Faithlife Sermons

Finishing Well

Genesis  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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PICS – celebrating too early. In each of these pictures the person started to celebrate their victory only to lose because they hadn't yet crossed the finish line. They lost focus in the last moments of the race and they lost. In 2Timothy 4:7 Paul writes...
2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
This is the goal. We want to run our race all the way to the end. That is why I love this pic (S). There are three things I love here. 1 - He is running so flat out that the finish line tape is streaming behind him. 2 - He's smiling because he finished his race. 3 - His feet aren't touching the ground. This is how I want to go out of this life. I want to leave running my race in a flat out sprint. I want to leave with a smile on my face because I finished. And I want to be caught up to meet my Lord in the air. I want to finish well. This passage records the end of Joseph's life. With this message we come to the end of Genesis. The end of this record of God's faithfulness, His promises, and the anticipation of Him fulfilling those promises. I find it fascinating that this book closes with a focus on God doing what He has promised. Joseph is confident in the Lord, confident that God will keep His Word. Joseph did not lose focus, Joseph finished well.
These verses demonstrate that in order to finish well I must meet two requirements.
Meeting these two requirements will enable me to stand before the Lord with the anticipation of hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful, enter into the joy of your Lord."
As we look at the final days of Joseph's life we are met with the first requirement...

1. Finishing Well Requires An Eternal Perspective vv. 15-21

It is impossible to finish well if you are distracted. The marathoner who carries a DVD player to finish their favorite movie will not be the one to complete the race. Proverbs 4:25-27 says...
Proverbs 4:25–27 NKJV
Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.
Keep your eyes focused! Paul wrote this in Philippians 3:13-14...
Philippians 3:13–14 NKJV
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
We are to keep our eyes on the goal and run to win the prize! When our focus is on heaven and things of eternal value we learn that...

a. Eternal perspective creates a tender heart vv. 15-17

These verses are almost depressing. We have seen evidence of transformation of Joseph's brothers, yet they still live in fear and guilt and invent this story in an attempt to coerce Joseph into giving them the forgiveness he has already given. The timing in v. 15 seems to be almost immediately after they get back to Egypt following Jacob's burial. Joseph's brothers obviously still feel guilty for what they did to him. Notice their uncertainty. Perhaps. They are not sure what will happen but they don't want to take any chances. They are worried that he will repay them for the evil they had done. They do recognize that the way they treated him was indeed evil. They do not understand Joseph's character. This is not surprising, they never understood him. They also do not understand true forgiveness. This is the kind of fear that those who do not know Christ and His forgiveness and love face. They are afraid that Joseph will hate them. "Hate" - שָׂטַם satam to be at enmity with, be hostile towards. To hold a grudge (hate) - to dislike intensely and feel antipathy or aversion towards. Their reasoning here is very worldly. It is something that we can expect to face from time to time in this life. They are expecting Joseph to respond how they would. This is an admission that the motivation for how they treated Joseph in the past was hate. They are assuming that he will feel the same way towards them and treat them the same way. They had treated Joseph in an evil or morally depraved way. For brothers to abuse and sell their own is repugnant in every way. And so because of their actions and guilty consciences, they expect him to return in kind. They don't even have the courage to come to Joseph themselves in v. 16. They send messengers. The message they carry seems to be an invention. They tell Joseph that before Jacob died he had a command for him.
v. 17 details the brothers made up command and Joseph's response. Say to Joseph, I beg you to forgive your brothers. Within this false story are some very revealing statements. The brothers believe they are in need of forgiveness. "Forgive" - נָשָׂא nasa' to carry; to lift, lift up; to raise; to take/take away. To forgive (lit. lift up) - to forgive conceived of as lifting up (or perhaps removing) something. This is a fascinating word. They want him to lift up, or remove the trespass. They recognize what they did to Joseph as an evil trespass and sin. "Trespass" - פֶּשַׁע pesha` wantonness; crime; wrongdoing; offence concerning property; misdemeanor. Evildoing - the violation of a law or a duty or moral principle. This is a violation of law. What's interesting here is that both this word and sin are used. Not that a trespass is not a sin, but that it is a different type of sin. "Sin" - חַטָּאָת chatta'ath sin; expiation, sin-offering. Sin (act) - an act or feeling that transgresses something forbidden or ignores something required by God's law or character; whether in thought, feeling, speech, or action. This is more general. A trespass is more specific. Saying someone is a criminal versus saying they are a thief. They broke a law but they also violated the standard of God's glory and holiness. "Evil" - רַע ra`a(h) evil, wickedness, depravity, misfortune, disaster. Evil (behavior) - morally objectionable behavior. Their deed also displayed moral depravity and wickedness. It's like they had a complete absence of conscience. That is what hatred does and why it is so dangerous! So they know what they did and the great wickedness that it was.
At the same time they are trying to use guilt to convince Joseph to do what they want. They remind Joseph that they are his brothers and that they all serve the same God. They bring the covenant into it a little by by saying they are the servants of the God of Joseph's father. Joseph's response to all of this is to weep. This is the kind of man Joseph is! He weeps over the fact that his brothers don't trust his forgiveness! Joseph has a tender heart because he knows that all of this was orchestrated by God! He said as much back in Ch. 45! Joseph has an eternal perspective. He understands that God is sovereign and His will and ways are not our own!
An eternal perspective brings a tender heart even in misunderstanding.
Think with me about what would make someone respond this way. I believe Joseph knows they are making all this up. I also believe it hurts him to know that the last 17 years have not demonstrated his forgiveness enough for his brothers to believe it. When you have forgiven someone and they don't believe you it grieves your heart! And so Joseph weeps. Along with a tender heart we learn that...

b. Eternal perspective demands forgiveness vv. 18-21

These verses are a little awe inspiring. If this were me I would be tempted to say. "Well, I had forgiven you, but this whole lying scheme has ruined that. Get lost." Joseph wept. Then in v. 18 his brothers follow the messengers and present themselves to Joseph, they bow and declare themselves his servants. I mean, how tempting would it be to say, "I'm not buying it fellas! You're gonna have to try a little harder." But Joseph doesn't. Their actions reveal how little they know and understand their brother. It also reveals the depth of their fear. They are willing to become Joseph's slaves in order to protect themselves. They must view his vengeance on them as an inevitability. But... Joseph's response in v. 19 demonstrates an incredible amount of faith and forgiveness. Joseph understands as he has said before, that all of this is about God and His glory, plan, and promises. Because that is Joseph's perspective, vengeance doesn't even come into it. Twice in these verses Joseph will urge them not to be afraid. He wants them to know that they have nothing to fear. There is no reason for them to be afraid of him. Why not? Because he is not in the place of God! Do you know what a pinch hitter is? Someone who stands in for someone else because they can do a better job. Imagine someone putting in a pinch hitter for Babe Ruth. That's what it's like to try and take God's place in vengeance. I am not God's pinch hitter! God does not need me to stand in for Him!
Joseph understood the meaning of Romans 12:19.
Romans 12:19 NKJV
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Vengeance is not our possession. The other day I was at Wal-Mart and I walked up to the self-checkout and there was a $20 bill sticking out of the machine. At first I was tempted to think, “Wow! A free $20” but I took the money and gave it to the checker and explained. She was shocked and couldn’t believe that I would turn it in. We discussed how someone had probably gotten cash back and forgotten it. She again said “Most people wouldn’t have turned that in”. I replied “well, it wasn’t mine.” I didn’t keep the money because it wasn’t mine to keep! That is Joseph’s point here. “Am I in the place of God?”

Joseph left all the righting of his personal wrongs to God and set the example for the faithful in every age.

This action that you are talking about, that is God’s business! If we are going to live with an eternal perspective, we must realize that vengeance is His! It is not our job to repay the unkindness and pain we receive. That is God’s business! Retaliation does not belong to us! Let it go! God does not need you or me to stand in His place and take vengeance for Him! He will do a better job than we could ever dream! We are not in the place of God! But Joseph goes a step farther in v. 20.
This is somewhat of a restatement of Genesis 45:5-8. Joseph is not naive. He understands that their intentions were not good. They desired to do him wrong. But God was the one behind the scenes orchestrating all things to His glory and our good! He doesn't just do that for Joseph! He is doing that in my life and yours as well. Not only does vengeance belong to Him, He is orchestrating the affairs of this life! This is only seen in hindsight! Now that God's plan has unfolded Joseph sees it for what it is. God used the selling of Joseph by his brothers to preserve life. Joseph says they meant it for evil. "Meant" - חָשַׁב chashab to weave; to respect, hold in high regard; to assume, impute, reckon, devise, invent. To plot - to plan secretly, usually something wicked. Literally this means to weave. His brothers weaved a plot of evil around Joseph! "Evil" is the same word used in v. 17. They meant Joseph intentional harm. But God had other plans. He took that harm and turned it into the opposite.

In these two passages we have expressed the key idea that informs the whole Joseph story, that through sinful men God works out his saving purposes.

Here we find my favorite two words again. "But God". If you have ever wondered about the power of God, here it is described. God is powerful enough to take the evil plans of men and transform them into good. He is behind the scenes of life orchestrating all things! He is not caught off guard or surprised at the struggles you are facing! He is working in and through them to conform you to the image of Christ! When that transformation is finished we will stand completed in Christ! God took the evil plan that Joseph's brothers were weaving and changed the weave! He created a masterpiece of deliverance and hope out of despair and suffering! He can do that in your life as well! But you must yield to Him throughout the process. Trust that God has your best interests at heart. The intentions of Joseph's brothers were morally depraved, they had a desire to cause harm. But God's intentions were good. To bring kindness and happiness.
In v. 21 Joseph urges them to not be afraid for the second time, promising to care for and sustain them and their little ones. He comforts and speaks kindly to them. This is ironic. Joseph, the one who was wronged, is offering comfort to those who wronged him! That is the transformation that takes place when we fix our eyes on heaven! If Joseph was concerned about the here and now, he never would have forgiven his brothers. But Joseph has an eternal perspective. This is the kind of man Joseph is. He understands that God was working behind the scenes. Vengeance is God's and God's plan worked out! There is nothing to be upset about! When we understand that God is the one who is in control, it enables us to respond as Joseph does here. He comforts and speaks kindly to them. They needed reassurance of forgiveness. Instead of being annoyed, Joseph gave them the reassurance they sought. This is not a normal or natural response when we have been wronged. We don't usually comfort and speak kindly to the ones who wronged us. But that is what Joseph does and this attitude is fueled by Joseph's awareness of what God is doing. Vengeance does not belong to Joseph. That is God's business. God had a purpose and plan for all that He put Joseph through. Joseph is content to rest in faith knowing that the Lord is in control! Others are more important than my personal comfort and safety. If I am going to finish well these are things I must know! Things I must believe and live my life around. An eternal perspective makes a tender heart and it demands forgiveness. Don't leave here this morning harboring a spirit of unforgiveness. God is the one who is in control of the affairs of your life. If others have wronged and hurt you, let it go. Trust that He has a greater plan than you can imagine and He is working in you both to will and do of His good pleasure!
Fix your eyes on eternity and forgive as you have been forgiven.
There are two passages that bear on this.
Ephesians 4:32 NKJV
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:12–13 NKJV
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
We are to forgive as we have been forgiven. That is what Joseph does here. Not because he is so great. But because he has his eyes centered on eternity. That eternal focus has given Joseph a tender and forgiving heart. If we are to finish well, we must have this same eternal focus. The final moments of Joseph's life give us our second requirement...

2. Finishing Well Requires Faith In The God Of Promises vv. 22-26

The overwhelming theme of Joseph's life is faith. He trusted the Lord despite the numerous trials and hardships he endured. Throughout good times and bad, ups and downs, Joseph had faith in the God of promises. As these last few verses in the book of Genesis record the end of his life we learn two truths about living a life of faith. The first is that...

a. Faith enjoys present blessing vv. 22-23

With this point it is important to note that Joseph's time of blessing came after serious times of trial and testing. As believers we are never promised to have easy blessed lives all the time. But we are richly blessed even in the midst of difficult circumstances. v. 22 tells us that Joseph settled in Egypt. Not just him but all of his brothers and their families. Joseph made Egypt his home even though v. 25 will declare that this is not truly his home. Joseph lived to be 110 years old. This is not that old compared to his forefathers. There is a subtle idea of peace in this verse. He dwelt there and lived out the rest of his life. 93 years Joseph lived in Egypt. Imagine the influence and impact this godly man of faith had on the nation. v. 23 tells us that Joseph lives to see his great-great-grandchildren. They are brought up on his knees. The intimacy in view here is touching. He was intimately involved in the lives of his children and grandchildren. Again this is a scene of peace. A scene of tranquility and faithfulness that has been rewarded. This makes me think of Matthew 11:28-30.
Matthew 11:28–30 NKJV
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We still have a yoke and burden, but when we are serving the Lord they are bearable. He gives us rest even in the midst of responsibility and work.
Faith endures knowing that blessing lies ahead.
The book of Exodus reveals that it is only after Joseph is completely forgotten that things get bad for the Israelite nation. The life of faithfulness exhibited by Joseph protected the nation for many years. Not only does faith enjoy present blessing. We also learn that...

b. Faith anticipates a promised future vv. 24-26

Joseph's confident faith is what is so striking here. He is completely unwavering. As Joseph is dying in v. 24 he gathers his family around him. Here we see the incredible faith of this man of God. He is confident that God will bring them out of Egypt and into the promised land. I love how he puts this. I am dying, but God. That is something we all can say. I am dying, but God. Joseph says that God will visit them. The idea of this word is that God is going to come and care for them. The form this care will take is in the next phrase. He will bring them out of Egypt and into the promised land. He reminds his brothers of the Covenant promises. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and those promises must be fulfilled. Specifically in view here is the land promise. As we talked about with Jacob, this is the way to leave a legacy of faith. By living faithfully in your own life. The depth of Joseph's confidence is revealed in the following verses. Because of his faith in God's promise to his Father's Joseph extracts a promise from all of his relatives in v. 25. The entire nation is included in this promise. He repeats his belief that God will visit them. When He does Joseph makes them promise to carry his bones with them out of the land and into the promised land. "Carry me up" is the same word translated "bring you out" in v. 24. He wants them to take his body to the same place the Lord will take them when he brings them out of the land. That takes faith! Faith to believe that God will deliver them. Faith that the descendants will remember. And faith to declare that Egypt is not his home and will not be his final resting place. He wants to be buried in the land of promise! It is this faith that gets Joseph a mention in Hebrews 11:22.
Hebrews 11:22 NKJV
By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the departure of the children of Israel, and gave instructions concerning his bones.
But notice with me that the object of Joseph's faith is; God. He is fully confident that God will visit them and bring them back to the land! Having received their promise, Joseph's death is recorded in v. 26. 110 years old. He is embalmed and placed into a coffin in Egypt. The purpose of the embalming is again pragmatic, this way they can take him with them when they leave. And that is exactly what happened.
Exodus 13:19 NKJV
And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here with you.”
However they did it, they brought the body with them when they left Egypt. Ultimately he was buried in the land allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh.
Joshua 24:32 NKJV
The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Joseph believed in the promises of God. He believed so strongly that he commissioned them to take his body with them when they leave.
Faith trusts that God will keep His promises and it acts on that belief!
Joseph put his money where his mouth was. He knew God's promises and took action because of them. As we await the fulfillment of God's promises, what action will we take?


We began this morning with the understanding that there are two requirements to finishing well. But first let me say a little something about starting. You cannot finish a race if you are not in it. The race of the Christian life is entered when we place our trust in Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8–9 NKJV
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
What is the object of this faith?
Romans 6:23 NKJV
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Faith in His death and resurrection for my sin is what starts me on this race. If you have not started, trust in Christ today. Once we have entered the race there are two requirements seen in this passage to enable us to finish well. The first is an eternal perspective. What does that mean? It means I understand that God is behind the scenes of this life orchestrating all things to His glory and my good! In light of that reality I am tenderhearted and forgiving. The second requirement is faith in the God of promises. What does that mean? It means that As each day goes by I live in the anticipation of Christ's return. Even if I am on my death bead I remain unwavering in my conviction that God will keep His Word!
My desire for each of us here today is that we would finish well.
Keep an eternal perspective, and anchor your faith in the God of promises.
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