August 9, 2015 Genesis 49:28-50:14 and 50:22-28
Series: Divine Hope for Dysfunctional Families
Today’s Message: “Getting in the Last Word…at Your Funeral, and Beyond!”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
If you like to be thought of as being right, there’s a real temptation to be able to get in the last word in a discussion or an argument, right? You want to deliver that Perry Mason zinger at the end to which there is no comeback or counter argument.
I’d like to suggest to you that God wants you to have the last word…at your funeral…and even beyond the grave…and I’m not talking about some kind of pre-recorded speech of yours that keeps playing besides your coffin or your gravesite. No. I’m referring to the enduring testimony that a follower of Jesus Christ can have, when he or she thinks through their funeral arrangements and burial plans, in a Biblical way. I’m talking about making the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ the last word in your life and in your death and burial: for God’s glory and for a testimony to your faith in Jesus.
Let me ask you: How much thought have you given to your funeral arrangements? What are your main concerns about what will happen to your body after you die? Have you thought about bringing honor and praise to God through these plans?
In Genesis 49 and 50 we are given the detailed plans for the funeral arrangements of both Jacob and Joseph, and there are a number of things that are worth reflecting on.
Our plans for our funeral arrangements should do at least two things:
One, they should bring glory to God; (see John 21:19 Jesus said this (to Peter) to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.” Also John 11:4 Lazarus’ death and burial were to bring glory to Jesus Christ.
Two, they should testify to your faith in Christ, to encourage the saints and exhort the sinners.
Do your funeral plans do these things?
But before we go any further, let me remind us of the underlying foundational truth:
You must trust Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and death, and believe in Him as the Resurrection and the Life.
No matter how careful you are in making plans for your death, funeral and burial, those will all pale in insignificance if after you die, you are going to suffer eternally under the just wrath of God for your sins and rebellion. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? What does it profit a person to have all his or her end of life arrangements neatly wrapped up, if that person will come face to face with God Almighty, and not have a leg to stand on, when God asks, “Why should I let you into my holy heaven?” No. Before you do anything about your earthly “end of life plans,” you must make sure you’ve taken care of your “where will I spend eternity” plans.
So… have you? Are you ready to face your Maker, with a joyful confidence? Is Jesus Christ your Lord, your Savior, and your Great Treasure? Take care of that before you do anything else, for “death is the end of every person, and the living should take that to heart.” (Ecc. 7:2)
Having established that the Gospel of Jesus Christ should have the first and the last word in your life, let’s consider the ways in which the Gospel can have the last word in your dying and your death, in your funeral and burial. How do you make sure that God is honored and your faith in Christ is clearly proclaimed, when you die?
Your funeral arrangements should be (1) clearly communicated; (2) Biblically-based; and (3) evangelistically expressive.
First, your funeral arrangements should be clearly communicated.
Look at what Jacob and Joseph both did. When it was close to their time to die, they gathered their family around them, and they gave them clear and detailed instructions about their funeral and burial arrangements.
We read in Gen. 49:29 “Then he (Jacob) gave them (his 12 sons) these instructions:”
Then in Gen. 50:24-25, we see Joseph giving specific instructions to his brothers for his burial.
Now there are circumstances where such detailed planning may not be possible, such as in times of war, disaster, and tragic accidents. But for most of us, we can and should plan our funerals and our burials, AND we should clearly communicated our wishes to our next of kin, to those who we hope will carry them out. And indeed, we read in Gen. 50:12 that “Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them.”
So… do you have funeral arrangements, and have they been clearly communicated to your next of kin, to the executor of your will, etc.? That’s step one. Don’t put this off. Talk about it this afternoon. Review the plans you have made, and see if they are really what God wants.
Second, your funeral arrangements should be Biblically-based.
Think about how all the Patriarchs of Israel planned out their burial plots according to the Promise of God. That is, although they did not own land in what was to be the Promised Land at the time, they thought it very important to be buried in a tomb in what is now called Hebron, because it was their way of acknowledging their faith in God, that one day, He would give to their descendants all of the land and all of the gospel blessings that came with it.
We could say that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all based their funeral arrangements on what God had promised them, and therefore their plans were Biblically based.
In fact, God the Father Himself made Biblically based funeral plans for His own Son, Jesus, for the time that He would be crucified and buried: Isaiah 53:9a “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in death…” It was God’s plan from eternity that Jesus’ body would be laid to rest for three days in the tomb of a rich man, Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60).
But what about us? God’s plan for most of us probably doesn’t include being buried in Israel or in the tomb of a rich man. How do you and I ensure that our funeral arrangements are Biblically based? Here are three ways:
1. Your funeral arrangements should be made in faith.
Hebrews 11:22 “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.”
Joseph made his funeral arrangements by faith. Both Jacob and Joseph aimed to make God-honoring funeral arrangements for their bodies, by faith. For Jacob it meant carrying his body back to the Promised Land soon after he died, as a prefiguring of the greater Exodus to come. For Joseph it meant holding his body in Egypt, because he believed that God would take his people to the Promised Land, and his body would be carried along with them. That is, Jacob was saying, “This is a picture of what God will do for you,” while Joseph was saying, “I have faith in God that He will carry me and you to the Promised Land.”
If you are able to plan out your funeral, then do it in faith, and do it for God’s glory and as a testimony to the grace of God in your life. By faith, believe that God will be with you in your dying and death, and that He will use your “last words” to bring Him glory!
2. Your funeral arrangements should include a public service.
If you want to get the last word in, and you want that word to be about Jesus Christ, then you should take advantage of your own funeral/memorial service to do so! Remember what Ecc. 7:2 tells us: “It’s better to go to a funeral than to a party, for death is the end of every person, and the living should take this to heart.” A funeral is one of the best places for people to come face to face with their own mortality, and to consider where they are going to spend eternity, and therefore you want to make sure they have that unique opportunity at your funeral, right?
Now some opt for a funeral service (with the body present), usually within a few days of the death. Others choose a memorial service (usually a week or two after a private service for the family, without the body there.) Both are legitimate options which allow others to grief, to celebrate the grace of God in the life of the deceased, and to hear the gospel proclaimed.
So… plan for some kind of public service. It’s worth the time and expense.
3. Your funeral arrangements should reflect the full scope of the Scriptures.
There are a number of decisions that need to be made with regards to our death: do you have a funeral or a memorial service? Do you wish to be cremated or buried? What should happen to your remains? Should you donate certain body parts to medicine, to help someone else, and what about giving your body to science, for research? In all these matters, our plans should continually reflect the full scope of the Scriptures, including such passages such as Gen. 23 and 50 (burials and funerals); John 11 and 1 Cor. 15 (death and resurrection); Hebrews 11 (how your faith in God fits into the end of your life); and Rev. 21-22 (the future joy of eternity with the Lord).
I realize this may be a tough area to discuss, because of what we may have already done for our deceased parents, but, Lord willing, we’ll look at it a bit next Sunday, so be prepared!
Bottom Line: Don’t do what everyone else does (Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world” – think about the old Hindu practice of Sati, whereby the widow would kill herself to honor her dead husband!); instead, think Biblically about your final plans.
Third, your funeral arrangements should be evangelistically expressive.
Let’s assume that at your funeral and burial there will be at least some family and friends who don’t have a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Okay? So, what do you want them to witness? What do you want them to hear and see? Shouldn’t your desire be that your last words to them are gospel-marinated, Christ-centered, and God-glorifying?
As you read what Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph planned for, you see that they wanted their burials to be a testimony that they had believed God’s promises. They gave clear directions to their sons, to carry this testimony down to successive generations… even to us today!
One of the most moving experiences Lynn and I had when we visit Israel for 10 days was our trip to the city of Hebron. There you can visit the Tombs of the Patriarchs, the burial site where the remains of Abraham/Sarah, Isaac/Rebekah, and of Jacob have been kept for almost 4,000 years! And you can almost hear the Patriarchs shouting joyfully from heaven, “God is faithful! He not only brought our people back into the land, after 400 years of oppression in Egypt, but He has also blessed all the nations through our descendant, Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham… and you Christians visiting here today are the recipients of His covenant blessings!”
That burial site is tomb of faith, declaring that God’s promises are true and faithful. They remind us that He will be our God in our death, our burial, and our resurrection, even as He has been in our lives, for all these decades. Will your funeral and gravesite be evangelistically expressive?
May all of our final arrangements be clearly communicated, Biblically based, and evangelistically expressive, for the honor and praise of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Resurrection and the Life. Amen!
Phil.1:20 “That Christ would be exalted in my body whether by life or by death.”