I am a reader and not a very good listener, so it surprised me that I enjoyed listening to an audio version of the Bible during my work commute a few years ago. One thing that was startling to me was the power of the stories as they were acted out by professional actors. When the book of Genesis closes with Jacob's death, I had tears in my eyes as I reflected on all that God had done in his lifetime. And as I listened to the following passage, I felt Joseph's grief:
“When Jacob had finished this charge to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and joined his ancestors in death. Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him.” Genesis 49:33-50:1 (NLT)
We can only imagine how difficult it was for Joseph when Jacob died. He’d found him again after a lifetime away from him, and now he was losing him again. It must have been heart wrenching. But there is more going on here than an emotional goodbye to a patriarch.
Earlier in chapter 49, Jacob makes Joseph promise him that he will be buried in Canaan, not Egypt. This was not just a nostalgic whim of an old man. It was a man resolute in clinging to a promise that God had made to him and his family many years before. Jacob had confidence that his family would eventually return to the promised land and, not only that, it would become their land—Israel—no longer called the land of Canaan. He had no way of knowing it would be centuries before that happened, but the fact that it did happen shows that he kept the image of that alive in his sons, who in turn kept it alive for their descendants.
It made me think about the heritage I am passing onto my family. I want to make sure I'm sharing with them the times that God has been faithful to his promises in my life. The Bible is full of promises and as I grip them and make them a part of my journey, they not only encourage me, but all who come after me.