And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from hence.
This is the one act of Joseph's life which the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews selects as the sign that he too lived by faith. It was at once a proof of how entirely he believed God's promise, and of how earnestly he longed for its fulfilment. It was a sign of how little he felt himself at home in Egypt, though to outward appearance he had become completely one of its people. The ancestral spirit was in him true and strong, though he was " separate from his brethren." This incident, with the New Testament commentary on it, leads us to a truth which we often lose sight of.
I. FAITH IS ALWAYS THE SAME, THOUGH KNOWLEDGE VARIES. There is a vast difference between a man's creed and a man's faith. The one may vary-does vary within very wide limits; the other remains the same. What makes a Christian is not theology in the head, but faith and love in the heart. The dry light of the understanding is of no use to anybody. Our creed must be turned into a faith before it has power to bless and save.
II. FAITH HAS ITS NOBLEST OFFICE IN DETACHING FROM THE PRESENT. All his life long, from the day of his captivity, Joseph was an Egyptian in outward seeming. He filled his place at Pharaoh's court; but his dying words open a window into his soul, and betray how little he had felt that he belonged to the order of things in which he had been content to live. He too confessed that here he had no continuing city, but sought one to come. Dying, he said, "Carry my bones up from hence." Living, the hope of the inheritance must have burned in his heart as a hidden light, and made him an alien everywhere but upon its blessed soft. Faith will produce just such effects. Does anything but Christian faith engage the heart to love and all the longing wishes to set towards the things that are unseen and eternal? Whatever makes a man live in the past and in the future raises him; but high above all others stand those to whom the past is an apocalypse of God, with Calvary for its centre, and all the future is fellowship with Christ and joy in the heavens.
III. FAITH MAKES MEN ENERGETIC IN THE DUTIES OF THE PRESENT. Joseph was a true Hebrew all his days; but that did not make him run away from Pharaoh's service. He lived by hope, and that made him the better worker in the passing moment. True Christian faith teaches us that this is the workshop where God makes men, and the next the palace where He shows them. The end makes the means important. This is the secret of doing with our might whatsoever our hand finds to do — to trust Christ, to live with Him and by the hope of the inheritance.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.