Text: Genesis 50
Proposition: The Lord has put it on each of us to consider legacy, declaring what directed our lives, sign posts we leave behind to those who follow.
Introduction: Strange sign posts, we’ve all seen them, like those on church signs that say things like, “Coming Soon, Manufacturer’s Recall, Are you ready?” or “The best Vitamin for a Christian is B1”. Then there’s the strange kind of signs like the one by a beach in a small coastal town that says, “Dial 999 for coastguard, police, fire or ambulance", above it is a phone that has buttons numbered one, two and three. One that’s sure to catch your attention is posted by the Newcastle Tramway Authority that simply says, “Touching Wires Causes Instant death, $200 Fine”. But our very lives can be like sign posts, can’t they? This morning we are going to talk about Legacy, that which you leave like a sign post for those who are yet to pass this way. In case we think this is just a topic for people in their nineties we need to remember that legacy is something that teenagers leave behind, like the four young football players in Grand Prairie. We all are putting together a legacy, it is just not known yet when that legacy will be left.
We’ve been working through the Book of Genesis and today we are at the very last chapter. Genesis 50 is all about the funeral and burial of Jacob, it’s a huge affair, a state funeral, like John F. Kennedy’s funeral, except Jacob’s is one that goes on for over three months. Let’s read this passage with the one question in mind, “Why is Legacy so important?” Legacy is defined as that which one generation hands down to another, good or bad. It has a way of declaring to others the values that have directed our lives, truth that not only was a safeguard to us but that can also be there for those willing to read this sign post of our life. Let’s read Genesis 50.
I. People Watch How You Live and How You Deal With Death. Joseph uses the Egyptian practice of embalming to prepare his father’s body for the slow trip back to Canaan. For 70 days the process of embalming takes place, for 70 days they mourn Jacob. Though the Egyptians meant one thing by this practice Joseph’s intent is simply to preserve the body until it can be located back to Canaan and placed in the cave that is near Hebron. That was the dying wish of Jacob, to be buried alongside Abraham, Isaac and the bodies of their wives as well as the body of Leah, all of which were in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron. The certainty of death was something that Jacob proclaimed again and again to his children but the care and placing of his body speaks also about a belief they held in life after death and even in their resurrection. Probably the earliest record of this belief that would have predated Jacob was in Job 19:25-27 : "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold and whom my eyes will see and not another.
My heart faints within me!” I think that the whole significance for having his body returned to Canaan was founded on the belief in the resurrection of that body which itself is a belief in life after death. This was part of the legacy that Jacob left behind for those who would be willing to see it. It was a belief in the existence of God and that God had indeed made promises that lasted beyond Jacob’s own life time. It was a belief that saw himself as accountable before God for the things he said and did, in short a belief in God’s judgment. To that end Jacob also had some form of belief in the existence of sin, the accounts of Adam’s fall were known by Noah and his children and Abraham would have been alive at the same time as Shem, Noah’s oldest surviving son. Abraham would have passed that on to Isaac and Isaac to Jacob and Jacob to his sons. What you believe about sin, salvation, and the person of God will affect the way that you live and how you live will be seen by others around you. That legacy is meant to be a sign post, an indicator of what truth you have discovered and lived by as it points the way forward.
II. Building Legacy, Actions and Beliefs That Will Change Lives Forever.
Jacob is buried in the cave near Hebron, the Egyptians and the Canaanites all witness this and then Joseph and all his brothers return to Egypt. Some people have wondered why the brothers did not return to Canaan now, they were right there, this was the promised land, why not take it now? We can speculate as to why they returned to Egypt, better food, their children were there, the famines effect was still on the land… but the best answer is that they needed to wait for God’s timing. Truth be told if they had gone back they would likely have been overwhelmed by the Canaanite religion, their faith and numbers had some growing yet to do.
Building a legacy will always look to God’s timing, it will always seek to put such a degree of trust in God that when the next step is ready God will make it exceedingly evident and create the opportunity to move forward. That waiting can build faith, patience, trust and even in some cases be the very thing that propels you forward. It was years later when Joseph is soon to die that he passes on to them the main reason why he stayed on in Egypt. Look at what he says in verse 24, “I am dying, but God will surely visit you and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.” It will be God’s timing, and it was God’s timing that enabled Israel to grow into a nation of over 2 million people, to have a national leader like Moses, to have a galvanized faith that would direct them as they took the promised land, a timing that would entail 400 years.
Building a legacy will always look for God’s ways because the pull of the world is to try to do it my way. When the brothers of Joseph get back from burying their father they begin to reason that now Joseph is going to get back at them for all their previous treachery. So they concoct a story, a note from the grave as it were, that Jacob had commanded they be treated well by Joseph. They send this by a messenger and then they come and bow before Joseph. It’s what Joseph said to them that caught by eye, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?” Have you ever done any job sharing with God? You know, where God takes a day off and you make the decisions. These would be decisions like how to take revenge on someone for what they have done to you, decisions like knowing exactly why people do what they do. Joseph says that revenge does not belong to him, that’s God’s job, he says that God causes all things to work together for good despite of the reasons why the brothers acted the way they did. There is a great temptation to job share with God isn’t there? It’s as we see that and choose to resist it that we build legacy.
Building legacy will always look for God’s rewards because in essence that is what the promises of God are. The land, the blessing, the posterity, the abundance, the protection, the guidance, the provision, these are all the rewards that God gives us. We can struggle with that a little, part of us wants to be humble and say we have no need of reward. Part of us wants to say that we then deserve the reward because we’ve obeyed all the while knowing that the joy is in the obedience not in the pay out. If you were to lose your wallet and a stranger comes up to you and returns it are you obliged to reward him? Not really, the essence of a reward is done by grace, what the stranger did was just what he should have done, it was the right thing to do, no reward necessary. So what does it mean then to look for God’s rewards? It can only mean that we learn to love the grace of God more and more. By grace Joseph sees not only his son and grandson but also his great grandson. While in Egypt Joseph sees God’s grace building the family, establishing the nation of Israel. By grace Joseph says these parting words to these children and their children to come, “God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here.” That’s according to a promise God had made to them, that was looking to the reward of His grace and it created lasting legacy for over 2 million people.
The book closes with Joseph being embalmed and put in a casket. For the next 400 years they kept that casket above ground, they did not bury him but waited until God’s visit which would eventually be through the person of Moses. Now that’s legacy!
Legacy, we build it every day, young or old we will leave one. We build it by looking to God’s timing, God’s way and God’s reward. We build it not so that we would be well remembered, we build it so that those who follow will see the Jesus who has given His blood for us that we would have part in His legacy.