Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Honor Roll of Faith: Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph — Faith’s Eternal Reach

Full Transcript:

Let’s take our Bibles to Hebrews 11:20-22. Before I begin, let me read Hebrews 11:17-22:

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; 18it was he to whom it was said, “IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED.” 19He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type. 20By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. 21By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

Let’s pray:

Lord, I ask You for the spirit of God to take hold of me to speak to Your people Your very word. Help us to hold Your word up in high regard, higher than anything else, and take it seriously. Lord, let us not only be hearers of the word, but doers of it every day of our lives. Lord, especially in these verses, let us be people who live by faith, and there is plenty evidence to prove that we do so. I ask this, in Christ’s name, Amen.

In the Honor Roll of Faith, I have been giving you a picture of God’s great dead. We have seen God is faithful by believing and putting their faith into action, displaying to us what faith is, and then what faith does. Biblical faith is living and full of works just as James tells us in his epistle in James 2:26:

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Before I go on further, there is a point I would like to highlight from Abraham. He is the great central figure of faith. Not so much the faith that saves, but a faith that believes God all the way and right to the end. In fact, in our Scripture, we read about faith in the resurrection. Believing that out of a dead body and womb, God could and would bring to life that which is dead.

In the case of his only son, Isaac, God can raise people even from the dead. If Isaac died when Abraham was going to offer him up, then God would raise Isaac from the dead, not only raise Isaac, but raise the dead. Thus, God’s power to raise the dead upheld Abraham’s faith and everybody else’s faith after him.

The resurrection of the dead is our great hope. There is something that Jesus said in the Gospel of John that gives us a peek into what Abraham saw when, by faith, he offered up his only son Isaac. John 8:56:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

When Abraham was offering up Isaac, he was seeing Christ. He saw Jehovah, who spared not his own son. Second, instead of Isaac, a representation of the great substitute who died so that men might live, which is Christ Jesus. In fact, look at John 8:57-58:

So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

Jesus, here, directly claims to be the eternal God. You can’t get around that one, brethren. In fact, what would the response be if Jesus was claiming to be God. It says in John 8:59:

Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

They thought He had committed blasphemy since it was a man claiming to be God. There is a third thing that Abraham saw that day. I mentioned last week, from the Old Testament passage of Scripture and from Hebrews 11, Abraham saw God’s name more fully revealed that day. On that day, Abraham understood that God was Jehovah-Jireh, the God who sees, will see, and will provide.

This was a step-in advance to anything else he had known before, but this is the great significance of faith. In fact, when you live by faith, God gives you more of Him. When you live by faith, God gives you more understanding of Himself. This is important to know because only a life lived by faith is the person who shall be better instructed in the things of God and the nature and character of God.

If you do not live by faith, you will not know anymore of God than you know now. It is the walk of faith that begins to open the curtain of who God is more and more. Do you think God is going to give you all at once? No, He is not.

Doubt is the great enemy of faith. If you have lingering doubts in your mind about the existence of God or the resurrection of your body because Christ is the first fruits, then you will not know anymore than that. However, if you live by faith, you will go right until the end of your last breath knowing way more of God and wanting to be in His very presence because of what you have been knowing all those years.

As we consider the faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, the thought of the faith that believes God all the way becomes an important one to remember. It has a reach beyond death to the eternal. There is a common thread that runs through the faith of these three men that we will cover in these verses.

This is the common thread that makes mention of their faith at the end of their life. This is the people who finished after they had gone through all the sufferings, adversities, confusion of life, testing of their faith, and endured right up until the end.

When you live a life of faith and you come right up to the end of your life, how did their faith fare? Was it nonexistent? Was it laden with anger and bitterness? As I have seen people standing by their bedsides dying, they were filled with bitterness, anger, and regret. Was it tainted with hopelessness, despair and depression? So many people are tainted with that.

For them, faith was a victorious adventure. Faith was the proving of the unseen. Faith is the way by where people find out whether there is a God, a spiritual world, and forces other than what we can see. Please turn to Genesis 27 where there are three men at the end of their life. At the end of our life, maybe we can be just like these people, and the point is to be like them, do what they do, and to end the way they end. Genesis 27:2:

Isaac said, “Behold now, I am old and I do not know the day of my death.

This is where Hebrews picks it up. Then, in Genesis 47:28-29:

Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. 29When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt.

Again, Jacob came to the point where he was dying, and that is where Hebrews picks it up. Then, in Genesis 50:24 and Genesis 50:26:

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob…26So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

All these men, Hebrews picks up at the end of their journey and at the end of the adventure of faith. It was Shakespeare who retorted:

How oft, when they were at the point of death, have men been merry?

Others have made mention of death in this way, and it was Jean de La Fontaine who said this:

Death never takes the wise man by surprise. He is always ready to go.

Leonardo da Vinci said:

While I thought I was learning how to live, I had been learning how to die. As a well spent brings happy sleep, so a life well used brings a happy death.

Usually, people die with regret, bitterness, and hopelessness. However, you don’t find that with these men. There is nothing that comes close to those things. Remember, Biblical faith lays hold of what is promised, and therefore, hoped for as something real and solid though unseen.

Biblical faith is not a blind leap in the dark. It is immersed in the nature and character of God. It is immersed in objective truth and historical realty. The people of God lived and died by faith. They did not shrink back to destruction but knew that they were in a long line of those who had finished, run the race successfully, and had gone on to heaven. They were looking forward to the same things.

What Hebrews calls people to is a great adventure of faith. It calls people to prove the declarations of the unseen by stepping out in obedience. Already, in Hebrews 11:6, he says:

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

God is opening the door to a moving vessel, which is to someone seeking Him and moving towards Him, who wants more. When Jesus was being criticized as to where His authority and learning came from, he said this in John 7:16-17:

So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.

In other words, Jesus is saying to do the thing He tells you, and in doing it, find out whether it is true or not. That’s why calling someone to salvation is a call to obedience. It’s not a call for you to decide. It is a call for you to come when God commands you to come. When the Gospel goes out, it’s a command to come, and then see if God is good. I haven’t met one Christian yet, who has come to Christ, and says that God is not good and wants to turn back to where they came from.

They don’t want to go back, but they want to go forward. They realize that once they take the adventure of faith and step out in obedience, what God says is true and who God said He is, He is. They know that, and they know it by faith. The Lord doesn’t tell His people to believe intellectually or to be convinced intellectually alone before becoming His disciple.

Instead, He says to follow Him, obey Him, and see for yourself whether what He says is true. Do you think the Lord is going to give it all out to you? No, He’s not, which is why we need faith. When we live by faith, we discover that it is true. Would the new world ever have been discovered if there had not been one man fanatical enough to sail and to sail until he found it?

Someone will argue that it was already there. If it were not there, he could only prove it by the same action. In sailing, he would see that it is not there, but he found it. In unseen things, people say things are not there, but how do you know? You cannot deny it until you have made the great adventure to discover it yourself.

The testimony of the centuries of those who lived by faith is the person who follows the Lord, makes the adventure, and discovers the unseen things to be seen. When there is a failure to believe, hope dies, the fight ends, and the work is abandoned. That is why the writer of Hebrews is setting up this whole chapter in Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The things hoped for are always future, and the things not seen are not future, but present. They build us up to see that it is true, so the future becomes such a reality that no one could convince us that what God says will not happen. So, why did these people, in Hebrews 11, make it to the end of their earthly life with a stronger faith than when they started?

Well, they kept discovering that God is faithful and true. Their understanding of death was also clear because they knew God was in control there. In each case, death was never a hinderance to their faith. It seems to be just a blimp on the radar screen. Biblical faith removes the usual hopelessness and despair that surrounds death and defeats it.

Biblical faith is a faith to live by and it is a faith to die by. In the end, it lays hold of the eternal life. It is the kind of faith which is necessary to endure. It is faith that leads to the well-pleasing walk with God and that should be the goal of every single Christian.

Unbelievers cannot please God. There is nothing they can do to win God’s smile of approval. Apart from Jesus Christ and His redeeming sacrifice, they are utterly unable to do anything that pleases God. However, we’re talking about believers here, so please ponder with me three characteristics of the faith of these men.

First, Biblical faith passes the baton of blessing coupled with a future hope. In Hebrews 11:20, Isaac was the son of Abraham, the son of promise who led a life of faith. As the promise was given to him, he, in turn, would pass on the promise to whom it belonged, which is the covenant promise given by God to Abraham. Genesis 26:4-5:

“I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws.”

Now, Isaac grows old where he is at the end of his life, and now it is time for him to bless his son Jacob with a hope of a future to come, that God could be trusted, and what God says will come to pass. Thus, he gives a blessing. To these patriarchs, patriarchal blessings were partly prayers and partly prophetic predictions. In Genesis 27 is the blessing that he gives, and he includes three things in the blessing, especially of what God will provide and do for them. He says in Genesis 27:28:

Now may God give you of the dew of heaven,
And of the fatness of the earth,
And an abundance of grain and new wine

That is daily sustenance, so he is saying that God meets your needs daily and as to what you need in your life such as food, clothing, and a place to live. Second, in Genesis 27:29, there is national recognition:

May peoples serve you,
And nations bow down to you;
Be master of your brothers,
And may your mother’s sons bow down to you.
Cursed be those who curse you,
And blessed be those who bless you.”

In other words, God provides the best way to live and worship. Compared to any of the nations around you, God has the right way, and it should be seen in the people. It should be seen in how they worship, how God responds to them, how God blesses them, and how God does things for them that He does for no other nation.

Also, how He gives them a sacrificial system where they can approach Him, and His presence is in their midst, so other nations would be jealous because of the way you live, which is part of the blessing.

Then, in Genesis 27:29, God says that He will give covenant security, so God provides protection. There is the blessing that Isaac is passing on to Jacob. He is saying that He asks God and blesses you, so that you would maintain the uniqueness that you are as a nation before all the other nations. For what reason? The salvation of the other nations and honor of God. King James says, “We’re peculiar people.”

There is something different about Christians. We have different goals and desires. God is changing us. We look at life differently, and we have a world view that has totally been transformed. We’re not putting out stock in politics, money, wealth, or things.

We once did, but we are letting go of those things because we’re realizing that it is only for now, and that they are only the needs God is providing to get us through on this adventure of faith until we get into the Celestial City with Christ.

Only a life lived by faith can know that God blesses His children. If God blessed our spiritual ancestors, why should he not bless us the same way? Blessing meaning that God accepts us. We know we are accepted in the Beloved because of Christ. He helps us, He gives us His spirit, He gives us His word, and He protects us. We are immortal until God is done with us. Unless, you want to live a foolish life. Then, a fool has his own destiny.

For someone who lives for the Lord, you will live every single second God wants you to live until He is done. If you are living a life of faith, you’ll do everything God wants you to do until you breathe your last. See, it is an adventure!

God accepts us, helps us, and protects us while remaining faithful to us by giving us a future. I am looking forward to the resurrection of the body, and I am looking forward to what Hebrews will say about the Kingdom, an unshakeable kingdom that cannot be destroyed, removed, or attacked by another nation. It is unshakeable because God rules there.

That is the hope, part of the blessing that we have, and what keeps us going. Although the storms beat against us, they can never destroy our position before God, in heaven, because our souls are securely anchored in God’s inner sanctuary. Through Jesus Christ, our High Priest, is where a believer’s hope is safe, secured, and anchored in heaven.

If the anchor is down and the wind is blowing, the ship is not going anywhere. You may get blown a little bit, but if your anchor is in heaven, you’re not going anywhere but heaven, which is the point he is making to us. Therefore, faith is exciting and such an adventure.

The second characteristic of the man of Jacob, son of Isaac, is that Biblical faith passes the baton, which is the analogy I am using. If you have ever ran a race where you had to run as fast as you can, with all your strength, reach out until the next guy took the baton, and you are a team running together to the goal, then that’s what the Christian faith is. We desire to pass the baton to the next generation faithfully. We have something to pass down to them, especially since we have lived by faith and know it is true. Thus, Biblical faith passes the baton coupled with the example of lifestyle of continual worship.

There is a future, and now we see, in Jacob, worship. Hebrews 11:21:

By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff.

If you are keen with your Bibles, then you know that there are two things mentioned in this verse: Jacob blessed each of Joseph’s sons and he worshipped as he leaned on his staff. However, the keen bible study student knows that in the Old Testament, they don’t occur in that order. In fact, in the Old Testament, the second is recorded before the first. Genesis 47:31:

He said, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.

That is the first thing he did. If you don’t remember, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. You will find those names changed around in Scripture, but they are referring to the same person. Then in Genesis 48:1-2, the first took place later:

Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is sick.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. 2When it was told to Jacob, “Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed.

Hebrews highlights the account of the end of Jacob’s life and what he did when he was dying, which are three things. First, he was an active faith. Jacob put Joseph in charge of his burial in the land of Canaan, not Egypt. Remember, when the drought came about, Joseph was already in power in Egypt. His father, Jacob, was in the land of Canaan, and the drought was so severe that they had to move to Egypt. In the passage, he stayed in Egypt for seventeen years, and Joseph took care of him. Jacob said to Joseph that when it came to him dying, he was to not burry him there, but to take him back to Canaan. In Genesis 47:29-30, it says:

When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, 30but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” And he said, “I will do as you have said.”

This was an act of faith about God’s promise concerning his descendants. God would always give them the promise land. The second act of faith, in Genesis, is that Jacob did worship. Genesis 47:31, he swore to him; then, Israel bowed and worshipped at the head of his bed.

At the end of his life, this shows that he was obedient and humble before God, he took that posture before God, and displayed this before the Lord every day. To him, God was real and spoke to him, and he spoke to God. He was a friend of God and worshiped the One living. At his death, he still walked with God, trusted Him, and followed His voice as the Shepherd, which shows up in His words and deeds at the end of his life.

God was his wealth, strength, exciting joy, and a happy child with such a Father as that. In Genesis 48:15-16, we see the third act of faith:

He blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,

16The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads; And may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

There was the promise that God gave. At the end of his life, we see in the faith of Jacob that he continually worshipped God. While he was living by faith, his relationship kept growing and growing. God was his Shepherd, who led him, fed him, and took care of him all the way to the end.

This is important because only a life lived by faith can adequately prepare for the end of life knowing that the mercies are all the sweeter by realizing they have always come from the hand of the great Shepherd. With God, you are as sheep with a Shepherd being cared for, guarded, guided, fed, led, and your end will be peace without end. That is the promises that God gives.

For the meantime, our desire would be because God has blessed you, taught you, expanded your faith, and shown you great and might things, you will want to bless others, you will want others to see what you see, and you will want others to come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. God forbid that we should dam up the waters that will nourish future generations downstream. You don’t ever want to do that, but always giving out what God has given us.

Biblical faith lives for God to pass down to their children the blessings that come from worshipping the Lord, Jesus Christ. Thus, we have a future hope, and as we grow in faith, we keep worshipping God. God becomes near and dear to us than ever, and our desire is going to want to be with Him. The relationship gets so close that you just want to go home.

Lastly, Biblical faith passes the baton of blessing coupled with constant anticipation. All the divine promises will be fulfilled. Hebrews 11:22:

By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.

Joseph encourages his brethren to remain faithful to the promises by becoming the exemplary person of faith in Scripture. First, he reminds them that God is faithful and will take care of them in Genesis 50:24:

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.”

Remember, the people were going to enter four hundred and thirty years of slavery. Every time you see a prophetic message given in Scripture, God is always giving something to people that they really need, but they don’t know it yet. Joseph is coming to the end of his life, but they went on for a while in Egypt.

However, there came a point where the Israelites multiplied so much, which made them a threat to Egypt, so Egypt made them slaves. When Joseph is dying, he says to them that God will take care of them, take them from this land, and that He will give them the promise by the oath that He gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. What God says will come to pass, so keep your faith in him.

No matter how hard it gets, no matter how severe the slavery gets, and no matter how much the persecution gets, don’t give up. Keep worshiping God and keep hoping for the future because it will come to pass.

Secondly, he makes his brethren swear that they will not leave him in Egypt. Joseph always felt as a sojourner in Egypt even though he rose to second in command and had more authority than the man on top of him. However, no matter what he had or how much God gave him, he knew it wasn’t home, so Joseph had a strong desire not to miss the day God’s people would enter the promise land. He says in Genesis 50:25-26:

Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here.” 26So Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten years; and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt.

Joseph died at the age of one hundred and ten, and he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. If there was any other place that Joseph died, they wouldn’t have been able to take his body the way it was prepared in Egypt. In fact, there probably was a place they built for him and kept him in, and the Egyptians were big on that kind of stuff.

When it came time for the Israelites to leave, they went and got his bones because he didn’t want to stay there. He was dead already, but he wanted to give the people the hope. After four hundred and thirty years of bondage in Egypt, God raised up Moses, and Moses kept Joseph’s request recorded in Exodus 13:19:

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, “God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.”

He did, but there was a problem. Moses could not enter the promise land. He was forbidden to, so Moses went to Mount Nebo. Joshua, who was given the mantel by Moses to take the people to the promise land, took Joseph’s bones and buried them.

That was an encouragement to the people. That is what he laid before them for them to continue in their faith. God would take care of His people, keep His promise, and make them a great nation. It is recorded in Joshua 24:32:

Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.

These are all acts of faith at the end of their life, passing the baton to the next generation, and saying, “God is real, His word is true, and His promises will come to pass.” It is by faith that you hold to them, and someday that faith turns to sight.

Only a life lived by faith lives with a growing anticipation that we will be completely delivered from these bodies of death. It is our turn to live on earth today, endure by faith, believe the unseen, trust God’s promises, to wait, and to hope expectantly with great anticipation that our great God and Savior will bring all He has promised to an ultimate fulfillment.

My question is: how will you die? How you live will have a great deal to do with the answer to that question. The first question is: how will you live? Then, the next question is: how will you die? If you live by faith, you will die in faith.

I pray that it will be a faith, which death cannot weaken or destroy, and that it would be a faith in Christ that passes the baton to your children coupled with a future hope, joyous worship, anticipation, and expectation of the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. That we will pass from this little blip on the radar screen into the presence of God with no difficulty.

God doesn’t have a problem with death. He has no problem with raising you from the grave. It is all going to happen, and that is the message to us. Live right to your last breath with this kind of faith, and you are going to affect and infect your children, grandchildren, and generation that you have something to do with. You are going to pass the baton to them as a runner stretching out with all your might so that they get it and continue.

That is what we’re called to do, so will you be that person? I believe that is what these three men are teaching us. In the life and in this world in which we live, it is going to take that faith to endure until the end. Let’s pray:

Lord, I Thank You once again for the awesomeness of your word and for the design of Scripture. I Thank You, Lord, for these three men. We know that I didn’t go into the details of their life, but, Lord, they have hard lives, which were much harder than any of us. Yet, Lord, they came out the end hoping, worshipping, and anticipating Your great promises to them. I pray, Lord, we would be made of the same stuff as our trust in Christ and His word, as the spirit of God indwells us, and every day and week we hear the word of God preached and taught. Lord, make us these kinds of people. I pray the gold of the world would grow dim, and be lit of Your wonderful face. We praise You, Lord, for what You will do in our lives. For, we know we cannot live this way without Your power, Your strength, Your spirit, and Your word. Keep us faithful, in Christ I pray. Amen.