GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
“What is truth?” So spoke Pontius Pilate. He was responding to Jesus’ declaration: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37) On the one hand, we have the solid declaration of the Son of God. On the other, we have the typical response of man. However, the response of Jesus’ followers is atypical: “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Believers are “of the truth.” Their lives and hopes are built around the truth. For this reason, they listen to the voice of Jesus; He is their source of absolute, objective truth.
There is nothing new under the sun. The world still treats truth as an amorphous concept, without form, constantly shifting and reshaping. Likewise, believers still trust that enduring, unchanging truth comes from Jesus. Because of this difference, believers are regularly besieged by unbelievers who attempt to convince us that one cannot actually determine what truth is. “My truth is my truth and your truth is your truth.” So, what is truth? Is it some cloudy vapor that dissipates as soon as you try to take hold of it?
For many people, the year 2020 was charged with uncertainty and fear. What will our spiritual vision be for the future? Did 2020 give us 20-20 vision concerning the truth? We need to look back 2020 years and beyond to correct our myopia and clear away the cataracts that fog our spiritual eyesight.
The Old Testament has a wonderful word for “truth”: EMETH. At the root of this word is the concept of certainty or firmness. EMETH refers to something solid and unchangeable. Even the English word truth has been traced back to a Germanic root, deru, meaning, “be firm, solid, steadfast.”
We regularly use a Hebrew word that is tied to EMETH. That is the word AMEN. Martin Luther explained what this word means: “Amen, Amen, that means, Yes, Yes, it shall be so.” With that word, we declare our firm conviction that our God will assuredly respond to our prayers in His own way and time and that His response will be for our good.
Jesus repeatedly used this Hebrew word. “Amen, [verily, truly, assuredly] I say unto you.” At times, He made it even more emphatic by repeating the word. “Verily, verily. . . .” In so doing, the Son of God affirmed that the words coming from His mouth were rock solid, certain, and unchangeable.
There is one more word occurring with EMETH, and that is the amazing word, CHESED, which means “steadfast love.” Together, these are characteristics of the Rock of our salvation. “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness [chesed, steadfast love] and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) God’s love is steadfast, solid, and unshakeable (see Romans 8:38-39). Likewise, truth is solid and unchangeable.
How sad for the world that they have no solid rock on which to stand, but only shifting sand. If truth is not solid and eternal, it is not truth. Therefore, the world is left in a constant state of fearful uncertainty. Unbelievers continue to swing back and forth and round about in their futile attempt to find some truth, but find none, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:7)
As for us, by the grace of God, we continue to stand on the “Rock of Ages” (see 1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” (John 14:6) His truth is rock solid. In fact, it is more solid than rock. “For,” the Lord declares, “the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed.” (Isaiah 54:10) Forgiveness, life, and salvation are most assuredly real and most assuredly ours. Amen and Amen!
“The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.” (Psalm 18:46)
John Pfeiffer is retired from the pastoral and teaching ministry. He is a former president of Immanuel Lutheran College.