To thine own self be true!

Then he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the way.” – Genesis 45:24

The famine had ravaged the Ancient Near East from Egypt eastward. Jacob had to send his sons to Egypt to buy grain for their livestock and themselves in order to survive. They sons didn’t know that their long lost brother, Joseph, had become Prime Minister of Egypt. He tricked them into having to bring their youngest brother, Ben, to Egypt in order to continue buying grain in the future. Jacob finally relented and allowed Ben to go with his brothers to Egypt. Once in Egypt, Joseph eventually revealed his true identity to his brothers. Once their familial bond had been restored in true faith, Joseph sent his brothers to fetch their father and all of the families to come live in Egypt and enjoy all of its resources at the command of Pharaoh. Before his brothers returned to Canaan, he told them to be on their way and to not argue amongst themselves on the way.

It has long been said that those closest to us really know the true us! How many times have we heard the stories and witnessed the travesties of hypocrisy within and without the brick and mortar of the apertures we call church? Whether in the legalistic thoroughfares or the liberal byways of ecumenical circles, people have mastered the art and science of putting on airs in their public life. However, the obverse of that coin reveals a much more sinister and even horrific portrait of real people. Joseph knew his brothers had a streak for proclivity and would act upon it. Thus, he instructed them to not quibble on the way home to their father. He more than likely remember that dreaded day in the pasture when they seized him, stripped of his prized possession, lowered him into the well, left him for dead, returned and sold him to the traders, and abandoned him altogether. While in Egypt, he had learned to forgive them and not blame them for their actions because he knew that God meant their harm to be for his and their good!

When we examine the evidence of the lives of the eleven, we see men who approached a foreign potentate and followed the required protocol while in his presence. They bowed and prostrated themselves before his excellency, not knowing that he was their abandoned brother. They played the part in order to procure the materials they needed and even feigned fear when they thought they would lose their youngest brother as a slave to the Egyptian premier. When they returned home, they reverted to their usual selves and went on with their lives. We see that it was not until Pharaoh commanded their return to Canaan to retrieve Jacob and all of their families that the sons of Jacob seemed to have a change of heart. Could it have been they were going to be fully reunited as a family despite the divided loyalties of sons from different mothers? Had the competition between brothers finally been resolved? Would their father relent from his favoritism of Joe and Ben and embrace all of his sons equally?

Let us take away from this passage one simple lesson – as Shakespeare put it – to thine own self be true! Others may not see the real you when you’re out of public view, but there are three parties that always know who the real you are – your family, God, and you! Even if you are able to deceive your family from knowing the true you and blind yourself to your shortcomings and deficiencies, God looks upon the just and the unjust! He sees everything and will reveal all things in due time.

Father, thank you for loving me, in spite of my shortcomings and deficiencies. You promised us and gave us your Holy Spirit to be our guide and teacher, so that we may become more like the character of your only Son, Jesus. He set the perfect example for all to follow. He was real and true all the time and never wavered in his integrity or character. Help me to as solid in myself as Jesus was in himself. Help me to foster greater levels of integrity and not to waffle in my words and deeds. May my example be a bright spot in a dark world. It will take much work to accomplish this task, but I avail myself to you in all areas. I want real change in me that is lasting and contagious to others. I love you, Dad, and look forward to the day I bow before you and enter into eternity with you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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