Introduction: What a marvelous King and Ruler we have in our God who condescends in mercy to “visit” His people! Historically, kings and rulers “visit” in order to keep track of their people and count their cities’ populations for tax or military purposes, or to boost their own power by demonstrating how many followers they have. Often the only contact most lowly subjects get with such mighty men is at great rallies where thousands throng in order to get just a glimpse of their leaders. How different is the God of Joseph in Genesis 50:24-25 – who hears His peoples’ cries, coming down in order to personally visit His people and succor them in all their trials, as we shall see this week.
Monday: read Genesis 50:24-26. The starving masses had come to Egypt during the famine and Joseph fed many, many hungry mouths during his years as Prince of Egypt! But what he did for future generations as he lay on his death bed was far more significant than anything he had done in his earlier life. Two times as he lay dying, in Gen. 50:24 and then in verse 25, Joseph emphatically promises that God will “come to the aid of,” or “visit” His people. Is there any greater act of compassion than to commend your loved ones to the Lord as you die, giving them the hope that God would not abandon them, but would come to them in their hour of greatest need, to deliver them?
Surely the death of Joseph caused all sorts of fears to grip his brothers’ hearts! They did not know what would become of them in this foreign land of Egypt after their protector Joseph was taken from them! How comforting, therefore, that their earthly protector Joseph now commended them to the constant watch-care of their Heavenly Protector, God Himself! “Ah,” Joseph’s brothers must have said to each other as they watched their brother depart this world, “Joseph really does believe that God is on our side! Why did we doubt his love for us, and that of his God and ours? If Joseph was mindful of us in his hour of greatest extremity; if he cared more about passing on God’s promises to us than disposing of his own wealth and household inheritance, then surely his faith is real, and the promises of God are what we should pin our hopes on as well!” Amen brothers! Now you understand!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that by faith we can rest in God’s promises in the face of death, believing the words of this great hymn which speaks of God “visiting” us with His salvation just as Joseph promised (# 529):
|Love divine, all loves excelling,
joy of heaven, to earth come down,
fix in us thy humble dwelling,
all thy faithful mercies crown.
Jesus, thou art all compassion,
pure, unbounded love thou art;
visit us with thy salvation,
enter every trembling heart.
|Come, almighty to deliver,
let us all thy life receive;
suddenly return, and never,
nevermore thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
serve thee as thy hosts above,
pray, and praise thee without ceasing,
glory in thy perfect love.
Tuesday: read Genesis 50:25-26 and Exodus 13:19. Joseph is also emphatic about the care of his bones after he died. He makes his brothers take an oath, promising to carry his bones back to the Promised Land when they return there at the Exodus. Moses himself, hundreds of years later, honors this oath when he takes the bones of Joseph with the Hebrews out of Egypt in Exodus 13:19. What are we to make of Joseph’s desire for his bones to be preserved in this way? Well, the Catholic church used this passage as a justification for the preservation and veneration of relics, or bones of those they termed “departed saints.” In answer to this practice of digging up the bones of “saints” in order to enshrine them, we note that Joseph’s command regarding his bones was a unique prophetic promise that one day God’s people would be able to bury his bones in the Promised Land. So, Joseph’s desire for his bones to be carried to the Promised Land was exactly opposite in its intent to what happens when the bones of Roman Catholic “saints” are venerated, placed on altars and carried in procession. Joseph’s command resulted in his loss of all honor in Egypt. No one would be allowed to treat him as a great, royal Egyptian nobleman! No pyramid would be built to which people could go to venerate his bones in death! Joseph would be buried and forgotten in the land of Canaan… until the day of Resurrection, when God would remember where he was buried, and would raise him from that tomb!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the strength which He gives in this great act of faith on the part of the believer: in death, commending his soul and body into the loving hands of His God and Father, believing that He will one day be raised from the dead! Joseph cared about where he was buried, and requested that his bones be carried to the Promised Land, because He believed the Lord would return there one day to raise him from the dead! God grant us the same confidence of faith – and may all the glory go to the Lord alone in our death, as in our lives. Amen!
Wednesday: read Genesis 50:25, 2 Samuel 24:2-10 and Zechariah 10:3. Sadly, the word, “to come to the aid of” or “visit,” can also be translated “to enroll in a census” such as in 2 Samuel 24:2. Not that “censuses” are evil! But the motive of leaders who “visit” their people in this way is taken into account by God. God the King visits His people to aid them and show them compassion, but for very different reasons, human kings (even alas David) fall into the trap of visiting their subjects merely to know their own power-base. As soon as David finishes sending out his officers to “visit” Israel for this selfish purpose, he knows he has sinned grievously in 2 Samuel 24:10: “I have sinned greatly in what I have done.” Such is the danger for men who are given power and influence over many. The result can often be the kind of sin which God especially hates: pride – see further Proverbs 8:12-13!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that He made His Covenant of Grace with us His people not for the purpose of seeing how much work He can get out of us (or how much money!), but rather because in love He simply desired us to belong to Him, as a shepherd desiring to care for his sheep. God loves us for who we are, and promises to be that “Good Shepherd” who will “care for His flock” in Zechariah 10:3 – the very same word “visit” which we focus on this week! What unconditional love – to belong to the God of Eternity and to be the recipient of His loving visits even though we are merely lowly sheep! As Hymn # 703 puts it:
|Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know;
Spirit, breathing from above,
Thou hast taught me it is so.
Oh, this full and perfect peace!
Oh, this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease,
I am His, and He is mine.
|His forever, only His:
Who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss
Christ can fill the loving heart.
Heaven and earth may fade and flee,
Firstborn light in gloom decline;
But, while God and I shall be,
I am His, and He is mine.
Thursday: read Genesis 50:25-26, Exodus 3:6-10 and Psalm 18:30. Just as God told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves for four hundred years (Gen. 15:13), so God proclaimed through Abraham’s great grandson Joseph that He would remember His promise and come down to deliver the Hebrews from their Egyptian slave masters. Moses then experienced the fulfillment of this promise at the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-10, when the “Angel of the Lord”(the Son of God in pre-incarnate form) appeared to him and spoke of the exodus from Egypt which He would work through Moses. Speaking at the bush, it was no accident that God reminded Moses of who He was as the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6)! Moses learned thereby that God had “remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” (Exodus 2:24)! Not a moment late or early, God came down at just the right time to visit His people, hearing their cries and making plans through Moses to bring them comfort and deliverance!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the truthfulness and utter reliability of every portion and promise of His Word. Even though Joseph’s faith in God’s Promise to “visit” His people was severely tested through many years of waiting, how the former Prince of Egypt must have jumped up and down in Heaven when he saw the bush lighted by God’s Presence and God Himself go down to “visit” and save His own in Exodus 2 & 3 – just as Joseph said He would do in Genesis 50:25! Truly, “God’s way is perfect and His Word is flawless” (Psalm 18:30)!
Friday: read Genesis 50:25-26, Luke 1:68, 76-77 & Galatians 4:4-7. When Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, opened his mouth in Luke 1:68 to sing of God “visiting” (NKJV version) His people in the birth of Jesus, he also rejoiced that his own son John would be the forerunner to prepare the way for the salvation which Jesus would bring (see Luke 1:76-77). But there were many other “forerunners” who spoke as prophets long ago of God’s coming to men through Jesus Christ. Joseph was one of them. When Joseph spoke about deliverance from Egypt in Gen. 50:25, he was speaking in an ultimate, prophetic sense of the Greatest of Divine visitations, in which God Himself would come down permanently to dwell among His people via the birth of His Son in our nature. Deliverance from Egypt lasted only a few centuries; then God’s people were reduced to slavery and exile again in the land of Babylon. But Christ came to permanently change the lot of His people from slaves to sons. This is the good news of the Gospel as declared in Galatians 4:4: “When the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” What good news!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the permanent change in our lot which the incarnation of the Son of God in our nature has brought about. Truly we should sing this Christmas carol all the year through:
|Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
|Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”
For further thought (Saturday & Sunday):
Sat. Meditate and Pray: As you think of the faith-filled death of Joseph, thank God for the clarity of faith in Joseph and his fellow Old Testament believers, such that they knew, even in those dark days, that their bodies would once again see the light of day. Celebrate this truth with John Calvin’s words about Abraham’s faith at death – words also descriptive of the faith of Joseph: “He took care of his grave and especially wished to have his own tomb in that land, which had been promised for his inheritance, for the purpose of bearing testimony to posterity, that the promise of God was not extinguished, either by his own death, or by that of his family… For while they themselves were silent and speechless, their tombs cried aloud, that death formed no obstacle to their entering into their possession of God’s promise!”
Sun. Meditate and Pray: Ask God to lift the eyes of your loved ones to see the spiritual riches which God has promised for those, like Joseph, who turn to Him in faith. Surely God did a great work of faith in Joseph’s immediate family, including his wife Asenath, a woman of a royal family of Egypt (see Gen. 41:45), in order for her and the rest of Joseph’s family to respect Joseph’s desire to be removed from Egypt, thereby disqualifying himself and his family from the royal place, privileges and wealth of that land. For any who might be in Asenath’s place, wondering at the faith of their loved ones in this “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”:
Do you believe that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, continues to “come down” and dwell with His people in all their extremities? Have you asked Jesus to make Himself as real to you as He was to Moses in that burning bush? Ask Him to reveal Himself to you, through His Word, in a way that you can trust, and thereby experience the same Resurrection faith that Joseph had! Amen.