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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Looking to the Future with Saving Faith
Text:Hebrews 11:22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:2016
Added:2021-06-29
Updated:2021-07-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Blue Psalter unless otherwise noted:

Supplemental Songs #3:1-2 – I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord
210:1,3,4,5 – O Praise the Lord, His Deeds Make Known
463 - He Leadeth Me
322 (red) - My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less

Scripture: Genesis 50:22-26; text: Hebrews 11:22

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Looking to the Future with Saving Faith”
Scripture reading: Genesis 50:22-26
Text: Hebrews 11:22
 
Our text, in Hebrews 11:22, is almost a surprise. It focuses on those few verses that we read from Genesis 50 concerning Joseph's preparation for death. Our text, containing one New Testament verse, may come as a surprise because the book of Genesis spends twelve chapters on the life of Joseph.
 
His life was indeed a remarkable life. Although some believe that he was unduly harsh at times, most people recognize that he was a gifted leader whom God raised up in unique providence at a crucial time in history as a worldwide famine broke out.
 
Consequently, you might expect Hebrews 11:22 to say, “By faith Joseph instructed Pharaoh to store up grain in the years of abundance for the lean years that were certain to come.” Or going back further in his life, to the troubled times after his brothers sold him into slavery, we might expect Hebrews 11:22 to say, “By faith, Joseph trusted that the Lord would get him out of prison when he had been falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife.”
 
But those events, and other key events in Joseph's life, are passed over by the author of Hebrews. Instead, he focuses on the death of Joseph. He writes: “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.”
 
That statement shows us, first of all, that God doesn’t remember us for what we think is important. We may think that our work done in the kingdom is of some great value. We may think that our work in the community with social causes for the good of others, is what God will really value. We have a natural tendency to be deluded by our works. The nature of human pride is such that it causes us to think that God will remember us for those things that we think are important, things that we have done.
 
But our text reminds us that what is of greater value to the Lord is our faith. Our faith is valuable to Him because our faith is a gift from Him. Apart from His grace in giving us saving faith in Christ, none of us would be saved from our sin; none of us would be heirs of everlasting life.
 
That was true of Joseph as well as all the other people who were commended for their faith in Hebrews 11. Our text in Hebrews 11:22 begins, as so many other verses in this chapter begin, with those two words “By faith.” The Lord remembered Joseph, and commended him, not for all his works of service, not for his political ingenuity, but rather for his faith. It shows us what is of greatest value to God. It is his gift of faith to us and not our works which flow from faith.
 
It is true that good works are a natural result of true saving faith. And the Scripture assures us that we will be rewarded for the good works that God enables us to do. Even though we do good works by his power and indwelling Spirit - works that he before ordained for us to do - we are yet rewarded for them.
 
But the good works, important as they are, are always secondary to the magnitude of God’s grace to his people given through the gift of saving faith in Christ alone. It is only because of the gift of faith that any of us have any type of good work. Thus Joseph, although he had many accomplishments and good works, is remembered, not for his works, but for his faith. Hebrews 11:22 also points us directly to his faith at the brink of death. It points out that he spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.”
 
His acknowledgment of the exodus and his desire to be buried in the promised land instead of in Egypt was rooted in his faith in the promises of God. It was faith that was rooted specifically in the promise given to Abraham back in Genesis 15:13-14. In those verses the Lord had appeared to Abraham and said, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.”
 
That promise undoubtedly had been passed on down through the generations, from Abraham to Isaac, to Jacob and to his sons. That promise stayed with Joseph through all the different circumstances and events of his life. As he drew near to death, he yet trusted in the promise of God that although his descendants would be strangers in a country not their own, mistreated and enslaved, God would yet bring them out of their bondage to the promised land. That is why he said to his brothers, in Genesis 50:24, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
 
Joseph's burial arrangements – and his faith expressed at the brink of death – were made with the promises of God clearly in mind. He was not resting on the works of his hands, even though God had used him for many good works springing from his faith. But instead of resting on his own works, he set a wonderful example for all of us as he rested on the promises of God, with saving faith in the Messiah who would yet be revealed.
 
Nothing Can Destroy True Saving Faith
 
Secondly, we see that the circumstances of your life and mine, no matter how hard they may be, cannot destroy true saving faith. If anyone's faith could have been destroyed by circumstances it would have been Joseph's faith. He grew up in a family that today we would certainly label “dysfunctional.” His parents played favorites with their children. And the children came from separate mothers, adding to the favoritism of their father.
 
Joseph was disliked by his brothers. His sale into slavery is one of the better-known Bible stories. I'm sure you children have seen pictures in illustrated Bibles and in Sunday school materials. Maybe you have even colored his coat of many colors which seems to have instilled even more jealousy in the hearts of his brothers toward him.
 
When he was sold by the Midianites to Potiphar, he managed Potiphar’s estate perfectly yet he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison. The Genesis account doesn't describe how brutal that prison experience was. Some commentators liken that prison to prisons in the United States for political and other “white collar” prisoners. They are not as brutal and hard as most prisons. But Psalm 105:14 gives us the reality of what Joseph’s prison experience was like. The Psalmist describes how “they bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons...” It was in such pain and suffering that Joseph languished in prison for two long years.
 
Not only did Joseph have those trials in his younger years of life, but at the brink of death he was not in an easy spot to be in either. Admittedly he had been elevated to the highest position in Egypt next to Pharaoh. But he never put his trust in the Egyptian government. Instead, as he reached the brink of death he had what humanly speaking would be a bleak outlook: the leaders of Israel were Joseph's brothers. He did not have a lot of confidence in them. There was no real leadership for the people of Israel. And the new Pharaoh in Egypt would not remember the good that Joseph had done. The new Pharaoh would bring great hardship upon the people, mistreating them and enslaving them, just as God had revealed to Abraham.
 
Yet, although he could have had that gloomy prospect on the future, our text tells us, “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Instead of a gloomy outlook, Joseph had faith in the promises of God.
 
Faith in the Promises of God
 
Joseph’s faith reminds us that true saving faith is not based on what is visible. What was visible was discouraging. It was discouraging because of the lack of leadership in Israel and the knowledge that the Israelites would be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. But true faith is not based on what appears to be, but rather true faith is based on the promises of God. Thus, we read in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ...We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
 
Joseph's faith at the brink of death, as he surveyed the political situation that was unfolding for Israel in Egypt, also reminds us that true faith thrives on adversity. We may think that if life is going smoothly, without any troubles and trials, our faith will grow by leaps and bounds. That might be the message of prosperity preachers, but it is not the message of the Bible. James writes, in James 1:2-3: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
 
God allows the trials of your life and my life, not to discourage us and not to cause our faith to waver, but rather to cause us to turn to him as our mighty fortress, as our place of refuge, as a rock strong and secure, so that our faith is strengthened as we rely on his strength and his wisdom rather than our own.
 
A third quality of Joseph's faith, so evident at the brink of his death, is that Joseph’s faith was in God, not government. If anyone could have put his faith in political power, it was Joseph. He had vaulted to the top of the political world. He made a smooth political machine out of the Egyptian government. But in Genesis 50:25 Joseph makes his brothers swear an oath. It is not a Pledge of Allegiance to a government but to the promises of God. Verse 25: “And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.’”
 
God will surely come to your aid,” he assured his brothers. To know that our trust is in God to provide and help, and not for the government, should be of real encouragement to us in the current political environment of the United States and the nations of the world. As David said in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
 
Although we pray, and although we work for a strong government built on biblical principles, our trust is not to be in the government, or in the military, or in the power of the Federal Reserve to manipulate the economy and the stock market. Rather our trust is always to be in the Lord. He is always to be the focus of our faith.
 
Faith in God’s Care for Future Generations
 
By way of further application, we see that knowing that the Lord will care for our loved ones gives comfort in death. As we read in Genesis 50:24, Joseph knew that God would surely come to the aid of his brothers. Joseph knew that after he died the Lord would take his descendants out of the land of Egypt to the land of promise he had spoken to Abraham about.
 
There is comfort in knowing God will care for our loved ones after we are gone. That was true not only for Joseph but for everyone who has true saving faith in the Lord. For example, when the apostle Paul left the Ephesian elders, knowing that he would never see them again, he warned them of savage wolves coming in and devouring the flock. He warned of the effect that those false teachers would have at the church at Ephesus.
 
And yet, even though he knew all the dangers that were in the future and although he realized the hardships that others would face after he had died and gone to heaven, Paul rested in God's promises to care for his people in every era of time. In Acts 20:32 he said to those Ephesian elders, “Now I commit you unto God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
 
The same is true for you and for me. Many of us have great concern for our children and our grandchildren. We see that the world in which we live today is so much different than it was just a few decades ago. We see that the respect for Christianity that was at least expressed outwardly before, has vanished. We realize that our children and our grandchildren will face greater hostility for their faith than we who are older did at their age.
 
Yet we have great confidence in saying what Joseph said to his brothers, “God will surely come to your aid...”  God is faithful to every generation of believers. He will be there for your children and for mine, for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and for mine. We can trust in the promise of Psalm 103:17-18, “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.”
 
We trust God to care for our children, grandchildren and future generations with great confidence. We trust in his care with the assurance of Hebrews 10:23, which says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
 
Another application from the passages on Joseph's faith is that true saving faith is strong in life and in death because it is always rooted in God’s Word. The promise that God had given to Abraham, and had been passed on to his descendants, was that the Lord would provide an Exodus for his people out of Egypt. And Joseph's faith was rooted in that promise of God.
 
It should not surprise us that the author of Hebrews points to Joseph's death as an example of his faith, because faith that is strong in the trials of life will be equally strong at the brink of death. In fact, it is at death that we often see the most vivid examples of faith. Over the years as a pastor, I have had the privilege of being with God’s people as they approach the passageway from this life to the next. Their testimonies have been reminders that it is at the brink of death that we are most aware of the truth that our only comfort in life and in death is that “I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1).
 
While that blessed assurance is often evident in the death of true believers, some true believers waver at the brink of death. Their faith wavers because the devil makes one last terrible assault on their faith with a landslide of doubt. He brings up past sins and questions whether they can really be forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. But the Lord is far greater than the evil one and brings his people home to heaven as the last enemy to be destroyed – death in all its forms – has been conquered through the perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ!
 
And then also, another application: while Joseph is a worthy example to follow – both in life and in his confidence at death – we have a greater example in the “greater Joseph,” Jesus.
 
The Egyptians must have been surprised, even shocked, that Joseph did not want to have an elaborate Egyptian funeral. The Egyptians were known for their extravagant and lengthy funerals. He certainly could have received all the honor of the people. But instead, he instructed his brothers to make sure that his bones were taken up from Egypt to the promised land. And that is indeed what happened. Exodus 13:19 describes how Moses fulfilled that request, and Joshua 24:32 describes how Joseph’s bones were finally buried at Shechem.
 
Why did Joseph make that request? Many believe that it was because he wanted to be buried in the promised land, which symbolizes a place in heaven with the Lord. Others point out that it would certainly be an encouragement when the slave drivers would whip the Israelite servants. The servants would see Joseph's coffin and know that Joseph had faith in the promises of God that there would be an exodus, that there would be the fulfillment of God's promises given to Abraham.
 
Today, of course, we have no bones in a coffin for an encouragement in trial. But we have something far better. We have the shadow of the cross, the reality of the empty tomb, the words of our risen Savior and his promise that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age.
 
And he is the one we are to follow. The Lord gives us good examples to follow in his word, such as Joseph. But the great example is always the example of the “greater Joseph,” Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, the apostle Paul writes, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” And in Hebrews 12:2-3 we are told to focus our faith on Jesus, so that we will not grow weary and lose heart: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
___
 
You and I might look at our lives and think that perhaps God would commend us for some work that he has enabled us to do. But what he commends us for is faith in his Son as he is revealed in Scripture, both in the Old Testament and the New.
 
God commended Joseph, not for all the work that he did in providing for his brothers, as well as providing for all of Egypt through one of the greatest famines the world has known. But rather he commended him for his faith at the brink of death. The Lord commended Joseph for believing his word that he would provide an exodus for the people of Israel out of Egypt.
 
That exodus out of Egypt is a shadow of the exodus that he has provided through Jesus Christ. Through faith in Him we are freed from our bondage to sin and Satan. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are brought out of the bondage of sin into the glory of everlasting life with Christ. Through faith in Jesus, we are brought out of the desert of this sin-stained world into the glory of the heavenly Canaan, the true land of promise for those who trust in Christ alone for salvation.
 
If the author of Hebrews were to assess your faith and mine, would he also see that by God's grace we stand on the promises of God, in life and in death? Would it be said of you and me, as it was of the apostle Paul, that we follow the example of the greater Joseph, Jesus?
 
So may it be, now and always! Amen!
 
 
bulletin outline: 
 
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
 
                        “Looking to the Future with Saving Faith”
                                Genesis 50:22-26; Hebrews 11:22
 
I. The New Testament commends Joseph, not for his many accomplishments,
    but for his faith at death’s door, showing:
    1) The importance of saving faith in Christ alone (Heb. 11:22)
 
 
 
     2) Dire circumstances cannot destroy true, saving faith (Gen. 50:24)
 
 
 
     3) Joseph’s faith was in God, not government (Gen. 50:25)
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Knowing that the Lord will care for our loved ones gives comfort
          in death (Gen. 50:24)
 
 
 
     2) True faith is strong in life and in death, and is always rooted in
          God’s Word (Genesis 50:24-25; cf. Gen. 15:13-16)
 
 
 
     3) Joseph is a worthy example to follow (Hebrews 6:12), but we have
         a greater example in the “greater Joseph,” Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1;
         Hebrews 12:2-3)
 
 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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