The writer now cites the faith of Joseph. These Old Testament saints suffered and died in faith and hope; they were long in patience, and thus they obtained the promises! The Hebrew Christians had need of patience. It is true that when they first believed they had endured a great fight of afflictions; scorn and contempt had been heaped upon them for the faith; they had been made a gazing-stock in the world; they had not been ashamed to cast their lot with those who were their fellow-sufferers, but had joyfully taken the spoil of their goods, knowing that they had in heaven a better and an abiding treasure!
Had the writer noticed the element of living by faith and seeking a better country on the part of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, here he points out the vision of the dying prophetical faith of Jacob and Joseph. Both were men who were moved by the Spirit of God; the Spirit of Christ which was in them and all the prophets, when they spoke of the sufferings to come upon Christ and the glory to follow in the heavens above. In each case the Lord brought their prophesying to pass; they let the light of the promisory and prophetic word shine more and more unto the perfect day!
This was all performed by faith! It was the faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. By this faith the elders obtained a good report. Without this faith it is impossible to please God; he that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:1-6).
Such was the faith of Joseph as delineated upon inHebrews 11:22. Writes the text, “By faith Joseph, when his end was nigh, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.”
A TIMELY PROPHECY (Hebrews 11:22)
Joseph dwells in Egypt as a prince, but his heart ir with the children of Israel. Who does the writer have in mind when he speaks of the children of Israel? The term “Israel” has various meanings in Scripture. Sometimes it refers simply to old father Jacob, who received this name when he returned from Haran to Canaan after his twenty-year stay there with Laban his uncle. It was at the brook Jabok that the Lord came to Jacob and wrestled with him; the Lord took the initiative in this mighty wrestling till the breaking of the day. It was then that the Lord said: “Let me go for the day breaketh.” And then Jacob with strong crying and tears besought the Lord for His blessing, saying, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” Then the Lord said, “Thy name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for thou hast as a prince power with God and man and hast prevailed.” (Gen. 32:24-32) But “Israel” also refers to the twelve tribes as they become a nation. It was “Israel” which went down into Egypt, and then the name refers to the nation, both the children of the promise and the children of the flesh. (Rom. 9:6-16) Nevertheless, the Israel of God is the people which walks in the faith of Abraham; these are the sons of the promise, that the purpose of election might stand.
To understand this word “children of Israel” we must bear this truth of election in mind; for Israel is the people of God as the Christ, the Son of God, will be born from them. He is Immanuel, God-with-us. For from this viewpoint Israel is God’s First-born son, as it is written: out of Egypt have I called my Son! (Matt. 2:15; Hos. 11:1) Hence, not simply one of the nations of the world had been brought into Egypt, but the church of God was in Egypt, removed from the promised land where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had sojourned as strangers.
Had it been a mere seventy souls which went down into Egypt at the time of the great famine in all the earth, it did not remain thus. For Israel increased greatly, and they were living in the best of the land. Their land was fruitful, an irrigated garden beside the Nile river; they enjoyed their onions, leek and garlic, as well as their cucumbers and melons, for which they so ardently and sinfully longed, later in the wearisome, hot journeying in the wilderness. (Numbers 11:4, 5) We may be certain that as long as Joseph lived he “nourished Israel” in the land of Goshen. From a purely materialistic point of view Israel never had it better. During the almost seventy years that they had been in Egypt they had settled down in Goshen and were becoming a well-organized nation, according to their tribes and their leaders. Had Israel not moved from the first to the third and fourth generations? Do we not read, “And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation. . .” (Gen. 50:23a) Forsooth, it was time that a prophetic word came to Israel of the “exodus” which God would bring about to fulfill His promise that Israel would dwell in the land of Canaan! Israel must not dream and plan about remaining in their present soft nest in Egypt.
This was the situation in Israel when Joseph’s life is drawing to a close. From this viewpoint it was indeed a timely prophecy, which the Lord sends to Israel from the lips of Joseph. However, it is also a timely prophecy when we see that Joseph must bring this message to the Sons of Israel at the close of his life. It is then that Joseph has a message concerning the future “exodus” of Israel out of Egypt.
Joseph’s life was coming to a close; it was ending in a ripe old age. He had served his generation, and now he will be gathered to his people. There is really no more work to be done for Joseph, except that he must make preparation for his death, one would say; and then he could be buried amongst the princes of Egypt in one of the Pyramids. But this Joseph, whose entire life was really the fulfillment of the prophetic dreams which God had given him, still has a task to perform. This one, who was great in Egypt, a prince and ruler in the land, is an Israelite at heart. All that he had done in Egypt was that, under God, he had kept a great people alive. That was his life’s calling. And he will finish the work to the end.
What an eventful life Joseph lived. He was born the eleventh son of Jacob in Padan-Aram from Rachel, Jacob’s most-beloved wife. When he was some five years old, he went to the land of Canaan, where he lived till he was about seventeen years of age, after which he was sold into Egypt by his brothers as a slave to the Ishmaelites. The latter in turn sold him as a slave to Potiphar, an Egyptian. Here in slavery and in imprisonment Joseph lived for some thirteen years till he reached the age of thirty years. And now, some eighty years later, Joseph is about to die. He has lived most of his life in Egypt; it is more than one hundred years that he had lived there in the providential guidance of God, who meant it for good!
At the end of this life, which was busy in bringing Israel into Egypt and caring for them there, Joseph must now prepare Israel for the great event of God’s deliverance from Egypt by his great and mighty hand!
It is to be the prophecy of a man about to die.
It was indeed timely; it was timed by the Lord Who determined the times before appointed for the nations as well as the bounds of their habitations. (Acts 17:26)
JOSEPH MAKES MENTION OF THE EXODUS (Hebrews 11:22)
It ought to be observed that the text says “made mention of.” Someone made the observation to me that this “made mention of” is a rather weak way of expressing this in the present day English; in fact, it was stated that the present day young people would not even understand this language. The latter would merely think of a casual reference to the “departure” of Israel. Joseph spoke of it in passing. This point raised has merit. But anyone, who is deeply desirous to know the meaning of “make mention” in the English of the times of Ring James, will discover that “made mention” referred to a special, explicit, and meaningful bringing up of an important point. Here it refers to the great fact of the “Exodus” which God will bring about through Moses His servant.
Joseph did not simply remember the promise of God when he spoke to the children of Israel; but he made mention of it. He called it to mind; it was not something new and unheard of for the people of Israel in their generations. He reminded Israel of their destiny as a nation, according to the sure promises made to the fathers. And these promises will not fail; He Who hath promised them is faithful, and He cannot lie. The word of God will not fall out! Had God not said to Abraham, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward> and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee?” (Gen. 13:14-17) Of this Joseph reminded Israel. But there was also an expressed word of God concerning Israel’s going down into Egypt. Had not the LORD appeared unto Abraham in a vision, assuring Abraham, saying, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward?” It was in this vision that the LORD revealed to Abraham what would befall the great nation which would come forth from his loins—would be by a son born of the promise, Isaac—and how this nation would become great and be in a strange land for four hundred years. Thus we read in Gen. 13:13-16, “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years . . . but in the fourth generation they shall come hither again; for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.”
Yes, there was much to make mention of. Joseph could preach a good sermon and could outline the meaning of Israel’s stay in Egypt and then make mention of Israel’s departure from Egypt. And Israel must have understood what Joseph was saying, that it was according to the rule of faith. And the Holy Spirit must have worked faith in the hearts of Israel, so that they saw their stay in Egypt in the perspective of the Divine promise which will not and cannot fail.
Somehow through the years Israel learned to say: We must prepare to leave this land. We will return to the land of Canaan; the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
And thus spoke Joseph by faith!
He believed this word of God; he clung with all his heart to the word of the promise. And thus in faith he makes mention of the “Exodus.” He did not see all the details. This was only for Israel to know as God unfolded His ways at the burning-bush to Moses at the mount of God. But the fact he saw, and he preached it; by it he lived and died in faith!