Sunday, 18 February 2001 00:00

The Kiss of Farewell

Genesis 50:1-14 (KJV)

And Joseph fell upon his father's face, and wept upon him, and kissed him. And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel. And forty days were fulfilled for him; for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed: and the Egyptians mourned for him three-score and ten days. And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again. And Pharaoh said, Go up and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear, And Joseph went up to bury his father: and with him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt. And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father's house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen. And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen: and it was a very great company. And they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond Jordan, and there they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation: and he made a mourning for his father seven days. And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abel-mizram, which is beyond Jordan. And his sons did unto him according as he commanded them: For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a burying place of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre. And Joseph returned into Egypt, he, and his brethren, and all that went up with him to bury his father, after he had buried his father.

This is the only instance in Scripture where a kiss is given to someone who has died. It is a tender moment of grief and farewell between Joseph and his father, Jacob, who has just expired. These 14 verses also comprise the longest description of a funeral in the Bible. There are many benefits in studying this text for both families who have lost loved ones and those who have not. Preparation is the vaccine for shock. What should we know?

  1. Grief is normal for the family... "Joseph fell upon his fathers face, and wept."
    When a loved one dies Christians are not "to sorrow as others who have no hope," (I Thessalonians 4:13), but it is excessive grief that is prohibited for those who trust in Christ. "The apostle's view is not to encourage a stoical apathy, but to forbid excessive and immoderate sorrow, and all the extravagant forms of it as seen in the Gentiles; who having no notion of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead had no hope of ever seeing their friends more... this drove them to downright madness; as to throw off their clothes, pluck off their hair, tear their flesh, and to cut themselves." (John Gill)
  2. Planning is helpful for the family... "And his sons did... as he commanded them."
    Have you ever thought about your own death? It seems to be Scriptural, not morbid, to make preparations. "I am too young to talk of such things!" No, as Bernard of Clairvaux said, "Death is oftentimes as near to the young man's back as it is to the old man's face." Jacob purchased his own grave, gave instructions about his funeral, and helped his family understand what they should do when he died. Jacob's family did as their father requested.
  3. Friends are essential to the family... "And there went with him... a very great company."
    Joseph's friends accompanied him to his father's burial place, and they mourned with him for several weeks. Friends are invaluable with both their presence and their empathy. As someone has said, "Christians may not see eye to eye, but they can walk arm in arm." I would urge you today to do your part in continuing your love and support to those in our church who have recently lost loved ones. The smallest acts of kindness are like drops of mercy to a heart that has been wounded with loss. Friends are essential.
  4. Death is beneficial to the family... "God meant it unto good."
    "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). When a person dies in Christ, his death is not a loss to him, but an incredible gain—literally "profit." However, when a Christian loved one dies, it is also "profitable" for his family.
    1. It gives us a clearer perspective... suddenly people, not riches, matter.
      "If rich men only knew when they died, how their relatives would scramble for their money, the worms for their bodes, and the devil for their souls, they would not be so anxious to save money." (William Tiptaft)
    2. It gives us a taste of mortality... "It is appointed unto man once to die... but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). Is your faith in Christ Jesus?
    3. It causes us to trust more in Christ... each day and at our time of death.

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