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March 14 Today’s Reading: — Joshua 23-Judges 1
Buried in Shechem
The children of Israel kept Joseph’s bones for two hundred years, carrying them through all their journeys, even in the midst of battle after battle. They brought Joseph’s bones out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, through the forty years of their wilderness wanderings, through the Jordan, and buried his bones in Shechem. What a funeral service that must have been! They did this to honor Joseph, burying him in the earth in anticipation of the resurrection, just as Joseph had charged them to do before his death (Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19). — “The memory of the just is blessed” (Psalm 10:7).
Just as believers are buried with Christ in the watery grave of baptism in anticipation of the resurrection, we bury the bodies of our brothers and sisters in the earth in hope of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). By this means, we honor the memory of the righteous.
Burial or Cremation
I am often asked, “Should a believer be cremated, or buried?” While the Scriptures do not give any commandment, they do, in my opinion, clearly indicate that the burial of our bodies is most consistent with the faith of the gospel. Our Lord was buried in the earth; and we confess our Savior and our faith in him by a burial in believer’s baptism. Clearly, there is a connection between burial and our faith in Christ.
God the Holy Spirit tells us in Hebrews 11 that Joseph made his brethren swear to carry his bones out of Egypt by faith, Moses carried his bones out of Egypt by faith; and Joshua buried his bones in Canaan by faith. Was this not an indication of the way believers ought to honor the dead bodies of those the Lord has taken to glory?
Moses and Joseph’s Bones
Why does the Spirit of God tell us that Moses carried Joseph’s bones out of Egypt? It is certain that Moses did not personally, physically carry that coffin containing Joseph’s bones out of Egypt. Yet, God declares that the carrying of Joseph’s bones out of Egypt was specifically the work of Moses. Why? Moses represented the law of God. Joseph was typical of our Lord Jesus Christ who was raised from the dead, because the law being satisfied, death had no more claim upon him. Joseph also represented God’s elect who have been brought out of the bondage of sin and death, because God’s holy law has no claim upon us, since Christ has put away our sin by the sacrifice of himself (1 Peter 4:1-2).
Joshua and Joseph’s Bones
But Moses, the law, could never give Joseph and Israel the possession of the land of Canaan. That was a work that had to be done by Joshua. Joseph’s bones were buried in Canaan with Joshua’s, after the Lord God fulfilled every promise he had made to Abraham and the nation of Israel concerning that land (Joshua 24:29-32). So it shall be with you and me. As Joshua brought Joseph’s bones into Canaan and laid him to rest with himself in the land of promise, so the Lord Jesus Christ, our great Joshua, shall give us rest in the land of God’s promise (Hebrews 4:1-1). When I leave this body of flesh, it shall be buried in the earth with my Redeemer to await the resurrection, testifying to all who see my corpse lowered into the earth, “This man believed in the Son of God, who is the Resurrection and the Life, and the sure resurrection of the dead at his glorious advent.”