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Taking this incident, with the New Testament commentary upon it, it leads us to a truth which we often lose sight of, but which is indispensable if we would understand the relations of the earlier and the later days.
I. Faith is always the same though knowledge varies. There is a vast difference between a man's creed and a man's faith. The one may vary, does vary within very wide limits; the other remains the same. It is difficult to decide how much Joseph's gospel contained. Even taking the widest possible view of the patriarchal creed, what a crude outline it looks beside ours! Can there be anything in common between us? Yes, as I said, faith is one thing, creed is another. Joseph and his ancestors were joined to God by the very same bond that unites us to Him. There has never been but one path of life: 'They trusted God and were lightened, and their faces were not ashamed'. In that old covenant the one thing needful was trust in the living Jehovah. In the new the one thing needful is the very same emotion, directed to the very same Lord manifested now and incarnate in the Divine Son, our Saviour.
II. Faith has its noblest office in detaching from the present. All his life long from the day of his captivity Joseph was an Egyptian in outward seeming. He filled his place at Pharaoh's court, but his dying words open a window in his soul, and betray how little he had felt that he belonged to the order of things in the midst of which he had been content to live. Dying, he said, 'Carry my bones up from hence'. Therefore we may be sure that, living, the hope of the inheritance must have been buried in his heart as a hidden light and made him an alien everywhere but on its blessed soil.
And faith will always produce just such effects. If the unseen is ever to rule in men's lives, it must become not only an object for certain knowledge, but also for ardent wishes. It must cease to be doubtful, and must seem infinitely desirable.
III. Faith makes men energetic in the duties of the present. Take this story of Joseph as giving us a true view of the effect on present action of faith in, and longing for, God's future.
He was, as I said, a true Hebrew all his days. But that did not make him run away from Pharaoh's service. He lived by hope, and that made him the better worker in the passing moment, and kept him tugging away all his life at the oar.
IV. The one thing which saves this life from being contemptible is the thought of another. It is the horizon that gives dignity to the foreground. A picture without sky has no glory. This present, unless we see gleaming beyond it the eternal calm of the heavens, above the tossing tree-tops with withering leaves, and the smoky chimneys, is a poor thing for our eyes to gaze at, or our hearts to love, or our hands to toil on. But when we see that all paths lead to heaven, and that our eternity is affected by our acts in time, then it is blessed to gaze, it is possible to love the earthly shadows of the uncreated beauty, it is worth while to work.
A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, p. 130.
References. L. 25. A. Maclaren, Exposition of Holy Scripture Genesis, p. 311. L. 25. A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, p. 130. L. 26. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 370. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Genesis, p. 328.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Genesis 50". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Seventh Sunday after Easter