When the children of Israel left Egypt, scripture says that they took the bones of Joseph with them as he had made their ancestors swear (see Exodus 13:19). As I was reading the story of Joseph, I had a really odd epiphany.
At Kadesh-Barnea, the children of Israel sent out the spies to investigate the Promised Land. If you’ll remember when the spies returned, ten of them gave a report of doom and despair (see Numbers 14). Only Joshua and Caleb gave good reports and encouraged the Israelites to take what was rightfully theirs. As we know, the Hebrews chose to believe the ten spies in direct disobedience to God (and really a slap in His face given what they had seen Him do in the previous year). Their punishment, then, was that they were to wander the desert for forty years. After the forty years, Joshua spent five years conquering the land of Canaan (See Joshua 14:7-10).
Now comes the weird thought that came to mind today. The children of Israel had to carry around the bones of Joseph forty years in a hot desert because of their disobedience. They eventually buried Joseph in Shechem after they had conquered their enemies and had been given their inheritance (see Joshua 24:32)
Think about that. They had to haul around a dead man in the desert for forty years because of disobedience! Children and grandchildren were born during this time, and I can imagine how odd it seemed to them when they would see a mummified corpse moving around with them. Can you imagine that conversation between father and son???
I had never considered that fact. I can imagine that they were happy to bury Joseph when they finally had the chance!
Had the obeyed God and taken the land at the onset, they could have spared themselves the torture of bearing an ancestor who had been buried 359 years earlier! (Joseph was thirty-nine when his family entered Egypt and lived to be 110 years of age, and the children of Israel were in Egypt for 430 years at the time of the Exodus). They added to their own misery because of disobedience.
How true is that to us also when we disobey God?