Robert Jeffress - A Parent's Greatest Legacy
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. When you think about leaving a legacy, what comes to your mind? Maybe it's giving your children and grandchildren a solid financial foundation, through an inheritance, or establishing respect for your family name. Perhaps you long to accomplish something great that future generations will remember you by. As we conclude our study on the life of Joseph, we're going to discover the two greatest gifts any parent can leave their child or grandchild. My message is titled "A Parent's Greatest Legacy," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In his book, "Growing strong in the seasons of life," Chuck Swindoll recounts the true and tragic story of one family.
"It was late afternoon when the boat's engines sputtered, stalled, and refused to restart. Gallons of water surged into the craft, as it pitched on the sickening, six-foot swells. The five members of the Jagger family had done all they knew to do, but it wasn't enough. An exciting fishing trip was now a thing of horror. The boat was sinking, and they were going under. Grim-faced, George Jagger, his three sons, and his elderly father methodically tightened the buckles of their life jackets, tied themselves together with a rope, and slipped silently into a black and bolling Atlantic. George glanced at his watch, as the boat finally disappeared, 6:30 P.M. very little was said, they grew dark. First one boy, and then another, swallowed too much salt water, gagged, and strangled on the brine, as they fought to keep their heads up. The helpless father heard his sons one by one, then his dad, choke and drown. But George couldn't surrender. After eight nightmarish hours, he staggered onto the shore, still pulling the rope that bound him to the bodies of the other four. 'I realized they were all dead, my three boys and my father, but I guess I didn't want to accept it, so I kept swimming night long,' he later told reporters. 'my youngest boy, Clifford, was the first to go. I'd always taught our children not to fear death, because it was being with Jesus Christ'. Before cliff died, his dad heard him say, 'I'd rather be with Jesus than go on fighting'. In that vivid Atlantic memory, George Jagger had a chance to witness the impact of his 15 years as a father. His boys died quietly, with courage and dignity. Up to the very last minute, one by one, they modeled the truth passed on by their father. When the ultimate test was administered in an angry sea, they handed in perfect scores".
Fortunately, most of us will never have to witness a scene like that. But all of us who are parents at one point, we'll watch our children go through some adversity in their life. It may be an unexpected illness, an undeserved termination from a job, an unwanted divorce. But at that moment of adversity, our success or failures as parents will become evident to all. Have we imparted to our children the faith they need to see them through the storms of life? Have we paid enough attention to their spiritual development, so that they are strengthened by, rather than crushed by the adversities of life? Today, we're going to look at the greatest legacies we, as parents, can pass on to our children.
Today, we've come to our final study in the life of Joseph. And we're going to look at the account of the death of Joseph's father, Jacob, and the death of Joseph himself, and in those accounts learn what our greatest legacy is as a parent. If you have your Bibles today, turn to Genesis 47. Let's look first at the account of the death of his father, Jacob. Jacob illustrates leaving a legacy of spiritual growth for your children.
Now remember where we are in the story, Jacob and his other sons have moved to Egypt. They've reconciled with Joseph. Joseph has given him the most fertile land to dwell in, in Egypt, and now Jacob is about to die. Look at verse 27, "Now Israel," that's another name for Jacob, "Lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it, and were fruitful and became very numerous. Jacob lived in the land of Egypt for 17 years, so the length of Jacob's life was 147". He just about bankrupted the social security system in Egypt doing that. Verse 29, "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. But when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt, and bury me in their burial place'. And Joseph said, 'I will do is you have said'. He said, 'swear to me,' so Joseph swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship", underline that, "At the head of the bed".
You know, it's been my experience as a pastor that many times God gives people a premonition when they're going to die. Not all the time, but many times, perhaps, so we can get our affairs in order. Jacob knew he was about to die, and so he made his son promise him that he would not bury him in Egypt. That was a strange land, he wanted to be buried back with his forefathers in Canaan. And then notice the blessing that Jacob imparted to his children, but especially his grandchildren. Remember, Jacob thought he'd never see Joseph. He thought he was dead. He didn't know that Joseph was prospering in Egypt. And that in fact, during that time, Joseph had two sons, remember Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob had not yet been introduced to him.
So look at what happens in verse 8, "When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, 'who are these'? Joseph said to his father, 'they are my sons, whom God has given me here'. So he said, 'bring them to me, that I might bless them'. Jacob said to Joseph, 'I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has allowed me to see your children as well'". And then he did something that's going to seem very strange. Look at verse 13, "Joseph took both of them, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right, and brought them close to him. But Jacob stretched out his right hand, and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first born".
Let me explain what was going on here. Remember that he had not seen his grandchildren before. He was going to bless his favorite son, Joseph, but he chose to bless Joseph's children instead, Manasseh and Ephraim. The ideal was that Joseph would not receive a part of the land, and he didn't. His grandchildren would receive it instead. Levi was another one of Jacob's sons. He was the progenitor of the priestly tribe, so they didn't receive a part of the land either. So the way you come up with the 12 tribes of Israel is to include Manasseh and Ephraim in Joseph's place, and in levI's place, and that's how you come up with 12. Now look at Jacob's death. "Then Jacob," verse 21 of chapter 48, "Then Israel said to Joseph, 'behold, I'm about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers'". In verse 33 of Genesis 49, "When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew his feet into the bed. He breathed his last, and he was gathered to his people". Genesis 51, "Then after Jacob died, Joseph fell on his father's face, and wept over him and kissed him".
Those of you who have lost a husband, a wife, a child, a parent, you can enter into the emotion of this. To look in the face of the one you loved most in this world, and realize you will never see them again, not in this life anyway. There is a grieving that comes with that realization. After his father died, he obeyed what his father asked him to do. He asked Pharaoh for permission to bury his father in Canaan. And so those 70, what would be Israelites, left Egypt, and they marched back to Canaan to bury Jacob. Genesis 50:14 said, "After Joseph had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, he and his brothers, and all who had gone up with him to bury his father".
What legacy did Jacob leave for his children? He left for them a legacy of spiritual growth. No, listen to me carefully about this, Hebrews 11:21 gives us insight into what Jacob did with his children and grandchildren before he died. "By faith, Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped," there it is, "Leaning on the top of his staff". You'll find those same words in Genesis 47:31. "And he said, 'swear to me,' so Joseph swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed". The last thing Jacob's children and grandchildren saw him doing was worshiping God, worshiping God. Now look at Joseph's death. Joseph reminds us of a legacy of faith for your children and grandchildren, a faith, first of all, in the sovereignty of God for your past.
Look at verse 15, "When Joseph's brothers saw that their father Jacob was dead, they said, 'what if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and pays us back in full for all the wrong we did to him'"? Do you see what's going on here? As soon as their father dies, the brothers get together and say, "You know what? Maybe just maybe, all this forgiveness stuff that Joseph pretended to extend to us, maybe it was all an act. Maybe it was a ruse to satisfy our dad, and now that dear old dad is gone, maybe now Joseph is going to exact his revenge". And they all were convinced that's what was going on. So they came up with a scheme, look at verses 16 and 17, "So they said a message to their brother Joseph, saying, 'your father charged before he died saying, "Thus, you shall say to Joseph, please forgive, I beg you, the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong. And now please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father."'"
How did Joseph respond? Was he angry at what he knew was a false message they had manufactured? No, the end of verse 17, "And Joseph wept when they spoke to him". He was so grieved that they didn't believe his sincerity, that he really did want to be reconciled to them, that he really did want to forgive them. And then in one of the greatest passages of all the Old Testament, look at Genesis 50:19-20, "But Joseph said to them, 'do not be afraid, for am I not in God's place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive'".
Joseph said, "Yes, what you did to me was wrong. It was evil, but God's bigger than you are. Don't beat yourself up over what you did to me. God's bigger than you are. God took your evil, and he used it for good, to preserve many people alive. It's because of what you did that I ended up in Egypt, the prime minister of the country. It was because of what you did, that I was able to enact this program of stockpiling the grain, so that not only would you be kept alive, but all the Egyptians would be kept alive, and the entire world would be kept alive".
But it doesn't stop there. The good extended for thousands of years later. It was because of what the brothers did that Joseph was able to save the Israelite people. And over the next 400 years, that nation of Israel, while in in bondage in Egypt, would grow into a mighty nation of three million people, and Moses would lead them out of Egypt, back to the Promised Land. And through that nation of Israel, the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, would one day come and save us from our sin. All of that happened, all because of that evil that these brothers had committed against Joseph. "You meant it for evil, but God used it for good".
Parents, one of the greatest legacies you can leave your children is a faith in the sovereignty of God for their past. Instead of dwelling on adverse people who have hurt them, or adverse circumstances that have conspired against them, or even bad mistakes they've made, God is bigger than all of those things. God is bigger than your children's enemies. God is bigger than your children's circumstances. God is even bigger than your children's mistakes. He can take all things, and work them together for good to those who love him, and are called according to his purpose. That's the legacy of faith that Joseph left for his brothers and his children, a faith for the past. He also demonstrated for them a faith for the future. God will take care of his people.
Look at Genesis 50:24-25, "Joseph said to his brothers, 'I'm 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 an oath to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob'. 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'". Does that sound familiar to you? That's exactly what his dad had done. His dad had gathered Joseph and the family around, and said, "You can depend on God. God will take care of you, just don't let my remains stay here in Egypt". And now his son, Joseph is saying the same thing, "You can count on God, God will take care of you, just don't leave me here forever. When the time comes, move my bones and take them back to Canaan".
Joseph was modeling what he had seen, the way he had seen his father die. You know, both of my parents were Christians, and they taught me many wonderful truths while they were alive. But the greatest thing they both taught me was the way they faced death. My mom was 54 years old, my dad was 64, and interestingly, they died almost exactly the same way. They'd gone to the doctor because they weren't feeling well. The doctor told them, "You have inoperable cancer. You've got four months to live, get your affairs together". And we watched both of them die. We stood around their hospital bed, as they were about to meet the Lord. And they both said their own version of, "God will take care of you, you can count on him. Serve him with all of your heart".
That's what I remember most about my parents. And when the day comes for me to go onto my reward, I pray that I'll have that same faith and courage to demonstrate to my children and my grandchildren, "God will take care of you". Were they successful? Was Joseph successful in passing that message along? He told his children and grandchildren, "God will take care of you". And they passed that baton of faith to their children, and to their children, and on and on and on and on and on it went, until 400 years later, God raised up Moses, and look at this in Exodus 13:19, "And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, as he left Egypt, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, 'God will surely take care of you, and shall carry my bones from here with you'".
Yes, the baton of faith was successfully passed on. Nobody dropped it in 400 years of history. What about you? As your children and grandchildren remember you, will they remember a life that was marked by spiritual growth, and by a faith? A faith that would sustain their past, and care for them in the future? Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said, "What's important is not who my ancestors were. What's important is what my children and grandchildren will believe".