A Coffin In Egypt
The Book of Genesis opens with he account of creation and it closes with the story of a man in a coffin. These facts might give a wrong impression for some might think that God’s wonderful works ended in failure. If death were the end of all, how dismal and hopeless would be the outlook! Thank God there is an exodus, a way of escape from this awful morass! If a coffin intimates man’s state by nature, the exodus recorded in the Book of Exodus reveals God’s salvation for man on the principle of grace. The blood on the door frame results in hope for the body in the coffin.
Let us think of him who lay in the coffin, Joseph the son of his father’s love (Gen. 37:3). This Joseph was the one upon whom the destiny of many depended (Gen. 41-55). He is a picture in many respects of One far greater than he, a picture of One who was the object of a greater, a divine love, a picture of One into whose hands has been committed universal destiny (John 5:22). Blessed be God! That Holy One lay in a tomb in the Egypt where He was crucified, and from that tomb He arose, the Head of a New Creation.
Joseph in Egypt was in the place of divine appointment, but what a strange plan led to this exaltation! He was despised by his brothers, sold as a slave into the hands of strangers, tempted, falsely accused, imprisoned, but when finally delivered from these adversities, he was then elevated to be second ruler over Egypt, and in that position won world-wide acclaim.
At the end of his life, Joseph said, “I die,” but he did not make the statement in hopeless despair as some others have made it; his was an assertion of buoyant hope. Furthermore, to this statement he added words of expectation and assurance: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which He sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Gen. 50:24). Joseph knew that although Egypt might be the temporary resting place of his embalmed body, Canaan would be its ultimate and proper one.
The Christian knows that this world is only a place in which to bury strangers. He knows that earthy soil is not the final resting place of those who are in Christ. Death and the grave are only the porch through which the child of God enters the palace to go no more out forever.
Did the children of Israel have anything by which to cheer and encourage them during the many years of exile and captivity in Egypt? Yes, they did; they had Joseph’s message and Joseph’s mummy. For four hundred and thirty years Israel toiled, sweat and groaned because of their bitter bondage. How futile life must have seemed to them! Where could they turn for a word of comfort? Where? Only to the coffin! There they were reminded of the message, “God will surely visit you.” How animating in the midst of depression and gloom! Surrounded by an alien people, suffering under the heel of a tyrant, smarting under the whip of the task-master, and crushed by the taunts of the enemy, Israel found hope in Joseph’s coffin; that symbol of death became the token of future deliverance to them. In the presence of death, they were filled with hope, life and liberty.
Does not God have a message in all this for His child today? Yes, He has. That blessed One who lay in the grave speaks the reassuring word, “I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more.” “Behold, I come quickly.”
Joseph’s bones, temporarily carried over the wilderness and permanently laid to rest in Canaan, tell us that the future more than compensates for the past and for the present. How splendid that Joseph found a place of burial near the well of His father Jacob (John 4)
Centuries later a weary Man sat upon that well, Joseph’s God and our God manifest in the flesh. It is He who has given us a hope both sure and steadfast. Whether it is Israel in her affliction or the Church in her pilgrimage, their future depends entirely on Him who gives significance to this message from Joseph’s bones. It is He, our Blessed Lord Jesus, who gives us the incomparable hope of being citizens of that city whose Builder and Maker is God.