph’s story and the final words that wrap up this book of grace exhorts the reader to look for the Savior - the moment when “God visits His people”!
You see the “Genesis of Grace” finishes up by pointing us not to a philosophical concept, religious code, or some type of abstract idea… The Genesis of Grace closes by simply pointing you and I to a person for the grace of God and the ultimate salvation of man could never have happen without the sacrifice of Jesus. As we close this study it should be pointed out that the Genesis of God’s grace ends with Jesus!
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