Friday, August 15, 2014

The Gospel According to Joseph: Hope, Even in Death

This Sunday's sermon will be the final sermon in our series: The Gospel According to Joseph. As we said in the beginning and have reiterated many times throughout this series, there is too much in this story to cover it all in nine sermons (or even nine sermons plus nine devotionals). In every passage, there is some Christ-centered content that we just do not have time to cover. So, in this short devotional, we are going to talk briefly about the hope that the final chapters of Genesis give us, which we will not have time to cover in a sermon.

Both Ge. 49 and Ge. 50 end with death--the deaths of Israel and Joseph. Death may seem like a bad way to end such a great story, but when we look at the faith of these two men, we can see that in their deaths we're given hope--the hope of the gospel. Back in Ge. 47-48 (cf. The Gospel and Finishing Faithfully), we saw in Israel preparing for his death that his true hope was not in the physical land of the promise but in the God of the promise who was preparing a "better city, that is a heavenly one" for him and his descendants. In Ge. 50:24-25, we see Joseph express the same hope (a hope that we saw he had back in Ge. 41 as well, cf. The Gospel and Perspective) as he tells his brothers and descendants to take his bones with them to the promised land when they return. This is the hope that the author of Hebrews highlights in He. 11:13, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth." And, this is the hope that we have as well--a hope beyond the sin, pain, and death of this world.

We too will die as "strangers and exiles on the earth," for this world is not our home. Our home--our true inheritance as sons and daughters of God--is life without sin, sadness, or death in the new heavens and new earth with God Himself. John describes it for us briefly in Re. 21:1-4 (one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture):
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Emphasis added)
That is our hope, brothers and sisters in Christ, and even in death it is an anchor that will not fail.

Death is not the way it's supposed to be. We were created for so much more, but sin has brought the pain of death into our lives, which is in fact is something that I have seen tragically and clearly in my own congregation recently. Yet, Christ has defeated death for us (cf. 1 Co. 15:55) and given us hope even in the midst of it. This is why Paul says in 1 Th. 4:13 that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Now, that doesn't mean we don't grieve. We do, for death is not the way it's supposed to be and someone we love has had to endure it, and now we have to continue as "strangers and exiles" in this world without their comfort and companionship. Yet, we grieve as those who have the hope of the gospel, for we know that believers are redeemed in Christ (Ro. 3:24), live in Christ (Ga. 2:20), and even die in Christ (1 Th.4:13-14), and we know that we will see them again when we too go to our true home. We have the hope of knowing that even in death our Savior is with us and will bring us into a world so much better than our life as "strangers and exiles" here on earth--our true inheritance with Him in the new heavens and new earth for all eternity. We know that the death of a believer (even untimely, early ones) means they're finally home, receiving their true inheritance from Christ, which gives us hope. Death, as the Heidelberg Catechism says in the answer to question 42, puts an end to our disease of sin and begins our eternal life--our true inheritance. Christians have hope, even in death.

So, even though this great story ends in death, it's good ending. It's an ending that reminds us that this world isn't our home, that we have a glorious inheritance awaiting us in Christ, and that even in the midst of the pain of death in this life, the loved ones of believers can grieve with hope instead of grieving with fear and despondency. Rest in that hope that the story of Joseph, Jacob, and Judah gives to us here at the end.

By His Grace,

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