Friday, December 10, 2010

Hall of Faith Series - Joseph

Good Friday everyone!  Today we are continuing our series through the Hall of Faith.  Today our subject is Joseph. 
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.  Hebrews 11:22 NKJV
And once again, we go back to Genesis to see what Hebrews was referencing. 
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.  Genesus 50:22-23 NKJV
This is some years after the death of Jacob where we left off last week.  We only know a summary of the rest of the life of Joseph, except that he lived in Egypt and saw his great grandchildren.  We also know that he played a part in their lives in that they were brought up on Joseph's knees.  I can only imagine the stories he had to share! What a blessing he must have been to his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. 
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.  Genesis 50:24-26 NKJV
Joseph is a picture of unwavering faith.  Jacob passed the promise of the Promised Land to Joseph some 54 years before this time.  Joseph knew that he was not going to see that land, but he did know that God said his children would have an inheritance in that land.  Joseph held onto that promise for 54 years and when he came to the realization that he would never see it in this life, he knew that his descendants would someday have an inheritance in that land.  May we have that same kind of faith.  May we trust in God's word even we do not understand it or do not see it coming to be.  In the Bible, God's prophesies occur anywhere from instantly to not even happening to this day.  Many times we do not know when God's promises will come to be, but we need to hold onto that faith that God will honor His promises.  Joseph held onto that faith. He knew God would someday take them out of the land. 

He was so sure of the promises of God that he instructed them to take his body with them. That is an interesting point.  He lived almost his entire life in Egypt.  He was a ruler in Egypt.  He had his children and saw his grandchildren and great grandchildren be raised in Egypt.  He met and married his wife in Egypt. Not only that but Egypt was a rich and powerful nation and his family had choice land in that rich land.  For all we can see in Scripture, Egypt was very good to Joseph and he lived rather comfortably there.  Despite all of that, though, Egypt was never his home.  His heart always remained in Canaan.  His heart remained in a land not yet belonging to his family, a land where when he was there it was in tents and not in any kind of permanent city, and it was a land that was far and away from the nation God would ultimately raise up.  Yet that was his home.  That was where his heart was. 

Being that his bones were ultimately taken to the Promised Land, his promise must have made it through the hundreds of years until the Exodus.  The Israelites, who lived in the land as slaves in that future time had to have held onto that promise and they lived day by day under the thumb of the Egyptians.  They remembered the promise of God through Joseph and had faith that God would someday deliver them from their affliction.  Many lived and died in those hundreds of years holding onto the promise, but their hope still remained.  I am sure it waxed and waned over time, but it was never forgotten.  And then, three hundred years later, God remembered his promise and the children of Israel finally began their journey to claim that promise first made to Abraham and long long time ago. 

What an amazing picture this is of the return of Jesus.  God made the promise that Jesus would return.
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."  Acts 1:9-11 NKJV
When Jesus left earth, His angels made the promise that He would return.  That promise was affirmed many times throughout the New Testament writings as the early church lived with the constant hope that Jesus could return at any time.  They believed and hope that Jesus would return in their lives, and we must do the same.  No one knows the day or the hour of the return of the Lord.  Many books have been written and sermons given as to why it will be this day or that, but the fact is that it can be today or it can be one thousand years from now.  We simply do not know and God does not want us to.  There are signs to discern that the end of time is near, but even with that we are only guessing.  I know many of you question as to why a loving God would leave us hanging like that.  The answer is that He has to.  Think about it, if God had said that the Lord will return on February 20, 2014, when would we all start to clean up our lives?  When would we feel the urgency to reach out to our loved ones who do not know the Lord?  We would probably do is somewhere around February 19, 2014.  God does not want us to know because He wants us to live in constant urgency that it can happen even today, even this hour. 

Unfortunately, many do not keep that urgency, many have fallen away because Jesus has not returned yet. Our God is so amazing.  The very fact that so many are falling away, the fact that the church is abandoning its hope, and the very fact that the church is getting worse and worse are further encouragements that the end is coming soon. 
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 NKJV
While the increasingly fallen nature of our churches vexes my soul, I am encouraged by these words by God through Paul.  This has to happen.  Not that God desires us to fall away, but it is that falling away that makes our church that much less effective in spreading the Gospel message.  That is the final straw for God.  When even His church promotes things as "blessed" that God Himself calls an abomination, when the church allows what God hates, and when our churches glory in their sin, then there is no reason to hold back His wrath.  A world will not be reached for righteousness when those given the responsibility for being that righteous example wallow in their own unrighteousness.  A world will not be reached for the glory of God when or churches do not display the power of God in their lives.  Our words become empty, our witness is void, and judgment comes.  God is not holding back for the sake of us, but for the sake of those who do not know Him.
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:7-9 NKJV
When we no longer bear the fruit of repentance, it is time to clear the field.  I believe we are approaching that day very quickly.  You must believe that as well.

What we learn from Joseph today is that unwavering hope that even though those promises of God seem so far out, that we must continue to have faith that they will be fulfilled.  We learn that even though many have lived and died waiting for that promise, that just like the Israelites awaiting God to visit them and lead them to the Promised Land that our Lord Jesus will return and lead us to our promise of eternal life.  Just like the Israelites saw the judgment of Egypt as they were delivered from it, we will see the judgment of the world as we are delivered from it. 

We also need the heart of Joseph in recognizing that no matter how "good" this world may have been to you, it is not your home.  We should be homesick for Heaven and look forward to that time when we are face to face with our Lord for all eternity.  If that is not your greatest hope and joy and more amazing to you than anything earth has to offer, then why have you even come to Jesus?  If eternity does not give you shivers when you think on how amazing our eternal home will be, then you really have the wrong impression of Heaven.  You need to check your heart.  

Somewhere in Heaven there is a clock and that clock slowly and steadily clicks downward as it has since before the foundations of the earth.  While that clock make seem to have slowed or stopped from our perspective, from God's perspective it remains perfectly on time.  We know it ends at zero but we do not know where it is at now.  We do not know if there are seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, centuries, or more still on that clock, but we see the signs this very day bringing us headlong to His return.  We must live with the urgency that Jesus can return at any second.  We must never lose that hope and belief that Jesus can return at any time.  And we need to actually yearn for that day.  If you are not looking forward to the return of Jesus, then there is something wrong with your faith.  If you do not believe that Jesus can return at any moment, then there something wrong with your heart.  Someone's soul may depend on our faithfulness to living that attitude.  If you are living for the return of Jesus tomorrow, who would be left behind if he came back today?  Jesus is coming back any second now!  proclaim it, mean it, and believe it. 
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.  2 Peter 3:10-18 NKJV

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