With the term “truth” we come to another whose Old Testament sense is rather different from that which our common use of it would suggest.

The Hebrew root aman (from which Amen comes) means firmness, steadfastness. Its sense is illustrated from its use in various forms in allusions like these: Eliakim was to be fastened as “a nail in a sure place”; Samuel was a “faithful priest”; Josiah’s temple workmen “dealt faithfully” (Isa 22:23; 1 Sam 2:29; 2 Kings 22:7). So God is a “God of truth” (emunah), rendered in the RV “faithfulness”; this is why He is “the Rock” (in the same passage, Deut 32:3–4); He is steadfast, utterly trustworthy, and will not be moved. So His “faithfulness (emunah) reacheth unto the skies” (Psa 36:5). In Isaiah 65:16 God calls Himself “the God of Amen” (truth, AV), an expression taken up by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:20 in declaring that in Christ is “the Amen”, that is, the certainty that the promises of God will be fulfilled; and in the book of Revelation, where the Lord Jesus applies the term Amen to himself (another instance of the application of a term first used of God subsequently to Christ), and explains its significance by calling himself in the next phrase: “The faithful and true witness” (Rev 3:14).

He Who is TheTruth

From the fact that God is steadfast and unchangeable, that He is in fact the only steadfast and unchangeable element in the world, arises naturally the conclusion that what He stands for must be true in our sense, that is, it cannot be false. But this truth of God is not some spiritual principle existing in the universe in its own right and which God Himself must obey, as though it were greater than God. Truth is what God is and what He wills is truth; and that alone is truth, for all else will in the end be seen to lack that steadfastness and permanence which is His. So the faithfulness or truth of God is not quite the same thing as His loyalty to Israel (usually chesed); the original terms emeth and emunah rather signify that God is not arbitrary, that is He does not alter His standards in His dealings with men, but remains utterly self-consistent and so is completely to be relied upon.

The Faithful Ones

So the term is used of the servant of God: “The Lord preserveth the faithful”, the steadfast ones, not just those who do not speak lies (Psa 31:23). Rebellious Israel are called a stubborn generation, “whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Psa 78:8). Abraham “believed God” (here the verb from the same “truth” root is used), he was firm in his adherence. The ways in which the psalmist and the prophets interpret their own “faithfulness” or truth are instructive. Psalm 25:3–4: “Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Guide me in thy truth”, where the truth of God is parallel to His ways, and must be something like the “goodness” and the “glory” which God promised to reveal to Moses when the latter asked to be shown “thy way” (Exod 33–34), and had declared to him “the Name”. It is fair to say, however, that “guide me in thy truth” could mean, “in thy faithfulness”, that is: do not abandon me; in view of this flexibility of Old Testament terms the context becomes very important. Again in Psalm 86:11–12: “Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth”, the psalmist seems to be thinking of utter faithfulness to God; so he continues: “Unite my heart to fear thy name”: let me serve thee wholly and devotedly and not with a divided heart. Psalm 119:30: “I have chosen the way of truth”, RV faithfulness, is explained by the next phrase: “Thy judgments have I set before me”; in other words, the way of truth implies a knowledge of God’s will and a faithful obedience to it.

Proverbs 3:3: “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee”, that is: remember your obligations to God and man because of the covenant mercy you have received, and remain utterly faithful. This seems confirmed by what follows: “Write (the commandments) upon the 6 The Lampstand January–February 2014 table of thine heart … Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.” Utter steadfastness with God seems to be the keynote. In Jeremiah’s days of corruption in Israel God exhorts the people to search Jerusalem to see “if ye can find a man, if there be any that doeth justly, that seeketh truth”; here truth is parallel with obedience to the commandments (the judgments) of God and implies complete faithfulness to them. Again: “Truth is perished”, because the nation “hath not hearkened to the voice of the Lord … nor received instruction”, or correction; there is no faithful service to God any more (Jer 5:1; 7:28). In the declaration which the New Testament takes up and extends, “The just shall live by his faith”, the word is emunah, often rendered truth; but the sense is that it is their utter steadfastness with God which shall be life to the righteous.

Parallel Terms

In view of the common factor of steadfastness it is no surprise to find that chesed, covenant love, and emeth, faithfulness, are often parallel terms. “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth …” “Let thy loving kindness and thy truth continually preserve me …” “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness” (Psa 25:10; 40:11; 89:1) They are found too in the expression “the sure mercies of David”, for the mercies are the repeated acts of loyalty shown by God to David and his seed according to the “everlasting covenant” (same verse); they are “sure” because an expression of God’s steadfastness (“sure” is a form of the word so often rendered “truth”). One of the most illuminating comments upon these two ideas, however, is found in Proverbs 16:6: “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil”. The average modern reader might very well take this to mean that sin is removed by acting mercifully and by speaking the truth, but we know now that the idea is much more profound. The cleansing power, says the inspired writer, comes from an acknowledgment of the mercy received from God and therefore that due to one’s fellows (chesed), and by the application of this in faithful service to God (emeth); so the second half of the verse summarizes “mercy and truth” as the “fear of the Lord”, and the whole asserts the vital truth that men do not become cleansed from their sin by any pursuit of abstract principles, however admirable their practice, but only by that reverent regard for the will of God as He has revealed it in His word.

Redemption as “Truth”8 In later prophets “the truth” seems to become a general term for the whole system of God’s redemption for His people, as expressed in their worship and obedience. “They that go down to the pit”, says Hezekiah, when told he is to die, “cannot hope for thy truth”; that is, thy saving grace under the covenant, for the phrase is probably a shortened form of “mercy and truth”. Again, rebuked for receiving the ambassadors from Babylon and told of the captivity which was to fall upon his house and kingdom, Hezekiah replies: “Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. He said moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days”; which sounds at first like the cynical reaction: I’m all right, since it won’t happen till I’m dead. The record in Chronicles, however, suggests a different and more probable reaction, for there we read that Hezekiah humbled himself in this matter. His reply, “for there shall be peace and truth in my days”, means rather: “I am resolved henceforth to serve God in complete faithfulness and obedience (truth) and the result will be peace and harmony with him” (Isa 38:18–19; 39:8; 2 Chron 32:25–26, 31). Daniel’s “little horn that … cast down the truth to the ground” must surely signify the overthrow of the system of worship appointed by God. This last aspect of the use of “truth” in the Old Testament prepares us for its use in the New. Jesus’ assertion that his mission was to bear witness to the truth provoked Pilate’s: “What is truth?” The answer to his question was only to be found in the law and the prophets, whose spirit and authority was embodied in the man before him. God’s faithful revelation of Himself was in the Son who is the way, the truth and the life.