Here’s an odd one. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for a long, long time. God does these miraculous things, culminating in the death of every firstborn child in Egypt who’s not in a house covered by lamb’s blood. Pharaoh has finally had enough, “Quick!” he shouts, “Get out of here now! Leave this country!”
So the Israelites pack up as quickly as they can to leave before Pharaoh changes his mind. And then this odd statement appears, “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.”
Seriously? Bones? We’re kinda in a rush here!
Well, they’re not just any bones. It’s not like they’re just loose bones lying around. They’re in a mummy case.
They were the bones of Joseph. The one who foresaw the coming famine. The one whom Pharaoh put as second-in-command to make preparations for the famine. The one who saved the Israelites from starvation. That Joseph. Just before he died he made his family take an oath that when they left Egypt, they would take his bones with them (Genesis 50:25-26).
They took the oath. And for the next 430 years someone had to watch over the bones. Through about twelve generations, from father to son, from son to grandson, from grandson to great-grandson, the oath was passed: “Guard these bones. When we leave, the bones go with us.”
So when they left Egypt, Moses took the bones with him. But then the Israelites sinned and had to wander in the wilderness for another 40 years. Another whole generation died, and still the oath was passed: “Guard these bones.”
The Israelites finally re-entered their home land, but had to defeat their enemies that had taken possession of their land while they were in Egypt. For about 30 years the Israelites fought. And still the oath was passed: “Guard these bones.”
Finally as a postscript to Joshua’s account we see Joseph’s bones being buried in Shechem, nearly 500 years after Joseph died!
For 500 years they kept the oath; they guarded the bones.
Do you realize that the way you are living today could be the answer to a 500-year-old prayer? Just like the Israelites who kept their eyes on God, you and I must live today with a purpose and with a mission. When we live godly lives, we are guarding the bones of prayers that were prayed, the bones of petitions that were made, the bones of oaths that were requested and honored.
What are you doing today to guard the bones of your ancestor’s prayers?