I will never forget sitting at the bedside of my friend’s brother when he died; the scene was one of the ordinary visited by the extraordinary. Three of us were talking quietly when we realized that Richard’s breathing was becoming more labored. We gathered around him, watching, waiting, and praying. When he took his last breath, it felt like a holy moment; the presence of God enveloped us in the midst of our tears over a wonderful man dying in his forties.
Many of the heroes of our faith experienced God’s faithfulness when they died. For instance, Jacob announced he would soon be “gathered to [his] people” (Gen. 49:29–33). Jacob’s son Joseph also announced his impending death: “I am about to die,” he said to his brothers while instructing them how to hold firm in their faith. He seems to be at peace, yet eager that his brothers trust the Lord (50:24).
None of us knows when or how we will breathe our last breath, but we can ask God to help us trust that He will be with us. We can believe the promise that Jesus will prepare a place for us in His Father’s house (John 14:2–3).
Lord God, Your dwelling place will be with Your people, and You will be our God, wiping away our tears and banishing death. May it be so!
The Lord will never abandon us, especially at the time of our death.
Genesis, the book of beginnings, concludes with important endings. At the beginning of chapter 50, we find one of the Old Testament’s greatest examples, Joseph, weeping over the death of his father, Jacob. The chapter ends with Joseph’s death and burial. In between, three key events take place. First, Joseph takes his father’s remains back to Canaan to their familial home. This marks Joseph’s first return to the land since the dark days of Genesis 37, when his brothers sold him into slavery. Second, Joseph reassures them of his love and forgiveness by affirming God’s purposes and his own desire to care for his brothers and their families (50:19–21). Third, Joseph, anticipating death, again reminds the Israelites of their proper home in Canaan by asking that they take his bones to be buried in the land of promise. These ideas prepare the way for the exodus—God’s eventual rescue of Israel from bondage in Egypt more than 400 years later.