If you struggle with depression, I would tell you to see the doctor. If you want to be married or do not want to be married; if you are married or not married or no longer want to be married, I would tell you to see the doctor. And if you just need some good news, I would tell you to see the doctor. His name, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a distinguished medical doctor, but also much more. He was a preacher…who did not live for preaching.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones died on March 1, 1981. Two days before his death, with trembling hand, he wrote this note for his wife and children: “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the glory;” that is what he called heaven – the glory.
Jacob died on day 53,655. Days before his death, with trembling voice, he gave this note to his children: “Do not bury me in Egypt.”
Genesis 50 could be viewed in three parts. There is the beginning (50:1-14). There is the middle (50:15-21). And there is the end (50:22-26). Both the beginning and the end share the very same big idea. In the beginning, Jacob’s sons do not bury their father in Egypt. At the end, Jacob’s sons do bury their brother Joseph in Egypt. And there is a reason.
After Jacob Blessed His Twelve Sons
After Jacob blessed his twelve sons – and the sense is that this was immediate – Jacob commanded his twelve sons. This is Genesis 49:29-32, something we spent nearly no time on last week. And in this command, Jacob used the word bury five times and then drew his last breath and died. These are his last words; so concerned with his burial! Note that; he is more concerned about his burial than his funeral. I have no reason to, but I have thought a little bit about my funeral, more so than my burial. I know that I do not want to be there for my funeral, meaning, no casket and no shell of what is left behind. And no pictures; just the reading of God’s Word; the singing of God’s Word, especially It is Well with My Soul and Behold Our God; and the preaching of God’s Word.
But here, Jacob was especially concerned with his burial, it is not the first time, just the last time. The first time was just a couple of chapters ago, in a moment between Jacob and Joseph (Genesis 47:29-31). After which, Jacob bowed in worship. So, there is something sacred about this burial. Jacob is to be buried with his fathers. Jacob is to be buried in that cave in that field that Abraham bought way back in Genesis 23. Jacob is to be buried in that cave in that field where Abraham and Sarah are buried and Isaac and Rebekah are buried and where Leah, Jacob’s wife is buried. And Jacob is to be buried in that cave in that field in the land of Canaan. And what is the land of Canaan? It is the land, land that God has promised to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob, to give to their offspring, but not until their offspring spent four hundred years in a land not called home (Genesis 12:1-9; 15:1-16). And then Jacob drew his feet into his bed, breathed his last and died.
The Affection of a Son for His Father
Then Genesis 50 begins. Joseph fell on his father’s face. Remember, when Joseph first saw his father after years of not seeing his father, he ran to him and fell on his neck and wept for a good while (46:29). And remember, God promised that Joseph would be the one who at the end would close Jacob’s eyes (46:4). Here, Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him. And it just spoke to me the affection of this son for his father.
It is interesting that of these thirteen men – Jacob and his twelve sons – Joseph is the only one in this record who has shed tears. He has shed tears for his brothers like three times and he has shed tears for his dad. And he has kissed each one of them. It is something I had not really noticed or appreciated until his father died, but in these closing chapters the affection of Joseph has really been brought forth. And I think what we are seeing with Joseph is the affections God had for him affecting his affections for others. And where did he learn the affections God had for him? It was not in the favor his earthly father had for him. It was not in getting a brand new and glorious robe. It was not in his success in Egypt. It was, though, through difficulty and discouragement and at the border of despair. He learned the affections God had for him in the pit and in the pit again (the prison).
And Joseph Commanded His Servants
And now watch closely verse two and verse three and verse four. Joseph commanded his servants to embalm his father. What kind of servants? These are Egyptian servants. These are Egyptian doctors. It is really interesting that Joseph does not have nor does he allow the Egyptian priests to embalm his father. Remember, Joseph’s father-in-law was the Egyptian priest. It is as if he is purposely avoiding any false religious practice with preparing his father’s body for burial. This particular embalming practice took forty days. But notice the last part of verse three. The Egyptians wept for him, presumably Jacob, for seventy days. This was two days shy of the required mourning for the death of a pharaoh. It shows the high regard the Egyptians had for both Joseph and Jacob.
Then comes verse four. When the days of weeping past, this was almost two and a half months, Joseph sought to speak with Pharaoh. This is very important to not miss. He only speaks to the household of Pharaoh. Perhaps it is because he is in no condition to rightly stand before Pharaoh. But he sought Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt. Please pay attention to that. It is to fulfill his father’s will that he be buried in the land of Canaan. But just note, Joseph sought Pharaoh’s permission to leave Egypt for the promised land. And Pharaoh responded, “You may go” (50:4-6).
Now watch closely Genesis 50:7-9. Joseph went up to bury his father. And so did all the servants of Pharaoh. And so did all elders of Pharaoh’s household. And so did all the elders of the land of Egypt. And so did all of Joseph’s brothers. And so did all of Jacob’s household. And so did Egyptian chariots and Egyptian horsemen. The point is that this was a very great company of both Egyptians and Israelites heading out of Egypt for the promised land.
Highlight the last part of verse eight. There were three groups that did not make this trip this time. The grandchildren of Jacob and the flocks of Jacob and the herds of Jacob stayed behind, this time. This all foreshadows the book of Exodus. Exodus will be four hundred years later. And then, the descendants of Jacob called the nation of Israel will get out of Egypt. Moses, a one time most powerful man of Egypt, will seek Pharaoh’s permission to lead Israel out of Egypt. And when Israel does leave Egypt, it will be a very great company leaving Egypt, this time including their children and their flocks and their herds. And when Israel does leave Egypt, the Egyptians with their chariots and their horsemen will oppose them (Exodus 10-14). Now this is interesting; in Genesis 50:11-14, Moses gives a hint to the route that Joseph and his brothers took getting to the promised land. It was the long way, very similar to the route in Exodus; the long way.
And Joseph Returned to Egypt with His Brothers
But really pay attention to verse fourteen. It is the verse that grabbed my attention. “After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers.” Prior to burying their father, the whole company including the Egyptians stopped to mourn together for seven days. There was weeping and wailing, so much so that those living in Canaan came out to see what this noise was and said, “This is a grievous mourning by the Egyptians.” And then Jacob’s children went up by themselves to the cave and buried their father. But they returned together to Egypt. I wondered for a few days why it was that Moses would include that detail. Would it not be a given? I mean, they left their children and their flocks and their herds in Egypt.
Why did Joseph return to Egypt with his brothers? It was with his brothers. This was the first time Joseph had been back home in decades. How hard was it to leave? Perhaps it was not too difficult; perhaps it no longer felt like home. When he first left for Egypt it was against his will. And when he first left for Egypt it was by his own brothers’ hands. And they stood there watching the caravan carry their brother away until it disappeared over the horizon. The brothers though have made this trip to Egypt several times. The difference this time is that the twelve brothers, the twelve tribes of Israel are returning to Egypt together. So, what is the point?
Listen to Genesis 50:13. “…his sons carried him to the land of Canaan.” And then listen to Genesis 50:25. “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’” When will Joseph’s bones be carried up out of Egypt? The exodus. And here then is the reason that the beginning of Genesis 50 and the ending of Genesis 50 both concern burial, the burial of Jacob and then the burial of Joseph. And it is why Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt. Burying Jacob was a rehearsal for the exodus. These brothers returned to Egypt by faith. They walked back to Egypt not by sight. They returned to Egypt together holding fast to God’s promise of Genesis 15:13-16. The famine was over, it had been over for a long time. There was an argument to be made to stay home and not return to Egypt. But no one mentioned it. Each went back to Egypt to wait. It was there that they would wait and wait and wait for God’s salvation. They were going back to prosperity and favor. But the generations to come would lose that prosperity and favor. These brothers were not allowing their circumstances to dictate their faith. They would wait and generations to come would wait. There would be oppression. There would be difficulty. There would be suffering but there God would perform his wonders. There in the fiery furnace of Egypt, God would fashion a people for his own possession. I marvel that these twelve men went back to Egypt.
There will be difficulty to come; there will be trials; there will be reason to grow dismayed; there will be circumstances that will exhaust patience and will try endurance…for us. And I have been praying for us, differently than I think I ever have before. I want us happy and joyful and that is not to say that we are not happy and joyful. But there are moments, here and there, when I get concerned. I wonder what will happen when we are not so happy. And I wondered how did those men go back to Egypt knowing that God promised centuries of difficulty? Here I am, fretting a little bit about even just one period of difficulty as a church. So, how do you go back to Egypt, how do you lead a people to go back to Egypt where presently everything is fine, but know that there will be times of trial to come?
I talked to our Father about it. And I wrote down five things that I have been praying now for four days. I have been praying that we would pray. Jesus said that his father’s house is to be a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13). I have been praying that we would love…God’s Word. I have been praying that we would love…one another. I have been praying that we would love…those who are outside. And I have been praying that we would love…God.
And it seems to me that if I do those things, if we do those things, we can go back to Egypt.