The Hebrew word “emet” is translated with words like “faithful,” “reliable,” “sure,” “trustworthy,” and “amen.” Read aloud Psalm 36:5-6, Psalm 19:7, and Psalm 41:13 and discuss what the psalmists are communicating in these passages when they use the word “emet.”
God promised the Israelites that he would give them a king of peace that would rule forever and ever (e.g. 2 Samuel 7:16). However, Israel’s kingdom collapsed and they found themselves without a home or a king. Compare the beginning of Psalm 89 (vv. 1-10) with the way it closes (vv. 46-52). What do you think it practically looks like to trust God when all seems lost?
Ultimately, God answers the psalmist’s cries in the person of Jesus. Compare 2 Samuel 7:16 to Hebrews 1:8-9. How does King Jesus embody and fulfill the ancient promises of God (e.g. John 1:14, Hebrews 3:5-6, and Romans 15:8-9)?
Read Hebrews 10:22-25, Hebrews 11, and Hebrews 12:1-3. After reading these passages, name one example of what it looks like to put our trust in God.
Take time to discuss other themes or key takeaways from what you read together.
If you tried to describe what God is like, it could be difficult or daunting. But when the people who wrote the Bible pondered the mystery of God, they consistently described God’s character in this way: compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, overflowing with loyal love and faithfulness1.
We’re going to look at this last characteristic of God. It’s the Hebrew word emet, which can be translated as “faithfulness,” or even “truth.” It’s related to another word you’ve probably heard before, “amen,” which is an untranslated Hebrew expression meaning, “that’s truth!”
Emet in the Hebrew Bible [0:34-1:10]
So emet can mean “truth,” and it can refer to correct ideas or concepts. This is because emet has to do with stability and reliability, like when Moses holds up his hands for hours to defeat Israel’s enemies, the Amalekites. His friends put a rock under him and support his hands, so that his hands will remain emet or steady2.
When emet is used of people, it describes reliable and stable character or trustworthiness. Like when Moses appoints leaders in Israel, they’re to be “people of emet,” people who are trustworthy, who won’t take bribes or distort justice.3
God is Trustworthy [1:11-1:45]
So to say that God is “full of emet” doesn’t just mean that God tells the truth or stands for truth. It means that God is faithful and trustworthy. This is why Moses calls God “a rock,” saying that he is faithful, just, and upright. He’s saying that he can trust God to be consistent to his character.
And the Hebrew word for trust is actually the verb form of the word emet—it’s he’emin. It can be translated as “to believe” or “to have faith,” but most basically it means “to consider someone trust-worthy” or “to trust.”
Humans Trusting in God [1:46-3:21]
The first person we meet in the Bible who considers God to be trustworthy is Abraham. God makes a promise that Abraham and his wife Sarah will have a huge family, and that through them, all nations will experience God’s blessing4. But Abraham and Sarah are really, really old, and they’ve never been able to have any children. And yet, in the face of these challenges, Abraham he’emins God. He considers God trustworthy to open a way forward.5
And God does show emet to Abraham and Sarah. In just four generations their descendants form a whole nation, called Israel. And God invites Israel into a trusting and faithful relationship. And when God leads them out of slavery in Egypt, Israel he’emins in God. They trust and rely on him6. But when they come to the land God promised to Abraham, and they find out it’s filled with giant cities protected by giants, their trust in God’s emet fails.
But eventually, we meet an Israelite who does trust God in the face of giants: it’s David. He yells
at the giant, “You come with a sword and a spear, but I come with the name of the God of Israel!” David consistently relies on God. In fact, it’s said that David “walked in emet” before God7. So David considers God to be faithful and responds with faithfulness. This is why God promises to raise up a faithful descendant of David, whose kingdom will endure forever, or in Hebrew, have emet8. This faithful king will become the source of trust and stability for others forever.
God’s Emet Fulfilled [3:22-4:09]
But when the kingdom later collapses, the Israelites find themselves without a home and without a king. And they cry out, “Oh God, where is your loyal love that you swore to David in your emet?”9 They’re accusing God of abandoning his promises to Abraham and to David. Is God trustworthy? Is he faithful after all?
The first line of the New Testament is an answer to that question. “This is the lineage of Jesus the Messiah: the son of David, the son of Abraham.”10 In other words, through Jesus, God fulfills his promises. Or as Paul says, Jesus came on behalf of God’s faithfulness.11 He is the faithful king, whose kingdom will endure forever, and who invites all nations to trust God.
Now, trusting anyone is risky. It’s hard to know if anyone is really “full of emet.” But the biblical story portrays a God who has been faithful all along and whose promises were fulfilled in the story of Jesus. And so as we look out at the obstacles facing us and our world, we’re invited to take that same risk and join Abraham, David, and the people of God in trusting that God is overflowing with faithfulness.