Genesis 50:1-20

All the sons of Jacob appear to have been present at his deathbed, according to the first verse of Genesis 49, yet no mention is made of them in the closing scenes. Joseph alone remains before us as we open Genesis 50, and again we see him as a man of deep affection, moved to tears. These patriarchs died in faith, as we are told in Hebrews 11, yet their faith did not lessen the love proper to natural relationships, nor does it do so for us today. The breaking of the link is a very real sorrow.

Being in Egypt, the burial customs of that land were observed up to a certain point, but Jacob's body was not to lie embalmed in an Egyptian tomb. By Jacob's desire, as well as Joseph's, it was to lie in the land of promise. The promise of God was a reality to their faith, since "Faith is the substantiating of things hoped for" (Heb. 11: 1, New Trans.). The things hoped for are real, and faith substantiates them, or, makes them real, to us.

Jacob's funeral bore witness to the extraordinary position of power and influence to which Joseph had attained. Pharaoh's permission was readily given. All Jacob's sons were associated with Joseph in it, and also many important personages of Egypt. It was recognized in Canaan as a great mourning of the Egyptians. Nevertheless his body was laid in the grave that witnessed to the fact that these men of faith were still strangers and pilgrims.

Back in Egypt, one last test confronted Joseph. His brethren sent him a message which revealed that they had never quite trusted his magnanimous attitude towards them. They felt it was too good to be really true, and suspected that it was a kindness assumed for the sake of his old father, Jacob. If that had been so, now was the time for the true Joseph to reveal himself in paying off the old score. Their message revealed that they did not altogether trust him.

Their message was very diplomatic. They invoked the memory of their dead father to shelter themselves. They acknowledged their trespass of many years before, which was good, and they professed themselves to be the servants of the God of Jacob. But still they revealed all too clearly that they regarded all his former goodness as not expressive of his real self.

This was a sorrowful stab to the heart of Joseph, and for the seventh and last time we read that he wept. This last test reveals him to us in a peculiarly excellent light. Any ordinary man might have been annoyed and antagonized by such a spirit of distrust, but Joseph's reaction was very different. He was moved to tears, expressive of wounded love, but his attitude toward them remained just as it had been, for it was the expression of his genuine nature.

In this again he is a striking type of the Lord Jesus. How many times have we, who have received of His eternal bounty, displayed either in word or deed, or in both, that we do not trust Him unreservedly; but His attitude toward us never alters, His love never wanes, His care never abates. Many years ago a servant of the Lord quoted the lines of the hymn,

"They, that trust Him wholly,
Find Him wholly true,"

and then surprised everybody by adding, "But I know something more wonderful than that." All had, however, to acknowledge that he spoke truly when he added, "It is more wonderful still that they, who do not trust Him wholly, still find Him wholly true!" This is illustrated here. Joseph's brethren did by no means trust him wholly, yet they found him wholly true to that which was his real nature and character.

Having wept, Joseph replied and his words show afresh how consistently God was before him. He was not in the place of God, and therefore not free to act without reference to Him. God had acted in the whole matter, and meant it unto good. That being God's intention, he would not for a moment swerve from it. His acts toward them would also be consistently for their good. His exaltation in Egypt was such that they were indeed his servants, as they confessed, but he would use his power for their nourishment and protection. He comforted them by kindly speech.

Verse 20 is a fine summing up of the whole story. They had committed a grievous wrong but God had overruled it for salvation. This at once directs our thoughts to the Lord Jesus Christ. The evil thought, which was wrought out against Joseph by his brethren, was as nothing compared with that perpetrated by the Jews when they rejected and crucified their Messiah. God permitted it because He meant it unto good in the accomplishment of an eternal redemption; for the laying of the foundation, whereon rests securely the superstructure of blessing, in a new creation according to His eternal purpose. Thus has God made the wrath of man to praise Him.

Joseph, as we have said, saw God in the whole matter, and it preserved him from pettiness and an unbecoming spirit. With this beautiful episode the story concerning him comes to its end. He lived to be 110 years old, and may have done many other notable things before his death, but as a type of Christ his history is completed as far as Scripture is concerned, save that we are permitted to know that he too died in faith, and in expectancy that a day would come when God would redeem His promise as to the land, and the Exodus would take place. It is this closing episode that is seized upon in Hebrews 11, to establish that he was a man of faith.

One cannot close the book of Genesis without being struck by the last four words. It opens with a couple created in innocence and placed in a garden of delights. It closes with a coffin in Egypt, and in that cofffin a dead man, in spite of the fact that he was an eminent saint. Sin had come in, and death by sin.