The Bones of Joseph

“By faith Joseph , when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones” (Hebrews 11:22).

Joseph was not writing a script for a horror movie. Nor was he giving a lecture on physiology. Joseph was giving instructions about his final arrangements, his burial. This is not as gruesome as it seems.

It is a remarkable statement of faith. He was saying he did not want to be interred in Egypt. When the Israelite nation would be liberated to go to their new homeland, he wanted his remains to go with them. He wanted to be permanently buried among his own people in the Promised Land.

“By faith,” Joseph believed that God would fulfill his promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the desert sky. He believed that they would be a blessing to all nations of the world.

He believed the word promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the land of Canaan would be given to them and to their descendants after them (Genesis 15:13-16). This promise included Joseph and his sons. Joseph believed that Abraham’s descendants would return to that place and claim it as their own.

Joseph believed that there would be an exodus from Egypt someday. He knew he would not be alive to see it. He believed it because the Lord had said so. He believed that God had purposes for the chosen people of Israel. Joseph was expressing his confidence in God’s word and his solidarity with God’s people.

So we read in Exodus 13:19, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.'”

I believe a practical lesson for us is that when the time comes to talk to our loved ones about our final arrangements, we should express our faith, as Joseph did. When we let them know about our desires and wishes for our funeral and burial, we should talk openly about our faith in Christ, and our assurance of eternal life with him.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Faith in the Time of Death

I remember visiting a lady in the hospital who had received a diagnosis that her condition was terminal. She and her husband were facing this with uncommon courage and faith. When I arrived at her room I noticed that her husband had been reading a book at her bedside.

When I asked what he was reading he showed me a book on theology. In this desperate time the two of them had been contemplating and worshiping God!

As he was dying, Jacob “worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). This verse is poetic. It is a tribute to the man who was the father of the tribes of Israel. He knew he was dying and he was worshiping the God of his fathers.

Matthew Henry wrote, “Though the grace of faith is of universal use throughout the Christian life, yet it is especially so when we are dying. Faith has its great work to do at the very last, to help believers finish well.”

Genesis 49 describes how Jacob’s twelve sons filed in to see their dying father  The Bible records the prophetic blessing he imparted to each one of them. His words predicted and influenced the subsequent history of the twelve tribes of Israel.

In his youth Jacob had been a conniving trickster. But one night at Penial, Jacob had had a confrontation with God. In a wrestling match with the Angel of the Lord he had been broken of his self-sufficiency and pride. Ever after he had needed a staff because the encounter had left him crippled. He walked with  limp.

But his weakness became his strength because it caused him to depend upon God. The Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel which means “prince of God.” Then his staff became a symbol of royalty, like a scepter.

As he was dying he leaned upon that staff which was at the same time a symbol of physical weakness and patriarchal authority. His sons’ last impression of their father was that of a worshiper.

I hope that when the  time comes for me to face death, that I will be a worshiper. This is the highest and noblest human activity, to offer praise and adoration to our Creator and Redeemer.

Some time ago I read the story of a young pastor who was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery revealed multiple cancers throughout his body. After months of chemotherapy it became obvious that he would not survive. Before he died, he returned to his pulpit to address his congregation.

With God-given courage he spoke of dying. “I’m not looking forward to the process,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing my Savior, the one I’ve worshiped all my life!”

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Faith for the Future

“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” (Hebrews 11:20)

Those who are acquainted with the Isaac of the book of Genesis know that his faith was far from perfect. But his faith was directed toward the right object, the unconditional promise of the living God. This faith enabled him to impart to his sons the promise of a meaningful future for them and for their descendants.

The start of a new year has us looking to the future with hope. We want to be healthy, happy, useful and secure. We want our children and grandchildren to flourish in life and work. We want God to bless them in 2024.

In Genesis 27 Isaac is described as old and feeble. He is dependent on others and apparently in bad health. He is not ageing well. He believes his time is limited and before he dies he wants to impart the patriarchal blessing to his son. Here is where his faith falls short.

God had explicitly told him  that his son Jacob was to receive the primary blessing. But Isaac wanted to give it to Esau, The two sons of Isaac were a study in contrasts. Esau, the favorite son, was a rugged outdoorsman. He was a man of the world, lacking in spiritual perception.

The fair skinned, gentle Jacob was his mother’s favorite. Isaac and Rebekah had a difficult marriage. It is possible to see in the family dynamic a loss of respect, a lack of trust, and a pattern of deception. Rebekah persuaded Jacob  to deceive his father into giving him the covenant blessing.

Surprisingly, the Lord  used the scheming of Rebekah and Jacob to cause “all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28). God, in his wisdom and providence allowed Isaac’s wrong plan to bless Esau to be upset. The irrevocable word of prophecy was spoken over Jacob instead. (Esau also received a lesser, limited blessing.)

Despite the human weakness in this story, there are some words of hope for us, as we begin a new year. May they stimulate faith for the future.

The first practical lesson: never lose hope. Despite limited faith and incomplete obedience, Isaac did not lose his trust in the covenant promise of God. This enabled him to pass along that promise to his sons, the promise of God’s future blessing.

A second principle that we see in this story has to do with human limitation. Isaac’s physical blindness was one reason he could be so easily tricked. At the same time the story shows us how God can work to accomplish his will despite our weakness, short-sightedness, disabilities and disappointments.

Thirdly, an unhappy secularist may see life as without meaning and purpose, and death as a desirable alternative. On the other hand, the Christian may understand, as Tim Stafford has written, “the existence of another world, the world of God’s love toward which our lives are being shaped.” Belief in that other world gives us faith for the future.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Could This Be the Year?

Could 2024 be the year in which Jesus comes again? Christians of all theological persuasions believe (or are taught to believe) that Jesus is coming again. The New Testament reminds us to anticipate our Lord’s return. These reminders to be alert and watchful lead to the conviction that Jesus could come at any time.

Romans 13:11-12 — “The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.”

1 Corinthians 1:7 — “You eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”

Philippians 3:20 — ‘But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 1:10 — “To wait for his Son from heaven”

Titus 2:13 — “While we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”

Hebrews 9:28 — “So Christ . . . will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation, to those who are waiting for him.”

James 5:7-9 — “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. . . . The Lord’s coming is near. . . . The Judge is standing at the door.”

1 Peter 1:13 — “Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Jude verse 21 — “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”

Revelation 3:11, 22:7, 12,20 — “I am coming soon.”

There have been those in every generation since these words were written, who have believed that Jesus could come at any time, even in their own lifetimes. His coming is imminent. It could happen at any time. That is why believers are taught to watch and be ready.

The verses cited above refer to the next great event on God’s prophetic schedule. It is described by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Paul says this is a “mystery.”  A mystery is is a truth that was not revealed in the Old Testament scriptures, but is now revealed through the teaching of the apostles of Jesus. Elsewhere Paul refers to it as “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints” (Colossians 1:26, see also Ephesians3:5, 9).

Furthermore, he says this great event will involve the resurrection of dead believers and  the transformation of living believers without their having to die. This will happen when our Lord returns to take his people away with him to their heavenly home.

“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that we who are alive and are left will be caught up  together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

If the idea of being “caught up” seems strange and hard to understand, we are given examples in the Bible where it has already happened. At his ascension, our Lord was “taken up” into the clouds (Acts 1:9) This was witnessed by his disciples.

The apostle Paul was “caught up” to Paradise and returned to earth (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). When he described the “catching up” of believers to heaven, he knew what he was talking about!

There are two notable examples from the Old Testament. “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). Enoch bypassed death. God took him directly to heaven.

The same is true of the prophet Elijah. 2 Kings 2:1-11 describes how he was caught up to heaven in chariot of fire. He did not die. If we believe the Bible, then we must take seriously its historical accuracy. These events actually happened. If Jesus, Paul, Enoch, and Elijah were caught up to heaven, it is not beyond belief that the church of Jesus Christ will be suddenly caught up to meet him in the air as promised.

This teaching is a source of encouragement and blessing. We are told to “encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). These truths are  our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13). Christians are called to live expectantly. The first century believers had a one-word prayer which expressed this: “Maranatha,” which means, “Our Lord come” (1 Corinthians 16:22).

He could come at any time. There are no intervening events, signs, or prophesies that must take place before the Lord comes to “catch up” his people. This new year could be the one in which the dead in Christ are raised and living believers join them in meeting the Lord in the air.

Does this thought fill you with dread or with hope? Are you ready to meet Jesus as your savior and redeemer? If you are not certain, open your heart today, confessing your sin, and trust in Jesus who died and rose again to rescue us from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Pastor Randy Faulkner