10 Oct 2021
The man of faith is concerned about his testimony of faith. Before he will die, Jacob was insistent that he must be buried in Canaan. Like his grandfather Abraham, he wanted to stake a claim of faith in the land of promise. He believed in God fully even though he had not possessed the land. And he wanted all his family to know. And he ensured this message of faith in the burial arrangements. So Jacob wanted to preach, even in his death, that God is trustworthy. God's people should also be concerned about our testimony. Someone said, "Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read. "
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Well, once again, welcome and thank you for joining us in our journey through the book of Genesis. It has been a long journey and we are coming to a close, maybe in about a couple of weeks’ time. So, look forward to taking us on to another journey in the New Testament, the book of 1st Corinthians.
Well, let me start with a question - Have you ever wondered or thought to yourself - What you will do when you are about to die? I'm not talking about the kind of sudden death like as in a road traffic accident, but the kind of death that you know you have time to prepare for. Maybe it's a sickness, maybe it's advanced age. What will you do when you are about to die?
For some of us we might be settling our wills, to determine how that inheritance will be distributed or disbursed. For some of us we might still be settling our bills, there are many things that are yet unpaid for. Well, the story before us is about Jacob when he is about to die.
In essence, he's going to focus himself on two things. The Bible tells us that he is number one — going to settle the instructions with regard to his burial. And number two — he is going to pronounce blessings upon his descendants. Now, that will take us all the ... all the way to the end of chapter 49. I've decided somewhere that we will not go through that journey all the way to chapter 49. But today, we're just going to look at the first of two things Jacob is going to do, and that is instructions with regards to his burial. And there are only four verses for us to read. So let me read them again to you.
"And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt 17 years. So the days of Jacob, the years of his life were 147 years. And when the time drew near that Israel [that is Jacob] must die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, "If now I've found favor in your sight, put your hand under my thigh and promise to deal kindly and truly with me. Do not bury me in Egypt but let me lie with my fathers. Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place." He answered, "I will do as you have said." And he said, "Swear to me"; and he swore to him. Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed." [Gen 47:25-31]
So it's very interesting, last week's sermon was six chapters long, today's sermon is just four verses long. So it's going to be a very simple, succinct, I hope short sermon that would encourage you.
So in essence, Jacob here just settled one thing that we read of and that is instructions with regards to his burial. And what is it about his burial? He says, "Don't bury me in Egypt, but carry me out of Egypt to bury me in the land of my fathers."
The very first question in your head is why? What's the significance? What is Jacob trying to achieve with this instruction? What is the ... what is the implication that makes Jacob so insistent on being buried in the land of his fathers?
Now, did Jacob do this because it was to save money or save time or effort? No, we read that Jacob is now living in Egypt, he had been there for 17 years. And so to move him out of Egypt, to bury him back in the land of the fathers takes more time; takes more money. Indeed, it is quite a hassle! So clearly, the desire to be buried with his fathers is not for logistical reasons, it is not for physical reason, but it is for a spiritual reason.
You might recall when Jacob's grandmother, her name is Sarah, when Sarah died, Abraham, her husband did not bury her in the Ur of the Chaldees. He did not bring her body all the way back to the homeland to bury her there, but he bought a piece of ... he bought a piece of property in the promised land, in a land of Canaan for her burial and also for his own burial.
What Abraham was doing then, even though he had to pay a high price, was to stake a claim in the promised land. He owned nothing in the promised land, he owned nothing at Canaan at that point of time, but he was staking a claim. He's saying, "We will be buried here because this is our land." He owned nothing yet but he's saying, "This is our land." Why? Because, "God has promised to us that this will be the land that is given to us."
So, it was a statement of faith! It was a funeral that gave out a loud and clear message. It was a message of faith that God has promised us this land, and it will be our land. It is a testimony of faith! So fast forward to the time Jacob himself is going to die, he's following the footsteps of his fathers. He's saying, "Bury me not in Egypt, this is not my land, but bury me in the promised land, because that is a land of promise."
And as a result, this is a funeral that again is screaming out the message — we believe in God's promise. Therefore, we don't read of Jacob being afraid, this was a statement of faith. This funeral was a testimony of faith. Now, we don't read of Jacob being afraid. There's nothing like that spoken of there, he was not trembling or wondering or fearing. In fact, he was very confident. I know that because the Bible says, "Then Israel bowed himself upon the head of his bed." [Gen 47:31]
Now, we are going to look at this verse a little bit. I just want to point out first of all, that the word, 'bed' can also be the word, 'staff'. And without going into too much detail, it should have been 'staff'. And we know that because in the New Testament, the Hebrews author clarified for us, "By faith, Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff." [Heb 11:21]
So I just want you to know that this is a parallel text in Hebrews 11. And what was he doing, bowing upon the head of the staff? Was he upset? Was he mourning? Was he grieving? No! The Hebrews author tells us that he was bowing in worship. He was not fearful or afraid, he was worshiping, he was praising, he was thanking God even as he was about to die.
And the reason again is because he saw by faith what God has promised. So his death was not a sad event, was not a fearful event. It was an event by which he praised God, because he knew that there was something he could really look forward to.
This is a picture of my dog, Max. He is a very sprightly, very hyperactive, very naughty but very cute dog. But Max has gone through quite a lot in his life. About two years ago, one day when we were having dinner, we suddenly saw that he was not quite his normal, he was walking very slowly, and he doesn't seem to be using his hind legs very much. And before long, he was absolutely paralyzed in his hind legs. He couldn't move it at all! He was just dragging himself on his front limbs.
And then he began to lose continence. He was leaking urine everywhere he was moving. And I realized that he must have been paralyzed from if I may use the word — waist down. Now, I immediately suspected something bad, we call this "Prolapse Intervertebral Disc" or PID in humankind, but for dogs is called IVDD, which is "Inter-Vertebral Disk Disease". Basically, a part of the spine has broken off and has pressed upon the spinal cord resulting in the paralysis from the waist down.
So we brought him to the vet, they took an MRI, confirmed that it was IVDD and he went through spinal surgery. Amazing! Well, he had a long scar at the back, but it was a very successful surgery in that within a couple of days, Max regained his continence, regained his power in his hind legs, and he was like as he was normal. He recovered fully!
But two weeks ago, he again lost the function of his hind legs and was incontinent. This time he was not even able to feel his hind legs. He was pooing and peeing everywhere. And we decided, because the chances of success in surgery is now lower with ... with a loss of sensation. There might be a relapse, we would not put him through another surgery.
So we had to make a painful decision because now he has lost sensation everywhere. He ... he basically sits and lies even on his poo and pee and he doesn't even know because there's no sensation. And within a couple of days, I realized his skin was already turning red. I could tell that he was not happy. He didn't quite look like his normal self. And so we made a painful decision to put Max down.
My kids asked me, "Where will Max go after he dies? Where will he go if we should put him down? Will he go to heaven?" I said to them, "I don't really know because the Bible is not clear about animals and about, about their souls as it were. But as far as I know, I think God's saving grace is upon the humankind, not even for angels, and I don't think for pets or animals."
So his death was a sad thing, because in a way there was really nothing to look forward to. But Jacob's funeral, Jacob's death has everything to look forward to. Jacob was not depressed! He ... he was not living in fear, he was bowing in worship, because he by faith, could look forward to the amazing promises that will be fulfilled in his life. So he was unafraid and he believed that God will fulfill His promise to him.
Now, mind you, Jacob did not own anything in the land of Canaan as yet. Maybe except for the burial plot that Abraham had purchased, but apart from that he owned nothing in Canaan. And he's going to die, why is he so happy? You see, the Bible tells us that heroes of the faith, they were not looking to the land, as it were for themselves in their lifetime. Like Abraham, "They all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar." [Heb 11:13]
So they are not looking to the things that they can see, they're looking to things that they can't see. "They desire a better country, that is a heavenly one." [Heb 11:16] So Jacob, he is worshiping by faith because even though he did not own the land of Canaan as yet, he was looking forward to the heavenly city that God has promised. "He believed that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him." [Heb 11:16]
And so we learn that, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." [Heb 11:1] Jacob was about to die and even though he did not own anything in Canaan. That's fine because he believed, and he was assured, he was convinced of the heavenly city even though he has not seen it. You know, that's the power of faith!
Faith is believing in things that God has promised, even though we have not seen it before. You see, we live in a day and age that actually understands faith the opposite way around. There are people today who believe in God because they have been healed of their disease, because they have health and wealth and because they have seen signs and wonders.
Now, I'm not saying that these things may not be encouraging to us. It is very encouraging that when we pray, God answers and when we are in desperate trouble, God delivers. It is very encouraging, but what I'm saying is that the final decisive, ultimate basis for faith is not things that are seen, but in the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. We walk by faith not by sight.
So it was very sad and actually very discouraging for me when I think I've shared this with you. I have a pastor friend from another church, who ... who showed me a picture and the picture was about his palm. And on his palm, there was some speckles of gold. And he said, "You know, what is this?" I said, "I'm not sure what this is." He says, "This is gold dust. I prayed that God will give us gold dust and he gave me gold dust in my hand."
I say, "Why do you pray for that?" He says, "Because the young people today need to see gold dust. They ... they need to see these things, otherwise they cannot have a strong faith."
I couldn't disagree with him more. I don't think faith is born primarily out of the things we see. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." [Heb 11:1] We walk by faith not by sight!
Jacob had deep faith in God and worshipped God, even when he's about to die and had not had a single piece of territory in Canaan, because he was looking to things not seen. So, why did Jacob want to be buried in the land of promise? Because it was a statement of faith.
He was unafraid, he believed in things unseen. And mind you, this faith is an unbroken chain that began with Abraham. Abraham, himself will be buried in the land of promise [Gen 25]. We read also that Isaac, his son will be buried in the same place [Gen 49]. And then we read, of course, Jacob will be buried in the same burial plot [Gen 49]. And further on in Joshua 24, we will read of Joseph also will be buried in the same place. It was an unbroken chain of testimony, as it were.
So Joseph, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, they wanted to be buried in this place, because they were all communicating one message. Even with their death, they want to preach to their descendants, they want to preach to their people, they want to preach to all of humanity, "God has promised us this land, we will be buried here, even though we do not possess it as yet, we believe it is ours."
So, the reason why Jacob wanted to be buried there, was that he was a preacher. He was communicating a message! And so the title for today, is "The Dead Man Preaching". Now, don't worry, I've already gone beyond introduction. I did all that to tell you this is point number one, the implication is that Jacob was communicating a message of faith; a testimony of faith; a statement of faith.
Number two, I want to show you not only the meaning of this message, but I want to show you the importance of this message.
It is so important to Jacob, Jacob knew that to get him out of Egypt to be buried somewhere else is going to be quite a hassle. Now, we know that it turned out to be quite a hassle, because first of all, Joseph in order to bring his father's remains out of Egypt would have to seek permission from Pharaoh.
So we read that in chapter 50:4, he did have to speak to the household of Pharaoh and to ask for special permission to go out.
And then we saw that this would be a huge entourage of people. [Gen 50:7-9] This is not a small family, this is the family of the Prime Minister of Egypt. And there will be a grand funeral, a grand procession. So you can imagine the logistics, the costs, the finances that will be involved. I don't think Jacob is ignorant of all that, but it didn't matter to Jacob.
Yes, it's going to be hassle! Yes, it costs more money! Yes, it's inconvenient! "But I insist," he says. He insists by asking Joseph to swear, to ... to make a vow as it were, to put his hand under the thigh of Jacob. [Gen 47:29] It is a very similar way of having a vow, just as Abraham would have Eliezer, his servant to do the same thing when he was looking for a wife for Isaac.
So he made Joseph vow and then we read that he made Joseph swear to him, and Joseph did that. [Gen 47:31] And when he met with all the rest of his sons, "He commanded them and said to them, "I'm about to be gathered by my people, to my people; bury me with my father." [Gen 49:29] So he insisted basically, he must be buried in the promised land. So even though it costs more, it's more hassle, it was a message worthy to be sent that way.
Now, remember, and I'll say this again, when I shared about Abraham's buying of the burial site for Sarah, I mentioned about Mr. Kimura. You might remember him, he is the man who bid 3.1 million US dollars for this tuna fish in the first auction in a fish market in 2019 in Tokyo. So he paid so much, $3.1 million for this tuna fish. And if he was to recoup his ... what he shelled out to buy this fish, he would have to sell every slice of the tuna for $200-300 US dollar.
Now, imagine that one slice 200-300 US dollars, of course, he's not going to be able to sell that, instead he sold each slice for two to three US dollars. Now, you say, "Why did he pay so much for a fish that he could never sell?" Well, the reason is Mr. Kimura was not concerned about selling the fish, but he was concerned about sending a message.
What is the message? He is saying to the whole-wide world, the whole-wide Japan that his chain of restaurants sell the finest quality tuna. And yes, it would cost him to the tune of 3 million US dollar. But he said, "It was a message well worth it."
So Abraham believed in Mr. Kimura's philosophy, he overpaid. We mentioned that the last time in Genesis 23, he overpaid for the piece of land in Canaan. But he wanted no dispute and he wanted to send a clear message and that message to him was well worth the overpaying of the price. To Jacob, it was the same, it's going to be troublesome, it's going to be costly, but it is well worth it. So that's why he got his sons to promise; to swear. And then of course, and to follow his command. [Gen 49:29]
I think the principle is this — to the people of faith, the message we send out is very important. To the people of faith, a message of faith is very important to us, we ... we call this our testimony. Now, not only should we live our lives to please God, we are to live our lives in such a way that people would understand our faith more. So we are not just living in a sense to please God, but we must also be conscious about how people look at our lives and look at God through our lives. Testimony is important to the people of faith.
Now, I see some examples in the Bible about how we should be concerned about our faith, and how we are concerned about the display of our faith. 1st Corinthians 6:1, "When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?"
I ... I think in this passage, there is a struggle, a controversy, a kind of a disagreement between two parties in the church. But they decided to bring this dispute to the courts of law in a secular world. So Paul is saying, "First of all, why would you even do that? Can't you settle this yourself?" But he also mentioned in that text that this is a shameful thing. It reflects badly upon the people of faith. And so he's saying, "To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" [1 Cor 6:7]
So he's saying, "Instead of trying to figure out who's right, who's wrong, getting what is your just dessert on so on, you should be concerned about the message you're sending out. And the message you're sending out is so important that if it means that you will be cheated, and you'll be defrauded, and you will be disadvantaged, so be it! That's a price that is worthy to be paid."
So the Christian, Paul is saying, should be concerned about our testimony. Now, I think you're familiar with the other examples in the Bible, such as eating food offered to idols. Paul clearly explains that idols are nothing, food is nothing. In a sense, you can eat that food and it does not affect you. But because you are concerned about how others may view you, you're concerned about how they may be confused — how can a Christian eat food offered to idols, therefore, because of the message of faith you want to be concerned about you don't eat that food. So we must be concerned about how others view God through us, view our testimony.
Now, another example I may want to give is about wives. The Bible says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands." [1 Peter 3:1-2] Now, this is the right thing to do, first of all. God has created an order in the family. Let me clarify, it has nothing to do with inferiority or superiority. It has nothing to do with IQ or capability or competence. I certainly believe many, many women are way better than men in many, many ways. But this is about the order God has established for every home, that the head of the family will be the husband.
So it is the right thing to do. But that's not what Peter is saying here. He's not arguing from what is right or what is God's order, but he's saying another reason there that, "You should be subject to your own husband, is that with your subjection, some of your husbands even though they are not believers, they are not Christians, they do not obey the Word, one day, they may be won over to the faith." [1 Peter 3:1-2]
How? "When they see your respectful and pure conduct." In other words, Paul is saying that the life of a wife is a message that the husband can see. Now, the husband may not read the Bible himself, the husband may not initially explore the Gospel in the Scriptures himself. But the husband can see the message of God in his wife's life, primarily the way she is submissive.
And therefore, be led to the conclusion her faith must be real, God must be real, the Bible must be real, and Jesus is real. And thereby be challenged and encouraged to explore the Gospel himself, and then be worn over to the faith.
So our lives, bear testimony, and our testimonies can bring forth very powerful impact upon others. Again, the Bible tells us, "To do all things without grumbling or disputing." [Phil 2: 14-15] Why? Not only is it right to do so, but there is an impact, "So that we might shine as lights in this world."
Again, I think with the proliferation of social media, I realized that complaints are getting louder and louder, and they are getting more and more visible. But I think this is also where the Christian shines, that he refrains from grumbling and disputing.
Now, I'm not saying you cannot give your point of view. I'm not saying that you cannot give constructive feedback. You can! But it's about the attitude, it's about the posture of your life. And the Christian is careful not to grumble and complain, so that he might be the message to the world. He might shine as lights, that people would see that self-control, that trust in God, that temperance in nature, and say, "Wow, that must be God's work, because everyone else is complaining, but he is not!"
So, I think the message is clear — how you live your life is a testimony of what you believe about God. [Henry Blackaby] Do you really believe God? It will be reflected in the way you live and it will be a testimony of what you believe about God.
Someone else, he said, "Be careful how you live, you will be the only Bible some people ever read." [William Thomas] Now, Jacob is very concerned about that. In those days, they probably do not have written documents like we do today. But by their actions, by their lives, and indeed, even by his death and burial, Jacob is concerned and indeed very insistent that this example of faith will be remembered by all of Israel.
So what kind of testimony, my friends, are you leaving behind? I speak to parents, what kind of testimonies do you give out to your children? Now, in old times, not old times, but maybe two years ago, you could say, "I'm a ... I'm a believer of God, because I bring my children to church and we worship God together." Well, today, you are not in our hall, a lot of people cannot gather in worship venues, but how you worship at home is very important too!
Are you absent from the time of worship? Are you distracted in the time of worship? Are you disengaged in the time of worship? You know, your children watch the way you worship and they will have their conclusions about what you believe about God. Say whatever you will, preach whatever you will, your message through your life speaks a lot louder.
How you deal with or handle money is a powerful witness of what you believe about God! What do you think your money is for? Or maybe more relevant, maybe it's already passed, but how you deal with your children's examinations reveals a lot about what you believe in God. Is this ... is this what your life is all about? That it's centered upon PSLE, their Primary School Leaving Examination, that it becomes Parents Stress Level Exceeding. I'm not sure how this works, but ... but it communicates.
Or maybe the way you treat people, the way you treat your helper. That speaks volumes! And it is particularly sad for me, when I hear how churchgoers, professing Christians ill-treat the people around them, especially their helpers. They may think that, "Oh, I've hired this helper to serve me, therefore, I'm entitled to do that." I say your children pick up a lot more than you can fathom.
So be careful about the testimony you give out. Jacob was very concerned. So he wanted to have a statement of faith, he ensured that it was a right message of faith for all his descendants.
And finally, let me ask you, or let's deal with this — what's the impact? Did it really work? Did his desire to be buried in the promised land result in good things? Well, I think so. For one, his son, Joseph followed in his footsteps. So at the end of Genesis, we read, "Joseph saying to his brothers, "I'm about to die, but God will visit you, bring you out of this land, to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." [Gen 50:24-25] He believes that promise.
And so he said, to the sons of Israel, to his brothers, to his descendants, "God will surely visit you and you shall carry up my bones from here." So Joseph is saying, "I know I'm the Egyptian Prime Minister, I've lived here a lot. Actually, the majority of my life, but no, don't bury me in Egypt, carry my bones out, so that you may bury me in the land that God swore to our fathers."
Joseph believed the same thing! Now, he did not do this out of pure routine, because the Bible tells us in Hebrews 11:22, that Joseph himself believes, he believes God, he believes in His promises, and therefore he gave the same instruction, "Bury me, not in Egypt, but in the land of promise."
So the Bible tells us, "Joseph died, being 110 years old, they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt." [Gen 50:26] Now, he's not buried in Egypt. It's just that his remains are kept in a coffin in Egypt. And you know what, the Bible tells us eventually, "The people of Israel would bury him at Shechem," after Joshua 24.
Now, if you estimate it, this is about 4 to 5 hundred years later. So the people of Israel had always kept this coffin. And when they were wandering in the wilderness, they were carrying this coffin. For 4 to 5 hundred years, they have kept this coffin, saying, "We cannot bury our father Joseph in Egypt, because he insisted we will bury him in the promise land. Because together with Jacob, together with Isaac, together with Abraham, they believed God and His promises."
What a powerful message to all of Israel, especially if you are the one who has to carry the coffin! You say, "Why ah? Why so le che [Hokkien dialect]; so troublesome, so heavy?" "Well, it's all because we want to tell all of Israel, we believe God." So, what a witness! What a testimony!
The Book of Genesis therefore ends with deaths and burials, interesting, right? It began with how God created life, Genesis 50, ends with death and burial, but it's not a message of despair and hopelessness, but it's a message of great hope and life and joy and the promises of God.
So today, we see Jacob, he's a dead man, but he's a dead man who wants to preach through his burial, through the rest ... to the rest of his people.
Let me today, encourage you today to be a man who will be preaching. Now, you may not all be preaching like I do every Sunday here, but you can preach with your life, with the way you look at your finances, with the way you look at your behavior, with the way you treat people, with the way you live out your Christian life. You may be the only Bible your colleagues, your friends, your neighbors will ever get to see.
And I pray that you'll be conscious and conscientious and living out a godly testimony. We do that not to earn salvation. We do that because we love God and we want to honor Him, and we want to reflect well upon Him and we want to help people know him. And we want to do that because we know how much God has first loved us, when He gave His only Son to die for us while we were yet sinners.
So this morning, can I encourage you by the mercies of God, by the grace of God, because of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, present yourself a living sacrifice, live out lives that bear forth testimonies to His praise. Be a submissive wife. Be willing to suffer wrong. Be willing to hold back your complaints. Be gracious in the way you treat others. Be diligent in the way we carry ourselves. It's all a matter of worship.
Worship is not just here on Sunday morning in this hour, our worship is our everyday life. And if I may say allow me to be a living man preaching to you. If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, can I encourage you today to turn to Him for salvation and life. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, they all believe in God's promises about the land and with it, a great name, a great nation, and most of all, a Great Savior.
This is really the main message of the Bible, that ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God, God had promised that one Savior, who would die for humanity and rise to be our King, our Lord, our Savior. He's none other than Jesus! And the Bible promises whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Can I have the privilege to be that preacher today for you? That you may hear and you may know, and that you may personally repent and believe in Jesus. I pray you will, and I pray you will be blessed.
Let's come to God in a word of prayer together.
Father, we thank You this morning, that even in a simple but significant event like the burial of Jacob, we are reminded about the people of faith and how they worship You. I pray today that as modern day believers, we too, will be a people of faith. That we will be a people who are unafraid, even through this COVID times, that we will be a people whose eyes are not fixed on things here below, but on things above — though unseen. May we be a people who will look forward to the heavenly city that is to come.
And I pray we would form that unbroken chain from Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph, all the way to today, that we will be a race of people who have a testimony that says, "We believe in our God."
So once again, thank You for this time to remind us of what faith is all about. And we want to pray also for those who are here with us, who may not know Jesus as yet. Please bless them, that they might turn from sin and also come to Your Son, Jesus Christ. Bless this day, bless that's all that has been done. We give You thanks. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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