By Russ Ramsey
The book of Genesis ends with two graves. By the look of the chapters leading up to this point, it would have been easy to imagine this book ending with many more—Joseph repaying his brothers for their treachery against him, especially after his father Jacob died. But no. Joseph chose kindness. Why? Because he came from somewhere, and that mattered.
A few years ago, I went back to my hometown to visit to my grandfather’s grave. As I passed the rows of headstones, a strange grief came over me. It wasn’t a sorrow for my grandfather. It was a homesickness triggered by the names carved in the granite markers—names as common to me as Smith or Johnson, but unique to rural Indiana: Tragesser, Ribperger, Tebbe, and Schmidt. I came from somewhere. Those were my people.
Two graves. Jacob and Joseph, are laid to rest. When Jacob dies, his body is embalmed like Egyptian royalty, an honor given because of what his son Joseph meant to Egypt. But Jacob didn’t want to be interred in Egypt. He wanted his body to be laid to rest in the cave at Machpelah, where his grandfather Abraham buried his beloved Sarah. Jacob wanted his bones to lie with his family.
Let’s take a minute to go back and remember how this book began. It began with our first parents walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day. But then they rebelled against God and the bottom fell out. Death entered, waters covered the earth, and people scattered. But just when it seemed the world would be lost to chaos, God sent Abraham and Sarah out to the land the Lord had promised to give them. Abraham’s first and only official acquisition of that land was this cave where he buried his wife.
Now Jacob’s children were to carry his body back to that place. The story is beautiful and sad, and yet filled with hope because Jacob’s request is born out of a conviction that he belongs someplace, that he comes from somewhere. Abraham’s grave is a symbol of belonging. It binds his descendants together in life and in death.
The book of Genesis was written to let us know we come from somewhere, and we belong to Someone. Death entered the world early, but this book spins us forward into a story where light pushes back the darkness, where life carries on beyond the grave, and where God claims a people who have rejected Him.
We come from somewhere. The promise of life in Christ is that we, too, will one day be gathered with our forefathers. The difference is that we will not be gathered to them in death, but in life, and for eternity.
Written by Russ Ramsey