Have you seen the movie The Dig? Melanie and I saw the story of the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon burial site at Sutton Hoo. The deceased was buried in a large ship with his armor and beautiful gold art work and coins. Those who buried him dragged the ship on logs a long way from the river below. Perhaps a king, the person buried there was, without question, an important person in the Anglo-Saxon world.
Generations of Abraham’s family were buried in the cave at Machpelah which he purchased from Ephron the Hittite. So when Jacob died, they did not bury him in Egypt but took his body back to the family burial ground. Similarly, Joseph made his family promise to take him back and bury him in Canaan. When he died the Egyptians embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt. Thinking about the pyramids, we may surmise that the burial ground for the Prime Minister of Egypt would have been amazing. But before long, a Pharaoh arose to whom Joseph meant nothing.
Sociologists used to say that we would be remembered only by a few generations of our family. Increasing longevity means our families may get to know their great grandparents. Perhaps because my parents married young, my dad now has ten great-grandchildren at the age of 81. He makes it a point to get to know each one.
Did Joseph’s descendants fulfill his wishes? Joshua 24:32 tells us after the Israelites fled Egypt at the Passover, crossed the Red Sea and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they finally buried Joseph’s bones in Shechem. Going out on a limb, I think his burial was probably not as impressive as the pyramids in Egypt.
Joseph’s story may make us wonder, “Who will remember us?” Even more important, perhaps, “For what will we be remembered?” C. T. Studd’s words ring true for me today: “Only one life. ‘twill soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.” What will we do for Christ today? When future generations have forgotten us, our work for Christ will last for all eternity. Isn’t that better by far than a burial boat?