The Gathering of the Clan
September 28th, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
THE GATHERING OF THE CLAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Genesis , 50
9-28-58 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Gathering of the Clan. It is a message of the death of Israel, Jacob, of the death of Joseph his son; it is a message of the closing chapters in Genesis. Now you can easily follow the sermon if you will turn to the forty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis. The sermon is based on the last two chapters of the first book in the Bible, Genesis and Genesis 50.
Last Sunday morning at this early morning hour, we spoke on the passage in Genesis :8-10. The title of that message was Until Shiloh Come. Joseph made three visits to his father. The first visit, that is, as his father reached the end of his life, the first visit was when Israel made Joseph swear to him that he would not be buried in the land of Egypt, but that Joseph would carry his father’s remains back to Canaan, and bury him in Machpelah [Genesis 47:29-30]. In the second visit of Joseph to his father, the governor of Egypt brought to Israel his two sons; and there Israel bestowed upon Joseph the birthright. He received a double portion in Israel [Genesis 48:14-20]. And Israel took Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, and made them as his own [Genesis 48:5]. That is, Joseph would have two tribes in Israel, a double portion [Genesis 48:5-20], what 1 Chronicles 5:1 calls "the birthright."
Now, the third and last visit of Joseph to Israel, he no longer comes as a governor or as one boy, but he stands around the dying bed of the patriarch as one out of twelve strong bearded men [Genesis :1-28]. And Israel begins at the eldest, he begins with Reuben, then goes to the second one, Simeon, then to the third one, Levi, then to the fourth one, Judah [Genesis :1-11], and so on down until he comes to the youngest, Benjamin [Genesis :12-28]. And he speaks to each one of those twelve boys, and bestows upon them their reward or their blame; and he outlines their destiny. The thing that makes that so awe-inspiring to us is this: Joseph has received the birthright [Genesis 48:14-20], but the blessing is yet to be bestowed. Which one of those boys is to receive the blessing that in him should all the families of the earth be blessed? It was given to Abraham [Genesis 21:12], it was given to Isaac [Genesis 22:18], it was given to Israel [Genesis 28:13-14], and now Israel is to bestow it upon one of those twelve sons. Reuben is rejected, Simeon and Levi are rejected [Genesis :1-7], and it is bestowed upon the fourth son, Judah [Genesis :8-12]. And Israel speaks of that blessing in these far-famed and prophetic words:
Judah, Praise, Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.
So there, almost two thousand years before Christ, Israel points to Judah and says, Judah, Judah, receives the blessing; of him shall that One come whose right it is to be King over all the earth and Lord over all mankind [Genesis :10]. And he prophesies: "Judah shall have a government; Judah shall remain intact until this holy promise is fulfilled." Other tribes may be wasted and dispersed, other clans and families may be lost; but Judah will have a government until Shiloh come [Genesis :10]. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver, a legislator, from between his feet, until Shiloh come." And that was all the time that I had for last Sunday morning’s message. Now we pick it up from there.
"And unto Him, unto Him shall the gathering of the people be"; unto that Shiloh, unto that glorious King, unto that anointed Savior, unto that Son of God Himself, "unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" [Genesis :10]. It refers to all the peoples, all of them: the Jew and the Gentile, the Roman and the provincial, the Greek and the barbarian, the Scythian and the Gaul, the favored nation and the isles of the sea. His great standard is lifted high, and around that cross shall the gathering of the peoples be.
That’s our Great Commission in the earth: we are to preach Christ [Matthew 28:19-20]. And when we lift up our Lord, the saved of all the earth, the believing of all the earth, the elect, the accepted of all the earth, crowd unto Him, press unto Him, reach forward unto Him, look unto Him. When you preach the gospel of the Son of God, those who are called, those who are elected, those who are quickened, find their hearts flowing unto Him. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" [John 10:27]. Preaching Christ, lifting up Christ, you have a great division among the people. There are those who pass Him by, whose ears are heavy, whose hearts are hardened; they do not respond, they do not feel, they do not see, they do not understand. But wherever Christ is preached, there are some who are quickened, some who listen, some who turn, some who believe, some who accept, some who are saved. That great uplifted standard is the call of God to His people in the earth: "And unto Him shall the gathering of the people be."
If in a great heap of dust you had many iron, steel filings, how would you ever, ever separate them? Very simply: bring to bear upon the heat a great magnet, and those iron, steel filings immediately will leap toward the magnet. So it is in the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. There are dust particles, there are bits of clay, there are human beings who are not attracted at all; but the elect, the chosen of God, the people of the Lord immediately will find themselves strangely quickened and their hearts strangely warmed when you lift up the great sign of the Son of God, when you preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. These things are in the soul, they’re in the heart, and they’re placed there by the elective purpose of Almighty God.
I do not think I could illustrate it more beautifully or actually than the great wild mallard duck that was caught by a farmer in Louisiana, and staked out on his pond with the domestic ducks of the farm. And the following springtime, when those great mallards began to pass over, flying to the north, they called from the sky. When they did so, those domestic ducks never heard, paid no attention, swimming around on the little pond. But that mallard, staked down with those domestic ducks, heard the call from heaven, lifted up his head, saw those great flocks going over, flying north. He answered the call, spread out his wings, made one great attempt, was pulled back; another attempt, the stake held him; another attempt, broke the cord, flew away with his own toward the north. "Unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be" [Genesis :10]. Preach the gospel of the Son of God. There are many dust particles: "I’d rather see a show, I’d rather go to the game, I’d rather be on the fishing bank, I’d rather be at home entertaining." But there are always those in whose hearts the quickening power of God calls to the soul, and they lift up their heads: their redemption draweth nigh [Luke 21:28]. "Unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be" [Genesis :10].
How to win the masses, men of every birth
For an answer Jesus gave the key:
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth,
Will draw all men unto Me
["Lift Him Up," Johnson Oatman, 1903]
"Unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be." Let us draw nigh, let us draw nigh, as in Genesis 18 it says, "And Abraham drew nigh unto the Lord" [Genesis 18:23]; as it says in Leviticus 9, "And all Israel drew nigh and stood before the Lord" [Leviticus 9:5]; as it says in Luke 15:1, "Then drew nigh unto Him all the publicans and sinners for to hear Him"; let you and I, let us draw nigh to the Lord. Let us bring unto Him our families, our children, our friends and neighbors, let us bring this great city. He is the great gatherer; "Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" [Genesis :10].
That beautiful, beautiful verse in Isaiah 40: "O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" [Isaiah 40:9]. Then do you remember what follows? "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" [Isaiah 40:11]. The great gatherer, "Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" [Genesis :10]. Bring to Him the little child, the family, all who are in the love and mercy and circle of our homes and prayers, bring them unto Jesus.
"Unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be" [Genesis :10]. And it refers ultimately and by and by to the great assize, to the final rendezvous with Almighty God, when the trumpet shall sound, and the midnight air shall be rent asunder, when the dead in the land and the earth, when the dead from the depths of the sea are called before Him, gather ye, gather ye, gather ye those who are drowned in the flood, the myriads and the hosts of Egypt, of Chaldea, of Nineveh, of Babylon, of ancient Rome and Greece, of China, of India, of all the millions who have ever lived; gather ye, gather ye, the great day of the Lord has come. "And unto Him shall the gathering of the peoples be." Before the bema, those who are saved, standing in the presence of their God and Savior, who no longer is the Judge of wrath and condemnation but is our elder Brother, bestowing upon us the fruit and the rewards of our lives, what we have sought to do, tried to do, for Him [1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. Then, at the end of an awful time of trouble and tribulation, the gathering of the peoples before the great white throne: these who are lost and sent away into everlasting night and perdition [Revelation 20:11-15]. Gather ye, gather ye; "Unto Him shall the gathering of the people be."
O Lord, that in that bright number I might myself – and you who listen – that we might join; up to glory, up to God, loving, serving, following our great Savior. "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" [Genesis :10].
Then when Israel had finished that prophecy, he closed it with an appeal:
And he charged them and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite for a possession of a burial place.
There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife; and there I buried Leah.
The purchase of the field of the cave that is therein was from the children of Heth.
And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.
Reading from the Word of God, there are three great visions that came to this prophet Israel. The first vision was the city of God. As he grew old, and as the years wasted life away, he came to see that he himself would never inherit the land. He confessed to be a stranger and a pilgrim in the earth. When he spake to Pharaoh, he said, "I am a pilgrim, a stranger" [Genesis 47:9]. And in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, this eloquent preacher of the gospel of the Son of God speaks of that marvelous vision:
By faith, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the promise; For he and they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God . . . They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth, and declare plainly that they seek a country . . . They desire a better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.
That’s the first vision: lifting up his eyes to the promise of God, the ultimate home of the soul.
Now I want you to notice how he does it. "I am to be gathered unto my people" [Genesis :29]. How different that is from us. These melancholy questions that Christian people ask: "Shall we know one another in heaven?" "What about purgatory?" "What do you think of the intermediate state?" "Do we go immediately to be with the Lord?" Oh, those questions are so burdensome, they are so filled with doubt and wonder; how different these who are in the Holy Scriptures, who die in the faith of the Lord. "I am to be gathered unto my people." No intermediate state with him, no wondering shall we know one another with him, nor with any of the Bible, anywhere in it. "I am the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob"; and God is not the God of the dead, but of the living [Mark 12:26-27]. Not God of dead mummies, not God of dust and corruption, but God of those who live unto Him. "I am to be gathered unto my people" [Genesis :29].
In the passage that we read this morning, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord; for we know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" [2 Corinthians 5:1-8]. How many times are we persuaded that we close our eyes to this warm, sun-filled, happy world, and open it, open our eyes on the dread and darkness and death of the grave and of corruption and decay? That is anti-Christian, anti-Bible, anti-God, anti-everything that the Book reveals. When we close our eyes upon this world, we open our eyes upon the more glorious world that is to come. We do not leave the warm fellowship of these who love us here, to fall into the cold chilling circle of these who are unknown to us, and to whom we are unknown. "I am to be gathered unto my people, my people, my God" [Genesis :29].
These familiar friends, these familiar faces, these familiar souls and spirits, I am not able to describe it; I cannot enter into it. God hath hid it from us. But all of those wonderful things that even the Lord Himself hath exhausted in preparing for our reception, God hath done it. "I am to be gathered unto my people," Abraham, and Sarah, and Isaac, and Rebekah, his father and his mother, to Leah, to Rachel.
Now preacher, you sure fall into the fire there. Unto Leah and unto Rachel, "I show you a mystery"; I can’t explain marriage in the life that is to come, I cannot explain how life can be without sex, male, female, I do not enter into that, I cannot understand that. But God says we’re going to be there like the angels [Matthew 22:30]. Michael is somebody. Gabriel is somebody. Jesus is somebody. All of us are going to be somebody, somebody beloved, somebody known, somebody you. I cannot understand it when we’re not male and female; that’s beyond my comprehension. But God is able. We will not lose anything by losing our sexual designation; that I am a man, you are a woman. We will not lose anything by the loss of these procreative faculties, not lose anything. But God shall give us all things that are rich, that are eternal, that are imperishable. We’re going to be there by families. How could you have a family without male and female? I’m not able to explain. I don’t know. I cannot say it. All I know is, mother will be mother, father will be father, friend will be friend, child will be child, we’ll all be there as we are, though all of our sexual procreative faculties are taken away from us. I don’t understand it, I don’t have to understand it; God says it will be wonderful that way, beautiful that way, glorious that way. And that’s enough. "I am to be gathered unto my people" [Genesis :29]. And he meant that to be the beautiful fellowship, the gathering of the clan, the unbroken family circle in the city of God.
Now the third thing is this: he made a request upon his death that he be buried back in the land of Canaan [Genesis :29-32]. Israel had been in Egypt seventeen years [Genesis 47:28]. He looked upon those pyramids; they were ancient even in Jacob’s time. He looked upon those glorious monuments and mausoleums and obelisks; yet when he died he said, "Take me back, take me back, bury me in the cave in the field of Machpelah, where Abraham and Sarah, where Rebekah and Isaac, where I buried Leah, take me back to Canaan" [Genesis :29-32]. I wonder why? Because God said, "And unto thy seed shall it be a possession forever" [Genesis 35:12]. He didn’t want to be buried in Egypt; he wanted to be buried in Canaan, that God had given to him and to his seed forever and forever. And they lie there today, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah, holding that land in fee against the time when God shall give it to them forever and forever.
For four thousand years they have lain there, their dust unmolested. Passing over them have swept the armies and the civilizations of the world: the Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Assyrian, the Grecian, the Roman, the Saracen, the Mohammedan; and the Mohammedan holds it today. But in fee, those still, quiet bodies now dust, hold it in fee against the day when God shall give that land for an eternal possession to the children of Israel. "Bury me there, bury me there" [Genesis :29-32]. Someday, some glorious day, some resurrection day, his people shall inherit and possess that land forever and forever [Genesis 35:12].
Now we come to the closing of the book:
And Joseph dwelt in Egypt –
Genesis 50:22 –
And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father’s house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. And Joseph saw Ephraim’s children of the third generation: the children also of the successors, Machir the son of Manasseh, they were brought up on Joseph’s knees. And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which He sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old, and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Now let me condense, and you listen so intently. Let me condense in five minutes here what we ought to take thirty minutes to speak of.
There is the shadow of a great eclipse coming. In the first part of the fiftieth chapter of the Book of Genesis is recounted the funeral of Israel, of Jacob. Jacob died in the zenith of the power of Joseph. And just because Jacob was the father of Joseph, and for no other reason at all, just because he was Joseph’s father, there was voted unto Israel a funeral period of lamentation only two days less than that for a king: three score and ten days they mourned for him in Egypt [Genesis 50:3]. And that three hundred mile journey from Egypt to Machpelah was one of the most impressive funeral processions in the history of this world, just because Jacob was the father of Joseph. Do you notice, when Joseph dies, no notice is taken of his death in Egypt? No elaborate obsequies are voted out of the public treasury, no pyramid placed at his disposal, no obelisk reared in the honor of his name, no mention made, nothing said; the shadow of a dark, dark night is descending. And when Joseph dies, the words that he speak seem to be words of comfort: "God will surely visit you" [Genesis 50:24-25]; and again, "God will surely visit you." It’s beginning to fall; the night’s beginning to come. The eclipse is beginning to overshadow the sun.
I wonder how it began. Was it a murmuring? Was it an envy? Was it a jealousy? I do not know. It does not say. But when Joseph came to die, he saw that dark sinister handwriting on the wall. And that was in keeping with that vision three hundred years before, when God revealed to Abraham, "Thy people shall serve a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and they shall be afflicted four hundred years" [Genesis 15:13]. And in the horror of that darkness, when the sun went down, behold, between those pieces of sacrifice, there passed a smoking furnace, four hundred years, but also, a burning lamp; the light of the presence of God [Genesis 15:17]. Do you see? In Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God," do you see how it closes? "And they put him in a coffin in Egypt" [Genesis 50:26]. What a contrast. "In the beginning God," and now the last words, "And he was put in a coffin in Egypt." God is not done. God is not through. This story isn’t finished. One of the strange and remarkable things of Scripture: are the only words of Joseph that the Holy Spirit chose to quote in subsequent Scripture, these words: "Ye shall carry up my bones from hence. God shall visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence" [Genesis 50:25]. And in Exodus, "They carefully took up the bones of Joseph" [Exodus 13:19]; and in Joshua, "And they buried them in Shechem, in the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son, Joseph" [Joshua 24:32]. God is not done yet.
Buried him in a casket in Hillcrest Cemetery, buried him in a casket at Oakland Cemetery, buried him in a vault at Hillcrest Cemetery, buried him in the little country cemetery, laid him to rest out there on the plains, or underneath a great oak tree. And he died, and they put him in a coffin in Egypt [Genesis 50:26]. But God’s not done yet. God’s not done yet. The story’s not finished yet. We stand kind of in the midst.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
["God Moves in a Mysterious Way," William Cowper, 1774]
Tears, and heartache, and separation, and the shadow of a darkness, and the coming of an eclipse, and suffering, and travail, and tribulation, and in a coffin in Egypt; but He is not done yet. God is not finished yet. Wait upon the Lord. Look unto Him. "And by faith he gave commandment concerning his bones" [Hebrews 11:22].
Oh! How it is God beckons us all, beckons us all: lift up your heads, lift up your hearts; God is calling us all.
Now, while we sing this stanza, somebody to put his faith in the keeping of Christ, somebody to put his life in the church, while we make appeal, while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? You, trusting Jesus as Savior; you, coming, a family, one, however God shall say the word, while we make appeal, while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? While all of us sing the song together.