Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jospeh's Bones (Genesis 5:24-25)

I've been thinking this week about the bones of Joseph. There is a strange little bit at the end of the book of Genesis where Joseph tells his family that when the time comes for Israel to return to the land of Canaan he wants his bones taken with them (Gen 50:24-25). I've read it many times and not given it much thought. But this week I was struck by the fact that this is really strange.

Think about it for a second. Joseph has seen four generations of his children born in Egypt (50:23). He was given the highest non-hereditary office in the land of Egypt (41:41-3). He married into a high status family in Egypt (41:45). He became the saviour of Egypt and surrounding lands during a terrible famine (41:56-57). So in Egypt he has family, wealth, success, prestige and honour, everything that the world could offer. What better resting place could there be for his bones? Why would he want his bones taken back to Canaan, the land of his childhood where he was a spoilt brat hated by his brothers?

But it is not nostalgia that motivates Joseph. He does not call Canaan "the land of my childhood", but "the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Jacob's motivation is not in the past but in the future. Even after all he had in the land of Egypt his heart was in the promises of God for the future. What a challenge to us! How attached are we to this world and what it gives us? Is our heart really in the future promised by God or are we happy for our "bones" to rest for ever in the blessings of this world? For as Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21).

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