Sunday, May 05, 2013

Truth - Part 5

0571 tmaemeth eh’- meth

Firmness, faithfulness, truth.

Contracted from

0539 Nmaaman aw-man’

To support, to confirm, to be faithful
To be established, to make firm
To stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

An unnamed psalmist presents a prayer for revival among the “sons of Korah,” song leaders in the tabernacle or temple of God. The people of God had strayed from the path which the Law laid down for them, but the psalmist trusts in God's promises, knowing that if they do what God has commanded God will certainly bless them. In the latter part of psalm 85 he writes:

8 ¶ I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
12 Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase.
13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.

God's people are called “saints,” or a people set apart to holiness. Though called to follow the true God, they were in need of deliverance. Mercy (chesed) is found up alongside truth once again. God is faithful, and his Word is the strong foundation upon which His promises lay. As a consequence, that which the Law requires and reconciliation with God are mated as well. When God's people ground themselves in God's Word, they will find that God has been there all along, waiting to bless those who will turn back to Him.

In Psalm 86, David prays to God for deliverance as was his daily practice. Realizing that as a mortal human being that he was only able to come to God because God allow him to do so, he prays that others might also be allowed around the throne:

8 ¶ Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.
14 O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.
15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

The way of God is the truth, and all other paths lead to false gods. However, as earthly leader of God's chosen people, David prays that Gentiles will look upon what Yahweh has done for Israel and come to a true relationship with God. God can be depended upon to be faithful to His promises even to those who are not “Jewish.” David recognizes God has saved him, and prays that God's attributes will be displayed to all who see his work in His people.

Ethan the Ezrahite writes what is considered to be a Messianic psalm, describing the ideal son of David. Throughout the psalm he extols the person and work of Yahweh as being the foundation of all hope. Selected verses of Psalm 89:

1 ¶ Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

7 God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
8 O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

Though this psalm is reach in content and application, these verses should suffice to show the connection of the truth to God's work among mankind – and especially among the people He calls his own. The word translated “faithfulness” is a form of the word “amen” (the verb form from which “emeth” [truth] is derived). The word “mercies” is the word “chesed” which we have seen refers to God' faithfulness to his covenant. This psalm clearly illustrates that connection.

In Psalm 91, the psalmist presents God as the protector of His people in a very personal way. Using the picture of a mother bird who protects her young from the disaster of traps set by hunters, the famous “fortress” metaphor is utilized superbly:

1 ¶ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

When we trust Yahweh, we need fear no danger, for our God will protect us. This protection is as sure as is His existence!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Truth - Part 4

0571 tma  ‘emeth eh’- meth

Firmness, faithfulness, truth.

Contracted from 

0539 Nma  ‘aman aw-man’ 

To support, to confirm, to be faithful
To be established, to make firm
To stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

In Psalm 30, the psalmist (probably David) reminds Yahweh in prayer that he prefers life to death, since no one who is dead can tell others of God's Word, the truth (verse 9). In prayer, David declares complete confidence in Yahweh, comparing Him to a rock onto which he is pulled out of the mire in which he had been sinking. This brings praise to God for being the foundation of all things true.

Psalm 40:

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is that man that maketh the LORD his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. . . .

11 ¶ Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.

Note that the attributes accompanying God's Truth are his compassion and covenant loyalty [chesed, “mercy, lovingkiness] to His people. In Psalm 43, the psalmist speaks of God's tabernacle being upon the “holy hill” to which he wishes to go. It is there that he wants to worship God who gives “light and truth.” This is the first time that light has been paired with truth, but the idea is as old as the creation account. In Genesis 1, the first thing to exist by God's word was light! It is no wonder then that he writes:

3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.

Light and darkness cannot exist together. And neither can truth and falsehood. Just as things are harder and harder to see as twilight fades, so the truth becomes more and more obscured each time a liar presents the foolishness of his own imagination.

In Psalm 45, a coronation song, the new king is extolled as God's instrument in bringing righteousness to the land. The king is to rule on principles of truth, humility and righteousness. He is to be taught what to fear by “his right hand.”

2 Thou art fairer than the children of men: grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.
3 Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty.
4 And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things.

Studying the psalm closely, one can see a glimpse of Jesus Christ as the “Son of David” (the psalm is a “song of loves [y'daidim, related to “David/Beloved”]. In these verses the king is praised as “beautiful” and his words are favored. He is blessed by God. As he goes out, he is prepared for battle. The ultimate fulfillment of this is found in Revelation 19. The Word of God is called a sword, and as we have seen it is the Truth. Here the truth is teamed with “meekness,” a word that emphasizes strength under pressure, and righteousness. The King is to be One who stands for what is right, even under extreme pressure, because He knows the truth – that which is sure and unchangeable. That meekness is appropriate, though, in sinners even more, as David himself found out when he faced God after gross sin (Psalm 51):

1 ¶ To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Notice God's “lovingkindness” [chesed] and tender mercy (compassion). David knows he is far from what God wants for him, calling his actions 'transgressions' (breaking God's Law), 'iniquity' (perversity) and sin (falling short of God's requirements). Sinful by nature of being human, he knows that God wants him to be dependable (firm in his convictions) within his “heart.” David truly wants to be righteousness, and he knows that turning to God is the only way to get that way.

In Psalm 54, David prays for deliverance from his enemies, breaking in the middle to speak of God in the third person, then going back to addressing Him directly:

4 ¶ Lo, God is a helper to me, The Lord is with those supporting my soul,
5 Turn back doth the evil thing to mine enemies, In Thy truth cut them off.

He knows that God will help him and his friends. Those who stand against him, though, will find that God's righteous anger will surely bring them to naught.

In Psalm 57, David cries out to God while on the run from Saul. While worshiping Yahweh, he notes that his enemies are no match to the majesty of what God can do. Twice in the psalm David pairs mercy [lovingkindness] with truth. This is a common combination, for God is good and he is dependable.

2 I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.
3 He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.

9 I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
10 For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.

In Psalm 61, David prays for the dynasty which God has promised to him. In doing so, his words become a prayer for the Messiah:

5 ¶ For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.
6 Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.
7 He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.

It is again “mercy and truth” that god is called on to provide in blessing “the king.” This is the “help from heaven” that David needs. God will be faithful to his promises because in Him is the foundation for all things.

David was in big trouble as his popularity failed. Everywhere he looked he could see those that hated him. He calls out to Adonai Yahweh Sabaoth (the Lord, Yahweh of Armies). He wants a sure victory that he can depend on Yahweh to deliver. He once again sees God's covenant loyalty going along with his firm foundation (truth).

Psalm 69:
13 ¶ But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.
14 Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters.

David can depend on Yahweh to come to his rescue when his own sinful decisions have failed him, getting him so deep into trouble that no one else has the resources to help.

In the midst of trouble, believers know that God is there to save them. But that does not stop their enemies from attacking from every side. The grace of God, though, is enough to get us through. Instead of complaining, we need to sing praises to God. As the psalmist prays in Psalm 71:

22 I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee; and my soul, which thou hast redeemed.

Music is a great way to declare God's truth, be it by a musical instrument or the human voice! Verse 22 mentions “the psaltery” (literally a vessel of 'nebel,' a word that means “to fade away”) and a harp (from a word meaning to pluck). Though the word 'nebel' is used for “harp” in modern Hebrew, the exact nature of the 'nebel' mentioned here is unknown. From “fade away,” though, I tend to think it may have been a percussion instrument! Other uses of the noun “nebel” include both skin and clay vessels. These materials make good percussion instruments, but don't suggest strings to me.

So, in my mind any way, I'd say sing loudly, for the words have to be heard over the drums and the strings!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Truth - Part 3

0571 tma  ‘emeth eh’- meth

Firmness, faithfulness, truth.

Contracted from 

0539 Nma  ‘aman aw-man’ 

To support, to confirm, to be faithful
To be established, to make firm
To stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

The most personal thoughts of all are the Psalms, the song book of the Bible.  In these 150 songs we find both praise and prayer, with an occasional lament.  The writers range from unknown Levites to King David.  Many were collected by Levites and were perhaps written by them.  They put much value on the truth, though they at times wonder "aloud" what the meaning of it all might be.

The first mention of truth is in Psalm 15.  David asks who is worthy to stand before God in worship, and then answers his own question:

2  He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

The essence of a righteous man is what he is "in his heart."  When he is honest with himself, the believer before in God's presense confesses his unworthiness though he has done all the right things outwardly.  The truth is that only God is good, though he has lain down his Law (which is true) as a guideline to those who seek to be near to him. 

In Psalm 19 David extols the evidence of God's truth - both in the world and in the Word.  At verse 5 he begins to describe the Word of God:

7 ¶  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11  Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

The Word of God; called the Law, the testimony, the statutes, the judgments and the judgments of Yahweh; reflects His nature.  These verses contain so much, but verses 7 and 9 contain the words of this study "amen" and "emeth."  The Law is said to be perfect, that is to say, wholesome.  This word denotes soundness and integrity.  The evidence is in, supporting the Law as "amen" - totally trustworthy.  Then we see that "reverencial awe" in Yahweh's attribute will be with us forever because what He has decided -- including our eternal destiny -- can be no different.  His judgments are both true and "just right."  Verse 11 praises God that His Word both warns and promises those who believe.

In Psalm 25 David seeks an audience with Yahweh, declaring his confidence ("betach" = trust) that he will be heard and asks that God show him what to do:

2  O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me.
3  Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.
4  Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
5  Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.
6  Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

Yahweh's attributes are worthy of praise, but so are His Words.  David prays that he will not sin, but instead will be shown God's will clearly so that he will be safe in God's presense.  He prays that Yahweh will display His compassion and acts of faithfulness to His Word.  He goes on to acknowledge God's goodness in patiently teaching those who humble themselves.  In the end the paths of God constitute the foundation upon which a believers faith rests: "mercy and truth" -- God's faithfulness to his covenant.

8 ¶  Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way.
9  The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
10  All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

In Psalm 26, David justifies himself first, but acknowledges that he avoids sinners because his trust is in Yahweh.  He asks Yahweh to test him so he can be know that the path he treads is firmly in God's will.

1 ¶  Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.
2  Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
3  For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.

The Psalms are rich in extolling the truth found in God and His Word, so one more Davidic Psalm will close this post.  Psalm 31 presents truth up against "lying vanities."  David loves the truth, but can't stand the empty lies of his enemies.

4  Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.
5  Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
6  I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD. 

Yahweh El Emeth -- a glorious name of God, indeed!  When compared to rebellious mankind, there can be no other conclusion but to trust the Redeemer.

Truth - Part 2

0571 tma emeth eh’-meth

Firmness, faithfulness, truth.

Contracted from

0539 Nma aman  aw-man’

To support, to confirm, to be faithful
To be established, to make firm
To stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

0571 tma ‘emeth eh’- meth

Firmness, faithfulness, truth.

Contracted from 

0539 Nma ‘aman aw-man’ 

To support, to confirm, to be faithful
To be established, to make firm
To stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

And so, the Law establishes that Truth is that which is firm, established, and therefore can be trusted.  The 10 commandments establish the soundness of God as Creator, Savior and Preserver; as well as the validity of familial and societal institutions.  We therefore know that God and man exist to live at peace.  But we also know that mankind is undependable on its part.  In the historical books of the Bible, we find this seen in the chosen and appointed leaders of God's people.

In the book of Joshua (Josh. 2:12), the prostitute Rachab displays her trust in the true God while asking for a promise from men who have told her that they serve Yahweh.  She wants to trust them, so she asked for a "true sign," that is, an oath by Yahweh that she and her family would be saved.  Having secured this, she saved them.  This is the first case of a Gentile showing faith in Yahweh based on verifiable wonders that He had done.

Later, in Joshua 24:14, Joshua called on all of Israel to trust God, based on the very same evidence that Rachab had believed true.  He calls on them to "serve him in sincerity and in truth."  This is to say, with a whole-hearted faith in what has been shown to be reliable.  In the next verse, their civil leader holds himself up as an example.  He would serve Yahweh along with his family.  He could not make that choice for others, but he could lead by example.

In the book of Judges "truth" only shows up in a parable.  In chapter 9, a parable is told of various plants looking to choose a leader.  It came down to who wanted to lead rather than who was suitable.  The occasion of the parable was the rise of Abimelech, son of the reluctant judge Gideon, to rule as a "king."  To do this, though, he had gathered a band of hoodlums to kill his own brothers whom he saw as a threat to his authority.  His youngest brother, though, escaped and told the parable of the bramble bush becoming ruler over all the worthy trees of the land.  In order to server "in sincerity and in truth" (as Joshua had said), trust had to be put in that which was worthless.

The people had chosen to follow other gods, and not the truth.  The examples of this folly are throughout this book, for they "did what was right in their own eyes."  There was no abosolute truth upon which to stand.

Finally, a true prophet and priest arose to rule over the people.  But they asked this man, Samuel, to give them a king.  It was to them that Samuel warned that this king was not their savior in whom to put their trust.  That kind of faith could only be put in the true God - Yahweh - who had proven Himself in history (even among the judges, though they had been mostly evil men).  In 1 Samuel 12:

24  Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.
25  But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

The requirements had not changed.  Without trust in Yahweh, no earthly ruler would prevail among men.  Saul would prove to be just as much a disappointment as had Abimelech.

After the reign of the first godly king (David), the subject of the truth once again arises.  David wants to honor Yahweh with a beautiful temple rather than the mobile home in the form of a tent (the tabernacle) which had been designed by God Himself.  The prophet Nathan received a vision from Yahweh pointing out that the tabernacle was just fine, fitting the purpose for which He had designed it.  Instead, God told the prophet that He would "build a house" for David -- a family and a nation founded in the truth of His unchangeable nature.  But David was persistent, going to God in prayer, bringing God's promise of a permanent family and nation back to a permanent temple in which to worship.  In that prayer David says:

2 Samuel 7:
26  And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.
27  For thou, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee.
28  And now, O Lord GOD, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant:
29  Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord GOD, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever.

Not only are the acts of God to be trusted, but also His Word.  We know God answered this prayer with plans for the temple apparently via Nathan or Gad, his prophets, because David so informs his son Solomon (1 Kings 28):

11 ¶  Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat,
12  And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit ...

19  All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.
20  And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD.

The building of the temple was left to Solomon whom David entrusted to Yahweh to fulfill the promise of a perpetual dynasty.  Solomon finds himself before God in a dream (1 Kings 3):

5 ¶  In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
6  And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.
7  And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.
8  And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude.
9  Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?

Solomon had seen how God was real to his father David, and he wanted the same relationship.  He raises up God's covenant loyalty (chesed) and David's trust in God (walking in truth) in a prayer for wisdom.  Yahweh answers that prayer, along with so much more, as the Queen of Sheba would declare (1 Kings 10):

6  And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom. [also 2 Chron. 9:5]

Here truth is just straight reporting of the facts -- what IS.  The rumors were squelched when she saw the proof for herself.  She had had her doubts, but evidence banished them.  So it is with truth: the measurable facts outweigh mere mortal speculation.  Generations later, the nation had split due to Solomon's apostasy to such a point that the kings of the northern kingdom (which kept the name "Israel") had got so bad that the prophet Elijah had to seek support among Gentiles.  There a widow saw the work of God and was convinced that anything Yahweh said was the truth (1 Kings 17):

24  And the woman said to Elijah, Now by this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in thy mouth is truth.

It took calamity in the southern kingdom for the godly king Hezekiah to pray to God for relief (2 Kings 20):

3  I beseech thee, O LORD, remember now how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight. And Hezekiah wept sore. [see also, 2 Chron. 20 and Isaiah 38]

Truth is synomous with that which is good in God's sight.  To walk with God is to do what is right, that is to be righteous.  That is an impossible task for fallen mankind, but it remains a goal.  God's creation, in its original state was good - that is, beautiful or pleasant.  How could it have been otherwise, since it was the work of his Word and his hands.  God healed Hezekiah but brought the delayed curse on the land through his yet to be born son Manassah. 

Years later, returning to Jerusalem after years in captivity, Nehemiah would recall in prayer the works and words of Yahweh:

Neh. 9:
13  Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:
14  And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:
15  And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.
16  But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,
17  And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. ...

33  Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us; for thou hast done right ["emeth" = that which is true], but we have done wickedly:
34  Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. 

Indeed, even when the authorities in the land did not believe in Yahweh, the letters of believers ended with "Peace and Truth" (Esther 9:30).  This same combination was used by Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:19; Isaiah 39:9) and by Jeremiah when the time had come for both to end.  Jeremiah confirmed that a time would come when both peace and truth would return (Jer. 33:6) in a period after God had made a ''new covenant" with his people (Jer. 31:31).

God is the ultimate source of all that is true.  He created the world -- as confirmed throughout history and by simply observing what he has done.  That which is observed is true because it is verifiable evidence.  God also saves his people, no matter how bad they seem to be.  This is an observed phenomenon as well, for the evidence has been there since recorded history began.  These two undeniable truths are clear from the Old Testament.

In the next post, we will look to the songs of worship -- the Psalms -- to see what the concept of "truth" means on a personal level.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Truth - a word study

It looks like this is the best place to put this study.  I hope the link from Facebook is more friendly than what I was getting with my first attempts with Google Drive.

0571 tma  emeth eh’-meth

Firmness, faithfulness, truth.

Contracted from
0539  Nma  aman  aw-man’

To support, to confirm, to be faithful
To be established, to make firm
To stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in.

"Emeth" is the noun form of the verb "Amen." The verb "Amen" holds the idea of being established and firm, and thus trustworthy. It is primarily translated "believe."  First, the use of "Emeth" will be explored. What is said to be "true" or "the truth" in the Old Testament?

The first appearance of the word is found in Genesis 24 where Abraham's servant Eliezer used the word in praise to Yahweh for his mercy and truth. The word "mercy" is "chesed" - Yahweh's covenant faithfulness. He goes on to use the word (translated "right" in KJV) to describe the path he took to find Rebekah. He expresses a hope that Bethuel will be faithful and true (again chesed and emeth!) to his expectations.

Eliezer ("God is my helper") had faith in God, but he was wary of putting that faith in a man. However, he laid the responsibility on Rebekah's family as to whether to follow what he knew was God's will. He had put God to the test, received the requested sign, but would not go further until without the testimony of the lawful family blessings. Both God and his foundational principles are true. They will not contradict one another.

Isaac's grandson Joseph would put his half-brothers to the test, requiring one Benjamin, his full brother, to be brought to him. He was requiring of them "proof" of their story. He knew the truth, but he wanted to know if his brothers could be trusted. They passed the test (Genesis 42:16).  Their father Jacob (Israel) would rely again on the covenant faithfulness (deal faithfully [chesed] and truly [emeth]) of his children. Again, he believed in the foundational truth of family.

When it came time to appoint men to be leaders in the new nation of Israel, Moses asked for "men of truth" who hated covetousness (Ex. 18:21) .  This meant that only men of integrity -- faithful and honest -- were to be chosen for the first representative government established by God (separate and before the priesthood). Decisions made by unfaithful men will lead to disaster. Likewise, decisions made without regard to solid foundational truths will fail.

So what is Truth? Well, Yahweh declares Himself to be that firm foundation upon which His people can depend.

Exodus 34:
6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

In other words, Yahweh is "compassionate, gracious, patient, great, loyal [chesed, mercy] and dependable [emeth, truth]." Based on this, He promises that he will display His faithfulness to his covenant [His "mercy"] through the forgiveness of depravity, rebellion, and general inability of the multitudes of people that he chooses. However, the consequences of our own sinful actions will be seen for a long time.

So, what does it mean that God is Truth? The list in verse 6 gives 
God's own testimony to His essential character (His "name," v. 5):

(1) Yahweh El - the One Who is Powerful (Able)
In this, Yahweh essentially declares Himself to be the Only God that exists. There are other "gods" (powerful entities), but they are worthless in terms of acting on their own. Yahweh is the only sovereign. Therefore, He is totally dependable and worthy of complete trust.

(2) Merciful, or Compassionate
God cares about his creation, and especially about his chosen people. Though so powerful as to both create and control everything, God loves the cosmos that has fallen away from its original goodness (Genesis 2). This is related by the apostle John in the NT as "God is Love," and "God so loved the world."

(3) Gracious 
Early on God shows his favor to a fallen world in calling Noah to be the first savior (Genesis 6:9). This favor is not based on merit, though the character of those favored is often a factor (in hindsight?).

(4) Longsuffering; that is, slow to anger, or patient
Mankind is, by nature, hard to get along with. That is to say, we are basically rebellious. The main problem is that we don't trust God at His Word. We want to do things our way. And so, we twist things to meet our own way of thinking (iniquity, perversion) while at the same time claiming to do what God wants us to do (sin, trying but not getting it right).  Consequently, we deserve God's wrath -- which will come in His own time. Meanwhile, He gives us time to repent.

(5) Great in Goodness and Truth.
Here again, as with the first mention of Truth, God's covenant faithfulness (chesed, goodness) is linked with truth. Elieazer knew this truth in Abraham's day. We can assume that Abraham did as well, for he had faithfully followed God without question. Though answerable to no man, the Creator can swear by Himself as to the certainty of his Word. We can know without a doubt that He will work all things together to bring about what is good (Rom. 8:28).

In short, we can depend on God to be faithful to His promises because His very nature is that of the unmovable, and unchangeable  foundation upon which all of creation exists.
When it comes to mankind, though, truth is not so easy. It takes at least two - with three being better - independent witnesses to establish something to be true. Our basic nature is to rebel, so our word may not be trusted if we perceive that we might reveal our own sin. This standard is first declared to be needed in cases of reported idolatry -- trusting other "gods" which cannot save nor even help one to be good. (Deut. 17:1-6)

The other use of "emeth" in the Law is in the case of proof of unfaithfulness in the case of sexual purity. With no witnesses, a man might suspect his new wife of having lying about her purity. In essence  this was a questioning of the woman's faithfulness to her family as a virgin daughter. As in Genesis 24, the family structure is foundational. To be unfaithful to that structure is to fly in the face of God's faithfulness to His promises. In this case (Deut. 22), if the woman is proved a liar, then her unfaithfulness is worthy of death. God takes the truth seriously.
And so, in the Law we see that the Truth is foundational to the nature of God Himself. In addition, the institutions of the family and human government are based on their being God's means to a peaceful life with God and with each other. Truth is seen in that which is unshakable, or in that which should be so. God's Word -- especially His promises and commandments -- are absolutely unshakable. The institutions that He has set up -- family and human government -- are only as sound as the people that abide in them. But, by their very nature these are "true."

In God's Law -- the Ten Commandments -- we find the Truth succinctly laid out: 

(1) Yahweh is the only God, and as such the only savior of mankind. In this, we see that we can trust only Him.
(2) All other 'gods' are worthless, being imaginations of our minds and thus not worth our trust.
(3) When establishing our own trustworthiness, we must always speak what is true about God. We cannot take His name (character) as something that is worthless! 
(4) Since God is the Creator, we must trust Him to provide for us even when we are doing nothing to provide for ourselves. He set aside a day in seven that we can sit back and trust Him completely!
(5) The "bridge" between our relationship to God and to mankind is our parents (and by extension other human authority). The fifth commandment establishes that our acceptance of this foundation is essential to our well being.
(6) Consequently, all human life is sacred. Murder, the taking of innocent human life, shows that we do not trust God's authority over life. God gives life, and it is only He who can take it (by means that He deems right).
(7) Family fidelity begins with sexual purity. Sexual relationships outside of commitment to family (producing children) breaks a trust in God's foundational institution.
(8) Theft displays a distrust in God to provide and breaks the trust required for peaceful existence before God and man.
(9) Lying (false testimony) is the antithesis of the truth. It is disrespectful of God and all other authorities.
(10) Covetousness is a basic dissatisfaction with what God has provided. In desiring what others have, we display a lack of trust in God. This is why leaders are to be "men of truth" who hate covetousness are to be chosen (or appointed) as leaders in human government. Their faith should not be in themselves but in God and his institutions - family and Law.

So, the "Undeniable Truths" to bear in mind:
(1) God exists, upholds all things, and cares about what happens.
(2) God established the family as the foundational institution to fulfill his covenant with mankind (to save us from ourselves)
(3) God raises up human government to keep us safe and uphold his laws.

Corollaries to these truths:
(1) God has spoken.
(2) Mankind is by nature rebellious, and does not trust God.
(3) Trusting in ourselves leads to bad things.
(4) Trusting in God's Word (both Written and Incarnate) leads to good things.

Therefore, trust God!

In the next post, I will trace "Truth" in the chosen leaders of God's people from Joshua through the kings and prophets set in place among them.