WHAT IS TRUTH?
Throughout the ages, many have wondered, along with Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” The Hebrew word for “truth” is “emet.” Emet is based on a Hebrew root that gives the idea of firmness, stability, reliability, faithfulness, or fidelity. Truth has at least three aspects:
First, truth is that which is real as opposed to that which is fictitious or imaginary. The prophet Jeremiah declared: Adonai Elohim emet – the Lord is the true God (Jer. 10:10). Messiah Yeshua also affirmed that the God of Israel is the only true God. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God(John 17:3). He alone is real and substantial divinity, while the “gods” of the nations are not truly God. The real God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, declares this: “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me… I am the first and the last, and there is no God beside Me… Is there any God beside Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” (Isaiah 43:10, 44:6,8).
The second aspect of truth is that which meets our reasonable expectations of what it makes itself out to be. Truth is that which is real as opposed to that which is false or a lie. The true God is the One in whom everything is found that can be expected of God. God does not misrepresent Himself. Even if there were some reality to the gods of the nations, they are not what they make themselves out to be. They are in actuality evil spirits who misrepresent themselves as gods. “That which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God” (1 Cor. 10:20). The Holy One of Israel is the true God because He really is what He declares Himself to be throughout His Word.
The third aspect of truth is the idea of that which can be relied on, that which will not fail or disappoint. Someone is true if they fulfill what they promise they will do. Many politicians promise a lot and then don’t carry through on their promises. But God will always be found true, even though every man be found a liar (Rom. 3:4). “God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good” (Num. 23:19)? The gods of the nations are not true because they promise life and goodness and blessing, but what they deliver is deception, destruction and death. The other gods, religions and philosophies of men are not true – they cannot deliver what they promise – ultimate truth, salvation, bliss, or eternal life. “Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.” A deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?‘” (Isaiah 44:17, 20). People who follow other gods, religions and philosophies are deceived. They don’t realize they are involved with that which cannot fulfill what they have been promised. But though men and demons deceive, the truthfulness of God can be counted on, for the Holy One of Israel is “El Emet” – “the God of truth” (Psalm 31:5), and it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18).
Another word that describes God’s attribute of truth is “emunah.” “Emunah” means that which is firm, reliable, and faithful. The Lord is called El Emunah – the Faithful God (Deuteronomy 32:4). Everything the Mighty One says and does is one hundred percent reliable, faithful and completely trustworthy.
God is faithful to Himself: If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). God cannot act out of character with His essential nature. None of God’s attributes can ever contradict any other attribute, but all harmonize perfectly with each other. Since He is perfect and unchangeable, He can never cease to be what He is. Everything that God has done or everything He will do, is consistent with all that He is. Everything that God does will always agree with all that God is.
God’s Son is faithful and true: Just as God the Father is faithful, so the Son of God is faithful and true (Revelation 19:11). One of Messiah Yeshua’s titles that reflect this faithfulness is the “Amen” (Revelation 3:14). “Amen” is related to “emet” and “emunah.” “Amen” is used when one person confirms the truthfulness and reliability of the words of another. Because He is the “Amen,” Messiah Yeshua confirms everything that God the Father has spoken. God has spoken through His Word (Messiah Yeshua). His Word then performed it, His Word did it, and His Word said “Amen” to it! In Him all the promises of God are yes and by Him is our “Amen” to the glory of God (2 Cor. 1:20).
Men’s words are a mixture of truth and error. But Messiah Yeshua always spoke the pure truth without any error or ignorance mixed in. He is full of grace and truth. As the Faithful Witness (Revelation 1:5), everything He said is reliable and true. You can trust His witness, His testimony, His words, more than any other’s. He is the Truth (John 14:6), the ultimate source of reality and everything that exists. The Lord Yeshua, as the Truth, is absolutely reliable, and infinitely faithful, and eternally trustworthy. He is the true bread that came out of heaven. His body is true food and His blood is true drink. He is the true vine. He ministers in the true Tabernacle. He sent true apostles. He gives the true riches. All His words are faithful and true. He is the true light who came into the world and gives truth, knowledge, wisdom, revelation and understanding to every man. The Son of God has come and has given us understanding,in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son, Yeshua the Messiah. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20). Yeshua sends the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26), who guides all who believe in Him into all truth. But if you refuse to trust Messiah Yeshua, you will not receive the Spirit of Truth, but you will continue to operate in the spirit of error. Ironically, the ultimate answer to Pilate’s question: What is truth?, was standing right there in front of him in human form.
God is faithful to His Plan: Psalm 33:11 declares this fascinating truth: “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation.” From the depths of eternity, God formed His eternal counsel, His great master plan that involves all of creation and every creature that He is working out in time and creation. In due time He will fulfill everything that He has purposed. His truth is marching on and will accomplish all the plans and counsels of God that He has decreed. He must always advance the cause of His truth, and He must always lead His armies against all lies and falsehoods and anything that wrongly suppresses the truth. One day all of us will look back and acknowledge: “You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness” (Isaiah 25:1).
God is faithful to His Universe: “Your lovingkindness O Lord extends to the heavens, and Your faithfulness to the skies” (Psalm 36:5). The universe reflects the faithfulness of its Creator. God has designed the universe in such a way that it is regulated by laws that are orderly, reliable, regular, and dependable. Try to imagine a universe that didn’t function reliably. It would be a chaotic horror. There would be no certainty of anything. Men would wander about in perplexity and confusion. But there is law and order in the universe, and God has equipped us to navigate in it. He has given men their senses, which under normal circumstances give accurate information about our world. God has granted man the gift of reason, which can reach good conclusions about the universe. Since God is faithful to the universe, our senses normally do not deceive us, most things are what they usually appear to be, our consciousness is generally trustworthy and existence is not a dream or illusion. Just as there are physical laws that govern the physical universe and give it meaning, there are also supernatural laws that govern the spiritual dimension of existence and give it meaning. They are just as reliable, just as dependable, just as orderly as the physical laws of nature. If we abide by them, we will do well and God will reward us. But if we violate them, we will suffer loss. If a man sows to the flesh, he will reap corruption. If he sows to the spirit, and concentrates on the things of God, he will reap everlasting life. The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins, it shall die. If you forgive, you will be forgiven. If you are merciful, you will receive mercy.
God is faithful to His Word: When Messiah Yeshua said to His Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17), He was telling us that all that God has revealed in His Word may be trusted, and that the Bible supplies us with completely reliable and dependable information that exactly corresponds to reality. The Lord wants us to be very sure about the truthfulness and reliability of His Word. “The words of the Lord are pure words; as silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). “You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness and exceeding faithfulness” (Psalm 119:138). “All Your commandments are faithful” (Psalm 119:86). God wants us to be confident that His promises can’t fail, and His Word will never disappoint. Therefore we must pay more attention to it than to anything else. We ought to believe the Word of God, treasure it, study it, obey it, and build our lives and homes and families on it.
God is faithful to His threats: The Almighty fulfills all of His promises, but He is also faithful to execute every threat that He makes. He has vowed to repay those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face (Deut. 7:10). His promises of hell, eternal death and destruction are real. The book of John records these terrifying words: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Know for certain that the prayer of King David: “Destroy them in Your faithfulness,” will assuredly come to pass (Psalm 54:5). There is no greater certainty of damnation and Hell and Gehenna and perdition than is found in the fact that God, who cannot lie, has said that it will be so, and we should believe it.
God is faithful to Israel: “He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel” (Psalm 98:3). “I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord” (Hosea 2:20). God will be faithful to His Word, His promises and His covenant with us, no matter how unfaithful we Jewish people have been to Him. He will fulfill every promise to the Jewish people in spite of our faithlessness. In the book of Joshua we read these amazing words: “Not one of all the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). At the end of human history, rest assured that the Jewish people will look back and be able to say the same thing.
God is faithful to His People: God is especially faithful to those who trust in His Son and His Word, and have entered into the New Covenant. “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Messiah Yeshua our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9). “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thes. 5:24). The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one (2 Thes. 3:3). Know therefore that “the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut. 7:9). “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).
These promises should be very reassuring to the tempted, the anxious, the fearful, the discouraged, the dying, the disadvantaged, the suffering, and those whom life has treated unfairly. All of these may find hope and courage in the knowledge that our Heavenly Father is faithful. He will always be true to His Word and His promises and His covenants and His oaths. We can get up and look forward to each new day with the knowledge that He will never remove His lovingkindness from us nor allow His faithfulness to fail. Because He is faithful life is meaningful and eternal life is worth hoping for. Because He is faithful we can look forward with assurance to the life to come. No wonder King David could write: “Into Thy hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O Lord, El Emet – God of truth” (Psalm 31:5).
The heroes of the faith that we so admire were people just like us. They experienced all the problems, difficulties, dilemmas and trials of life that we do. But what they learned about God’s truth and faithfulness became a hammer, a sword, a shield, a fortress a stronghold, a rock, a high tower that they could run to for refuge. The faithfulness of God became their hope, and the motivation for their life. Since God is faithful and true, we must be faithful and true to Him: We need to pray: “Lead me in Your truth and teach me” (Psalm 25:5). “Teach me Your way O Lord; I will walk in Your truth” (Psalm 86:11). Amen!
I am indebted to The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer for this article.