The book of Genesis leaves us with a sad picture. Two deaths are paraded in front of us. Jacob was carried home to Canaan and buried with his ancestors. Joseph was embalmed and kept in a coffin in Egypt.
And nothing really seemed settled in this story. The people of Israel were gathered together as shepherds in Goshen, waiting out the famine. They were a long way from home. The promise of having their own land was still far off. And shepherds were despised by the Egyptians, so Israel’s future was very much in doubt now that Joseph was dead.
And Jacob’s dead body was carried back to Canaan, to the Promised Land. And Joseph’s dead body remained in Egypt.
Things weren’t as they should be. The conclusion to this story had not happened yet. It still was out there in the future. The happy ending that we would expect to see – an ending that included the people living in the Promised Land – had not yet come to fruition.
And death still reigned.
A good friend of our church, Ernie Bradley, died recently. It is a sad thing. He still had much more that he could have done. More birds to watch and more fish to catch and more elk to spot, certainly. And a wife of more than 50 years close to his side.
But Ernie is gone, and those who know him are left with grief.
Death leaves us with grief. Always. Death reminds us that things still are not as they should be. Inside of us, I believe, we know death is a foreign thing to humanity, to we who are made in the image of God. It is an unwelcome interloper in our world.
When death strikes, we know things are not as they should be. The happy ending we all expect is not yet here.
And we are reminded: Sin has left its mark on us (Romans 6:23).
And we are reminded again: God has made a way (Romans 6:23).
When I think of Joseph’s body being embalmed and the coffin lid sliding over the top, sealing the box, I think about how we all must make a choice in life. Do we lean into the promises of God – of good and not harm, of eternity instead of temporality, of imperishability instead of wasting?
Are we certain, like Jacob seemed to be, that the future for God’s people is where God says it will be – and not in any old place where we happen find ourselves? Are we always looking forward to where God is preparing a place for us?
In a world of death, we must rely on the words of hope.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
The thing to do with passages like Genesis 50, and with events like the deaths of good friends, is to turn the page.
The story is not over yet. For every Genesis in God’s creation, there also is an Exodus. For every reminder of our slavery to sin and death, there is an even greater and more lasting realization that sin and death have been overcome by our sinless Savior who rose from the dead.
Every unsatisfactory ending in the story of God is not actually The Ending. And so we turn the page, and we look for the hand of God.