“By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” (Hebrews 11:22, AV)
I had a pastor once who passed on this quote to me. “If your faith fizzles out in the end, it was flawed from the beginning.” His point was that true faith is persistent until the end. The author of Hebrews has stated this principle before. “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14, AV). Those of true faith are secure in it. Moreover, one certain evidence of true faith is that those who have it persist to the end.
As a pastor, I have been with many people at the final stages of their lives. I remember most of these very vividly. One was a woman who was in Hospice care. When I visited her, she demonstrated such grace, that she ministered to me. She had peace and her conversation encompassed her great excitement about soon being with Jesus.
In this section of the letter to the Hebrews, the author focuses on three patriarchs who held firm until the end. Well, if you look at all their records, you will find some flaws, but the thread that connects them is that they finished their lives looking forward to the promise of God. At the end of their lives, both Isaac and Jacob blessed their sons, and Joseph reminded the Israelites of God’s covenant promise.
Joseph’s story should be very familiar to most Christians. If you are not familiar, you can read about him in Genesis chapters 37-50. You will recount that his brothers sold him into slavery because of their jealousy. He ends up as a slave in Egypt, but rises to the level of being second in command of Egypt because God granted him ability to interpret a dream regarding a coming famine, and the wisdom to prepare Egypt for it. When the famine hit, his father Jacob and his brothers went to Egypt because there was food there. It is there that Joseph is reunited with his family and they remained and settled in Egypt.
On Joseph’s deathbed, he speaks to his brothers and the children counted as Joseph’s own. Here he reminds them that God has promised to give the land of Canaan, the Promised Land to the nation of Israel. Moreover, he was so confident in Israel’s future possession of the land that he commanded them to transport his bones from Egypt to the promised land when they left (Gen 50:22-26).
This exodus from Egypt would happen through the leadership of Moses generations later. The nation would go through a period of slavery in Egypt at which time they would desire to leave Egypt, that up to then had been a comfortable place to live. When they left, they did as Joseph commanded. They took his bones in their journey to the Promised Land (Exod 13:19).
The huge point in this account is that Joseph, never let go of the promise of God, through the trials and tribulations of life, to the point of his death. He believed God and that God would fulfill His covenant promise. Such is the way of true faith. The author of Hebrews wanted His Jewish audience to see the persistence of true faith. God has granted his children this faith. Paul stated that it is a gift of God to us (Eph 2:8-9). It is this true saving faith that will sustain us to experience His promise of salvation in Christ alone.