Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” … So Joseph died, being 110 years old.
That the Bible is filled with accounts of individuals’ deaths should cause each of us to confront the reality of our own eventual death. All of our days are limited. God has not chosen to inform us of the date of our demise, but the psalmist tells us that every day of our lives was written in God’s book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Joseph lived to be 110 years old—but nevertheless, like all of us, he had to come to terms with his mortality.
Joseph understood and accepted his death. Here was no raging against the dying of the light, to use the words of the poet Dylan Thomas, but rather what our Puritan forefathers would have called a “good death.” What is it that allows us to die well? A strong theology—a strong understanding of who God was and is. In the end, Joseph strengthened his faith by calling to mind evidence of God’s lifelong providential care to Him and His promises to His people. Because of his belief in God’s goodness, he could face death straight on. He wasn’t scared or selfish; he didn’t grasp at shadows or clutch at vain hopes. Instead, his words were brief and focused on his family and God. Such a response can only come from a view of the world framed by divine character and purpose.
Do we believe, as Joseph did, that God will deliver His people? Can we see evidence of this belief in our own lives? Have we looked back at God’s faithfulness and discovered that no matter what the distress or brokenness we’ve been through, we can say with the psalmist, “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (Psalm 62:7)?
It is good theology, not feelings, that will sustain us in life and comfort us as we wrestle with death. When difficult days come, it is then that we cling to what we know to be true. From Joseph and his life we can learn this amazing truth: the God who knit us together has ordered all of our steps in all of our days, and He weaves our lives into the great story of His sovereign fulfillment of His promises to His people. With faith in this God, we can face death singing:
With mercy and with judgment
My web of time He wove;
And aye, the dews of sorrow
Were lustered by His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided,
I’ll bless the heart that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.
1 “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” in In Country Sleep, And Other Poems (Dent, 1952)
2 Anne R. Cousin, “The Sands of Time Are Sinking” (1857).
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,