Bullets and Bones

090402DodgeBootHillSigns-26e“You never know what to live for today, until you know what you would take a bullet for tomorrow.”

Weeks have a tendency to fill up and fly by.  Hours of freedom and relaxation get shrunk down into minutes and minutes become seconds.  A week without plans, gets filled with everything imaginable.  Seasons of life go by in fast forward and years rush by.  Time has a way of speeding along and the bystander is powerless to stop its moment and trajectory.

Hunters have “woods time”.  It is a documented fact (used in the loosest sense of the term) that time moves slower in the deer woods.  Deer don’t run on schedules, attend meetings, or rush to appointments.  They move at their own pace and show up (sometimes) in their own time.  The same can be true of horses.  The time it takes a horse to learn something new or master an obstacle isn’t set in stone.  Some horses have better minds, more athleticism, or better conformation, that makes picking up new skills and training easier.  To put a deadline on that is to handicap the horse, rush the process, and stress the trainer.

In the fast paced American culture, where time is money, the speed limit is 5 above posted, and the 3g internet is too time-consuming, living life at a deliberate pace is a battle that was lost long ago.  Speed is dictated by scope.  A narrow-scope of life, living to get through the next day, hour, minute, causes hurry and stress.   But a life live with a wide-scope, a larger view, a higher vantage point, keeps the end in mind and prioritizes the important.  The quote at top was by Mark Scott during a sermon to middle school students about their legacy.  Legacy is taking a wider scope.  Legacy is determined by thinking about the future, now.  I often wonder what the legacy I leave will look like.  I hope mine is like Joseph’s.

Because of the way Joseph lived his life, he left a legacy that lived well beyond his children and his children’s children.  To the point that he shows up in an event that he really had no part in.

Exodus 13.19 breaks into the story of the release of the Hebrews by adding this:

Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath.  He had said, ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.’

Joseph’s life was marked with being faithful to God, providing hope to his people, and a giving a future to his offspring.  He saved his family from drought, starvation, anonymity, and alienation.  Just before his death he gave them hope for a future.  “God will surely come to your aid…”, Joseph reminded them (Gen. 50.24).  The hebrew word paqad is doubled in this phrase to give its meaning.  It gives the sense that God has already come to the assistance of the Hebrews [paqod in the qal perfect sense]…but hasn’t completed the action yet [yipqod in imperfect].  Joseph is taking a wide angle view of life, telling his lineage of God’s working already and in the future, especially as it pertains to the oppression and the Exodus.

Looking at Exodus, the of doubling the word paqad, showing God’s interest and action on behalf of the Hebrews, appears another time.  Sandwiched between Joseph’s words on his deathbed in Genes 50 and his quote during the Exodus, God speaks to Moses.  While the Hebrews are suffering in Egypt, God tells Moses, in the desert from the burning bush: “…I have watched over you and have seen [paqod paqad] what has been done to you in Egypt.” (Ex. 3.16)

At the lowest point of the story of the Oppression in Egypt, as the chosen deliverer is wasting away as a shepherd in the desert and the people are toiling under ruthless rulership, God reminds them that he has “watched and seen”.  He is acting and will act.  He is aiding and will aid.

And when God acts, like Joseph was sure He would, he wanted to make sure he went with his people, out of Egypt to home.  Its one thing to ask it to done (Genesis 50.24) but its another to have a people centuries later, to whom you are a distant memory, follow the request (Exodus 13.19).

So as they carried their plunder (Exodus 12.36), their armament (Ex. 13.18), they carried  the bones of Joseph (Exodus 13.19); an honor and testimony to a faithful and hopeful legacy.  A legacy that took care of his family, was faithful to his God, and was diligent in the Lord’s work.  Joseph’s wide-view of what God was doing cemented his place in the train of people leaving Egypt.  A legacy like Joseph’s, one that lives well beyond his generation, begs for a bigger-scope of life.

So what legacy are you leaving?  What will your great-to-the-8th grand kids hear about you?   Is there something that needs to change today, to reserve your place, to change your legacy?  I know some of my actions and priorities need some tweaking.  My family and wife needs more of my priority time, my students need a more gracious and consistent mentor, and my quiet times need more depth and devotion.  A few years back I wrote an Obituary for myself.  It was an attempt to keep me on track, change my actions daily, and live with the end in mind.  (I have attached my obit here Travis Long–Obituary).  It was a great chance for self-reflection.  If you have some free time I would suggest you take a second and write some things down…and then wait many, many years for it to be printed.

These are things that I say I would take a bullet for tomorrow, now its getting me to change, today.

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