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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Eternal perspective

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"Seeing The Bigger Picture"

(Note: Due to the historical detail that is in this study it is longer than normal.  The spiritual application is summed up in the last several paragraphs.)

"By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones" (Hebrews 11:22).

1) Opening Illustration

Faucet project 5/28/13Several years ago I noticed my lower shower faucet leaked even after it was turned off, beginning with a slight drip and then worsening to a slow stream. Since this was the hot water side I knew it would increase my electric bill. I intended to get it fixed but since I didn't know how to repair or replace the faucet myself I cut a small hole in the wall behind the shower stall and placed two valves in the supply lines right before the faucet. For several years I have had to open these valves prior to taking a shower and also had to advise our guests to do the same, calling it our "innovative water saving system".

Faucet project 5/28/13Since this hole can be seen when the door is closed we cover it with the picture (right) especially when others visit.

Faucet project 5/28/13 Rick, our friend who is visiting us from New England, has plumbing skills and told me he would replace the faucet. As we began working on the project he examined the small rectangular opening I had cut out and determined that he would need to make an even larger access cut. He then teasingly suggested that we might want to get a bigger picture to cover the even larger hole. Being spiritually minded he quipped, "It's always good to see the bigger picture."

I began to think about his words and considered that it's easier to fix our eyes on the "smaller picture" that affects us personally and ignore the bigger picture that has more far-reaching effects. But we should be learning to focus on the bigger picture as our perspective matures over the years. Today we will draw a lesson from a little known ancient account concerning Joseph. Of all the accounts that describe Joseph's unwavering faith this is the only one the author of Hebrews uses:
"By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones" (Hebrews 11:22).

2) A Lesson From History

Desecration of Joseph's tombIn recent years Muslim extremists have desecrated a sacred Jewish site called "Joseph's Tomb." Up until this time I had not been aware that the location of the tomb of Joseph was even known or still had significance to devout Jews. (But I shouldn't have been surprised!) Allow me the opportunity today to trace its history in the Bible. It's one more incredible way in which the ancient events of the Bible have a bearing on modern man.

Joseph, the clearly favored son of the patriarch Jacob, is well-remembered for his coat of many colors. Many of us will remember from our childhood memories how the plain flannelgraph board suddenly brightened with many hues of color as the Sunday School teacher added the coat of many colors visual aid to help us remember and treasure this timeless story.

Joseph in prison
The suspense builds as Joseph gets sold into Egyptian slavery by his jealous brothers and through a series of providential events including a time in prison he becomes the Prime Minister in Egypt, prospering immensely. But he never loses his identity and faith in God nor does his heart wane. Because of this, God raises him up for the deliverance of the fledgling people of God as recorded in the latter chapters of Genesis.

Joseph knew where his real home was and, just prior to his death, made this very explicit request: "And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place'" (Genesis 50:25).  The truths of God were transmitted orally in those days, passed down from generation to generation before Moses first placed the Scriptures in written form.

I believe Joseph surely was aware of a very specific promise made by the Lord to his great-grandfather Abraham. "Know for certain that your descendents will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions" (Genesis 15:13,14). This promise was made even before Abraham's son Isaac was born!

Many years later Joseph died and the people of God were enslaved in Egypt. Moses, as their leader, was ready to pull out of Egypt during the Exodus, but he remembered this important request from Joseph and acted to fulfill it. "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, 'God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place'" (Exodus 13:19).

Somebody had to haul those bones around! First across the Red Sea and through the wilderness for 40 years under Moses, then across the Jordan River and all during the time of conquest under Joshua.  Finally, after Joshua died, they fulfilled an old promise by laying these bones to rest. 
"And Joseph's bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph's descendants" (Joshua 24:32). And for some 3,400 years this tomb has been a place of remembrance for faithful Jews.

3) The Spiritual Application

What motivated Joseph? After all, when he made the request he had become very comfortable and prosperous in Egypt. He was revered by both the Egyptians and the Israelites, who were at the time of his death honored and welcome guests of the Egyptians. Bluntly speaking Egypt had been good to Joseph.

The answer is found in the only biographical statement made concerning Joseph in Hebrews 11, the great "Faith Chapter". "By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones" (Hebrews 11:22). Joseph, by faith, saw the bigger picture. He knew where his real home was as a great-grandson of Abraham.

I believe one of our biggest faith challenges on this side of eternity is seeing the bigger picture and keeping it our major focus as we journey below.  This is true during the good and bad times.  By faith we who have trusted in Jesus are also children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). Today, let us, like Joseph, get our focus on the bigger picture and align our priorities accordingly!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer:  Father, there are so many enticements this world has to offer that rival for my devotion. I must be careful not to let the  allurements this world has to offer deter me from the bigger picture; my eternal home in heaven or the promises that are yet to be filled. So that I don't lost sight of the kingdom of God I desire godly discernment day in and day out in the choices I make that will help me remain faithful and fully committed to You in my Christian walk. I ask for Your help in the strong name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Stephen's note: I have some interest in my genealogy and today there are websites to assist in this such as ancestry.com.  I wonder how many of us have any knowledge at all of our ancestors beyond three or four generations? In my case I knew my grandparents on both sides but none of my great grandparents, who had passed away by the time I came around. What little I remember about my great-grandfather is that he went back to visit his homeland in Germany on a steamship with my grandfather, as told by my mother. That would have been around 1900. I have been told on my father's side I am an descendant of Abram Clark who signed the Declaration of Independence.

But incredibly Joseph lived and died some 3800 years ago! The Israelites were carrying his bones prior to his final burial in Shechem some 400 years after his death. Amazing!!

Rick Steudler with his mother Jeanette 05/29/13
Yesterday we had a time of fellowship with Rick Steudler, a friend of ours, and also visited with his 96 year old mother. We all enjoyed her resident duck who sings "You Are My Sunshine" which left us all with a sunny disposition. John Newton who wrote "Amazing Grace" was 82 years old and blind who said shortly before he died, "My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Saviour." See here.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber 05/29/13
Rick took our photo in Jeanette's back yard while we were admiring her Chinese Dogwood.

Today's Suggested Music
and Supplemental Resources

"Going Home"  Video  Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

"There Will Be A Day" Video  Jeremy Camp

"No More Night"  Video  David Phelps

"Save A Place For Me"  Video  Matthew West

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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