Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 8 2019 - Genesis 49:29-33, 50:12-26 – Jacob's death

In today's passage, Jacob and Joseph both talk about their own impending deaths and instruct their families on what is to be done with their remains. When the time comes for us, will we be comfortable to talk with our families about our own impending death? What will we have to say?

As a young man, Jacob had fled home because Esau, his twin brother, was threatening his life. God had appeared to him at Bethel, announcing himself as "the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac." He had promised to bring Jacob back to the land of Canaan and give it to his descendants who would be like the dust of the earth in number (Genesis 28:13-15). In accordance with his promise God had brought Jacob back to the Promised Land with the many children and possessions he had gained during his exile with uncle Laban.

Now, as an old man, Jacob had again been forced to leave the Promised Land; for the last 17 years had been living in Egypt. Nevertheless, Canaan remained for him the land of promise and he wants to be buried there with his fathers in the cave that Abraham had bought from Ephron the Hittite. God had promised the entire land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants but the only land they owned thus far was a graveyard.

Facing death, Jacob demonstrates his faith in the promises of God. He wants to be laid to rest in the land God had promised them in sure and certain hope that God would fulfil all his promises to his descendants in days to come.

Joseph similarly, when nearing death, gave instructions about his remains. He also is convinced that God will keep his promises. Though he is happy for his remains to rest with the Israelites while they are still in Egypt, he is fully convinced that God will one day bring them back into the land he had promised him. Joseph wants a part in that Exodus even after his death.

After Jacob's death, Joseph's brothers fear that he may now take the opportunity to exercise his power by punishing them for selling him into slavery, so they invent a story to try to protect themselves. Joseph takes no notice of their story but quietens their fears saying, "Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:19-20). Joseph recognises that God has been working out his purposes for blessing even through the evil plans of his own brothers.

These words remind me of the apostle Peter preaching to the crowds on the day of Pentecost. Some of the crowd may have been those who called out for Jesus to be crucified just a few weeks earlier. Peter declared, "This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Acts 2:23-24). They intended it for harm but God intended it for good and for the saving of many lives.

God's determined purpose in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ gives us hope in the face of our own death. Even though our bodies may return to the dust from which they were made, either by slow dissolution in the grave or by rapid reduction to ashes, we have a sure and certain hope in Christ that we too shall share a part in the inheritance of glory that he will give to all who belong to him at his appearing. We have a better and more secure inheritance than Canaan.

Father God, we thank you that we can trust in you and in your promises in both life and in death. Thank you that your promises to us are underwritten by the shed blood of the Lord Jesus and guaranteed to us by his risen power. Help us not to fear death but to prepare for it in expectant hope.

Peter Misselbrook