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Friday, February 03, 2012

The Assurance Of Faith

For several weeks now I have been preaching a series on Sunday mornings entitled, The Faith Of Our Fathers. The last several weeks have been spent examining the faith of the Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Abraham certainly left a legacy of faith that transcended the generations. These were all men who had the promises of God and yet in so many ways because of the Providences of God it seemed as though the promises of God were becoming more distant, less likely to be fulfilled. In fact the last three of the Patriarchs have their faith mentioned in the context of what they believed or actually was their time to die.

Each of these men believing they were on their death bed creates greater appreciation for Hebrews 11:13 - These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:22 presents Joseph for our consideration. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Joseph merits special consideration because of all of these men his life seemed most unlikely to be moving in the direction of the fulfillment of God's promises. The Providences of God seemed to separate him from the promises of God.

At the deathbed of Joseph we stand at the threshold of a 400 year sojourn in the land of Egypt. Joseph seems to anticipate a lengthy visit in Egypt at the conclusion of which the children of Israel would leave Egypt and return to what increasingly become known as the Promised Land! What would afford Joseph this apparent insight? Why would he speak with such confidence about the departure from Egypt in the context of a lengthy stay there? It was because of the word of God. It was a matter of faith, believing the word of God. God had on numerous occasions spoken to Abraham confirming the promises to him, the promises that were passed on to his descendants. The promises were so well substantiated that they collectively become known as the Abrahamic Covenant! This recurring promise was made in several different contexts. One of the most striking is found in Genesis 15!

Genesis 15:13 – Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; and also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.

While there had not been much emphasis about the 400 year detour into a land that was not theirs it was part of the revelation concerning God’s promise to Abraham. Joseph therefore takes their presence in Egypt not as a sign of God’s unfaithfulness but rather as a sign of God’s faithfulness. This is part of his plan for them. And as sure as they are now in Egypt they will one day be in the land promised to their fathers! This is the assurance of faith!

Let it first be noted that if we want to die in faith we must live by faith. Why can the scripture declare that, By faith when Joseph when he died. . . . It is because Joseph lived by faith.

Joseph, having by faith accepted the Providences of God, died believing the promises of God!

Genesis 37:5-11 – A prophet of God
Genesis 37:23,24,28,36 – A persecuted prophet
Genesis. 39:3-6 – A subordinated prophet
Genesis 39:11-20 – A slandered prophet
Genesis 39:21-23 – An imprisoned prophet
Genesis 41:1 – A forgotten prophet
Genesis 41:37-43 – A promoted prophet

Genesis 27:2 – Joseph was 17 years when this narrative began.
Genesis 41:46 – Joseph was 30 when he was promoted to stand before Pharaoh.
         13 years
Genesis 45:6 – These two years hath the famine been in the land
         Seven years of plenty and two years of famine equals 9 years.
         13 years plus 9 years equals 22 years!

It had been twenty two years since Joseph had been sold into Egypt by his brethren of whom it had been prophesied that they would bow before him. The Providences of God had certainly seemed to separate him from any real chance of the promise and prophecy of God on his behalf coming to pass. But.....

The prophecy of his brethren's obeisance came to pass just as God had revealed.

Genesis 42:5-9 – His brethren bowed before him
Genesis 43:26 – Bowed themselves to him
Genesis 43:28 – Bowed their heads and made obeisance

Joseph was not bitter about the Providences of God but recognized them as part of the plan of God for his life.

Genesis 45:3-5 – God sent me to Egypt before you
Genesis 50:18-21 – Spake kindly unto them

Joseph was one, who as a young man, believed God and had his faith tested. He died in faith because he had lived in faith. Don’t think that a life of worry and anxiety will be turned into a life of courage and faith at the end! Every day, in all that we experience, we are preparing to die. All the trials, hardships, difficulties, and disappointments are opportunities to believe God. Trust his promises and his providence. Mature faith does not just believe the promises of God it also accepts the Providences of God.

Joseph gave commandments concerning his bones. This commandment was given on the premise of God's promise. True, genuine, strong faith embraces the totality of God.

It embraces his promises.
It embraces his Providences.
It embraces his precepts.

 Faith believes God in everything he says, everything he does, and everything he allows! We quickly stand upon his promises while complaining against his Providences and ignoring his precepts. This is an immature faith that is always thinking about what God is going to do for me and hardly ever about what I am going to do for God! It is a faith that loves to consider what God is going to do for us but recoils to think about what God wants to do through us! It is a faith that smiles about God doing for us and frowns about God doing to us!

This is not the faith of a Joseph!
This is not the faith of our Fathers!
 And it is not the faith that pleases God!
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