Jacob dies. A family mourns. The Egyptians mourn. Jacob is buried. Now transition time. Questions. Nervousness. Joseph is recognized as the new leader of the growing nation. Remember when Joseph was 17 and he tells his brothers about a dream (READ Gen. 37:5-7). It’s commonly understood the dream was fulfilled when the brothers went to Joseph during the drought and unknowingly submitted to Joseph’s rule who was dispensing the stored grain. That’s probably right. But sometimes I think perhaps the dream is more completely fulfilled after their father dies, now the recognized leader of the family is gone, the grand old man, so it says in Gen. 50:18 READ.
Life is about change. Anytime there is a change, a new pecking order is established… the new kid at school has to figure out how to fit in… a parent dies… years ago when Esther was 7-8 years old, we hiked to the old gold mine, the cabin…. There were a dozen horses tied in the coral… It was explained to me that if they were not tied up, they would jostle, peck at each other posture…. I soon saw firsthand what they meant… one of the horsemen offered to let Esther sit on his horse. She did great. One of the other horseman decided to leave. He went in the corral, untied his horse, and started leading it out. As that horse walked past the horse Esther was sitting on… you could feel the tension, the adrenaline… I was helpless as I watched my little girl on top of a horse trying to avoid the dominate horse. The owner of Esther’s horse kept a tight lock on the bridal. As the rival horse passed by Esther’s horse, Esther’s horse, clearly the submissive horse, did two complete circles of nervousness as the owner just kept a tight reign. Esther hung on….When the dominate horse was safely out of the coral, there was a collective sigh from the dozen people watching. I was so proud of Esther and both owners.
That is my image for what is happening in Gen. 50…With the death of Jacob, the dynamic is changed. A new pecking order has to be established. That’s the way it always works. New rules… who is the leader? What are the expectations? This is how life works… and in today’s fast paced world there is a lot of change… people coming and going so fast, even in the church….
As we face changes, expected or unexpected, many ways to respond: lament, withdraw, there is a fear of change, yet that is what life is about…This is why we need to learn to trust the Lord Jesus Christ. May our prayer be for God to be in the midst of our transitions, because changes are constant. If your prayer is to find stability in no changes, you will be disappointed.
Jacob’s family, after his death, forges out a new normal…. I’ve always loved that phrase, a NEW NORMAL…After a loss make that your goal…don’t tell people to get over it or to move on… tell them about the promise of a new normal. Life never will be the same. I know the dying will always want the living to have a great life, a new normal without them.. One person said after the death of a daughter, “A new normal is sometimes starting new traditions, dropping traditions that don’t work anymore or that are too painful to enter into. A new normal is thinking about my daughter in the past tense. A new normal is trying to keep her memory active, even though she is not here” (Doug, Greifshare, p. 125)
At first it is shocking now that Jacob is buried that the brothers revisit the ancient sin of selling Joseph into slavery… hadn’t that been dealt with? Hadn’t Joseph shown his love and forgiveness by providing food and home in Egypt during the drought? Suddenly the brothers doubt. READ Gen. 50:15-18.
Why doubt? Maybe, they think, Joseph’s love, acceptance and forgiveness were conditional… maybe they are imagining that if they were in Joseph’s shoes they would want revenge on themselves, maybe they’d never completely dealt with forgiving themselves… not hard to imagine any of the above… that’s one of the beautiful qualities of the stories of the Bible as we are imaging ourselves in times of transition…
How do you overcome the fear of change when overwhelmed by uncertainty of the transitions? In a perfect world, it takes both sides to work out the new normal, / the new relationship. If Joseph were a tyrant, the new normal could be a living hell. If the brothers do nothing but grovel and mistrust Joseph forever, that’s not the basis for a great relationship either. It takes both to work out new patterns, a new life, through love, acceptance, forgiveness ~~ through respect for one another.
Jacob is buried and “new rules” need to be established, like a new horse entering a coral. The brother’s feelings are real. Bravo for them. That’s a good thing to be honest. Write that down. If nothing else this passage depicts honest people about their feelings. How else will you ever work out a new normal without honesty?
The brothers ask for forgiveness. Reading between the lines Joseph seems to think that issue was settled decades earlier, but obviously it wasn’t for them. forgiveness is like that… we rehash past sins. Again, it’s honest… whether forgiveness is needed or reaffirmed it’s part of being real… forgiveness is liberating because whenever you forgive or reaffirm forgiveness you are saying we can’t undo the past, but we can draw a line and begin a new life. Clean transitions are needed. Forgiveness allows us to shed the baggage of the past and go forward with a fresh start!
“Joseph wept” it says at the end of Gen. 50:17. Why? Because grief is normal. Any time the world changes crying is healthy. A wedding is coming. Rachel and Ian are getting married. Annie will probably cry. Why? Is it because she is excited about the future? She certainly thinks gaining Rachel as a daughter in law is a pretty good deal. The possibilities of what’s coming. But it’s also because it’s a letting go of the past… the Glass’s world will never be the same… transitions are like that… letting go and learning a new normal… grief seems pretty healthy to me.
Honesty, forgiveness and grief are necessary to find a new normal…Gen. 20:21 also says Joseph reassures and speaks kindly to his brothers that all will be well…that’s part of the nuts and bolts of discovering a new normal. but there is a big picture truth that is the most important of all: Trust God! The truth is that in our human nature we really don’t want to have to live by faith. // We would rather know exactly what is coming. Trust God! Trusting God is more simple than we imagine… Do you trust God?
Joseph answers his brothers by making a sandwhich. The two slices of bread: Do NOT BE AFRAID. Gen. 50: 19 then again in 21, “so then, don’t be afraid.” What’s the meat of the sandwhich. READ Gen. 50:19-21a.
Gen. 50:20 is a towering verse in the story of Joseph, /Genesis, /the Bible, /our lives…. Read this verse and you can’t help but look back at the ebb and flow of Joseph’s life, the evil, the good, the disappointments, accused of rape at one time, sold into slavery, timely dreams, every detail was at just the right time for God to create a beautiful tapestry out of mismatched threads… Bad things happen, but God always works it out. He is in the business of constantly creating a new normal. The question is simple: How much do you trust God to work out the details of your life? Tell me your answer to the question and I can tell you the level of your faith… do you hold onto what used to be, compromising your present and future, or do you give it to God, trusting him to create a new normal.
We are called to be future people. Believing in God’s promises. Living by faith that God is all powerful, all loving…. He will create you into a beautiful new person if you let him/accept him.
As we wrap up the story of Joseph, must one more big picture idea… Joseph was a real man that lived, but his story goes far beyond Joseph. God is the hero. It’s God’s character that is most life changing… My mother likes to know what’s going on so I thought I’d try and stump her, knowing what the scripture for this sermon. Out of the blue, I asked, “Do you know the last words of Genesis?” She surprised:, “yes…. Grampa [her father] used to say that Genesis begins with the words, ‘In the beginning’ and ends ‘in a coffin in Egypt.’” I was silenced. My mother took the only words I knew for sure I was going to say at that time for this sermon….
Joseph dies at age of 110. Unlike his father who was buried in Canaan, his bones stayed in a coffin in Egypt. Several hundred years later, it says in Ex. 13:19 READ.
Genesis is an incomplete book. It is setting up for a sequel… Gen. begins with “in the beginning” and ends with “in a coffin in Egypt.” ~~ it’s a cliff hanger, what are we going to do with it. as you see the ebb and flow of sin entering the world, God’s promises giving hope, faith (or lack of) in the one true God, the book ends with “in a coffin in Egypt”, the promise of God embodied in Joseph laying in a coffin in a foreign land… it’s a cliff hanger. How much do you trust God with the details of your life? When the unexpected happens, how much do you trust him to build a new normal. You can look back and respond to God, very necessary… but then there is the future… a new normal… a new opportunity, a new life.
God bless you. Thank you for allowing Chad and me the opportunity to dive into the story of Joseph this Summer. Next Sunday in many ways is the start of the new year for our church. Let’s make it a great year. Get involved. Bring friends. We all want to see the same thing: The Lord Jesus Christ lifted up. Lives changed.
The only way to overcome the fear of change is to put our hope in Christ. It took several centuries for the coffin of Joseph to be carried to the promised land. Jesus Christ was also laid in a tomb, but praise be to God, he rose again on the third day. Jesus Christ is alive. Learn to trust him more and more. Let him constantly create a new normal. Grief for the past, forgiveness, and honesty are needed to build a new life in the face of loss, but most important of all is to put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. How much do you trust the Lord with the details of your life? Learn to trust more and more and he will overcome your loss and create a beautiful new life in Christ. Amen.
Timeline of Joseph’s Life
- Born in Paddan Aram to Jacob & Rachel ~ 11th of 12 sons. Jacob is 91.
- 6 years old ~ travels to Canaan with family
- 17 years old ~ sold as a slave
- 28 years old ~ interprets dreams in prison for Pharaoh’s butler and baker
- 30 years old ~ interpets dreams for Pharaoh and becomes 2nd in command
- 37 years old ~ end of years of plenty
- 39 years old ~ his family comes to get grain
- 56 years old ~ his father Jacob dies
- 110 years old ~ Joseph dies