Which team do you support? Is it the local team, or the one that plays the best, or wins the most? You may remember Norman Tebbit controversially used the phrase ‘the cricket test’ to judge whether people from a non-indigenous background were sufficiently integrated into British culture. If England were to play their original nation, which team would they support? Where did their loyalty lie?
Joseph (in Genesis) could have easily passed for an Egyptian. He had spent many years there, and was a highly respected official. To a casual observer, he appeared to have absorbed their culture. His brothers had no idea of his real identity (Genesis 42:8). But he would not have passed the cricket test. When it came to the end of his life, he had no intention of resting forever in this foreign land. On the contrary, he associated himself fully with his family, not the fame and fortune he had gained in Egypt. He could have given instructions for burial in Machpelah, the plot Jacob had bought, and was himself buried in. But he didn’t.
This man of dreams had a different vision (Genesis 50:24-26). He foresaw that this family of his would need help, that God would come to their aid, and would fulfil his oath to take them back to the land he had promised them. And Joseph wanted in. He wanted to be a part of that future that God had in store for them. He wanted to be there, even if it was only his bones in an unburied coffin, as a sign to his children and his children’s children, that ONE DAY God would come and fulfil that promise. He wanted to be an emblem of hope to them, through their struggles and slavery. And then he wanted to go with them, on the journey to that promised land. Yes, he wanted in. He wanted to be a part of all that God had for them. God had given him a vision of a better future, and he was not letting go of it.
So we come forward a few hundred years to Exodus 13:19. As Moses was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, he took Joseph’s bones with him. That casket that had been a source of hope and encouragement over all those intervening years, was now a reminder that God keeps his promises. But even more than that, it told them that God had put this time into the heart of their ancestor Joseph, and had brought it to fulfilment thus far. It would continue to give them strength and faith for the future.
God knew their problems were far from over. This group of people, insecure and wobbly in faith as they were, were being shown that God’s plans would not be thwarted. There was a way through, and they could make it. What plans has our faithful God put in your heart?