Editor's Note: In this episode Tim incorrectly referred to a philosopher, Paul Boghossian. His name is actually Peter Boghossian, and the interview Tim references can be found here.
“Relationships with close people and our relationship with God revolve around trust. And trust requires trustworthiness. Trust is based on evidence––trust in God or trust in humans––it’s not blind trust.”
In part one (0:00–16:10), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss God’s faithfulness, the fifth and final word God uses to describe himself in Exodus 34:6-7. The Hebrew word used here is emet, which can be translated as “faithfulness” or even “truth.” It’s related to another common word, “amen,” which is an untranslated Hebrew expression meaning, “that’s truth!”
The word emet is found all over the Hebrew Bible. Sometimes, the word emet means “truth.” In the context of Exodus 34:6, it could mean, “God is full of truth.” However, that doesn’t quite get at the personal or relational connotation of emet, which is what God is communicating in this verse. In Exodus 34:6, God is telling Moses that he is faithful and trustworthy.
Part of being faithful and trustworthy is being someone who tells the truth. The Bible calls this “having lips of emet.”
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
But emet involves more than just truth-telling. It’s the quality of a person who’s faithful and reliable. When King Hezekiah prays to Yahweh in 2 Kings 20, he appeals to God on the grounds of his own proven faithfulness.
2 Kings 20:3
Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
In Psalm 31, the psalmist is declaring that God is trustworthy and faithful, a God on whom we can depend.
Psalm 31:6 Into your hands I commit my very breath; save me, O God of emet.
There’s a reciprocal nature to faith and faithfulness. It’s like the classic example of the chair: a chair is faithful (to be sat in and hold you up). You are faithful to sit in the chair, and you are demonstrating faith (that the chair will hold you up) when you do so.
In part two (16:10–26:30), Carissa walks the team through the concept of emet as reliability or stability. That’s what distinguishes God’s faithfulness from his loyal love. Khesed denotes a strong emotive sense of affection, and emet has more to do with stability.
For example, when the Amalekites fight against Israel in Exodus 17, Moses holds his hands up to defeat their enemies. When his hands get tired, Aaron and Hur support his hands, keeping them “steady,” or emet (Exodus 17:11-12).
It’s this idea of steadiness biblical authors are getting at when they refer to God as a “rock” throughout Scripture (Deuteronomy 32:4). Carissa points out that perhaps this is why God puts this characteristic of faithfulness last in the list in Exodus 34:6. He’s saying, “This is who I am, and I never change.”
We also see this language in the story of Abraham, who the Hebrew Bible sets apart as an ideal of what it looks like to trust God. Abraham and Hezekiah show us what trust really looks like.
In part three (26:30–37:00), the team takes a deeper dive into the life of Abraham. God promises Abraham that he will bless all the nations through his family. (Genesis 12:1-3). Abraham and Sarah have not been able to have children, but Abraham he’emin’s, that is, he considers God trustworthy to open a way forward, no matter the obstacle.
He took him outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars––if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
Paul reflects on the life of Abraham as an example of what it looks like to have faith in God and how people become part of Abraham’s family, united to God through faith.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead––since he was about a hundred years old––and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.
Followers of Jesus are sometimes criticized for choosing belief without evidence. But emet is not blind trust. In the Bible, faithful people are constantly looking back on examples of God’s faithfulness in the past, and that becomes the basis for their present trust.
But the Bible is also full of examples of people who base their lack of trust on evidence. In Numbers 14, the Israelites choose to trust their fear of the giants inhabiting the promised land rather than God’s promise. In the end, they experience the consequences of their decision––decades of wandering in the wilderness––and see that God had been worthy of their trust all along.
In part four (37:00–44:00), Carissa unpacks what emet means in the context of God’s covenants with his people. God makes covenants with Abraham, with the people of Israel, and with King David, and each time, he promises faithfulness to his people and asks that they be faithful in return.
God’s relationship with David is a great example of covenantal emet. David trusts God in the fact of a giant––a direct contrast to Numbers 14. And so God chooses David to lead Israel and makes a covenant with him.
2 Samuel 7:15-16
But my love (khesed) will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure (ne’eman) forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
God is saying David’s kingdom will endure––or ne’eman (from the same root as emet)––forever. And God doesn’t stop there. He promises that even if David’s descendents are unfaithful, God will make sure David always has a descendent on the throne. God himself will stabilize the covenant, even if David’s descendents don’t keep their end of the deal.
In part five (44:00–54:00), the team talks about what happens when emet fails in a covenant relationship. None of the kings that came from David’s line trusted God. Instead, they trusted their own plans to gain security, and it led to injustice, ruin, and exile.
When Israel finds themselves in exile, with no king and no hope, the psalmist recounts God’s khesed and emet in his covenant to David.
I will sing of the steadfast love (khesed) of the Lord, forever; With my mouth I will make known your faithfulness (emunah) to all generations. For I said, “Khesed will be built up forever; In the heavens you will establish your emunah.” You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: ‘I will establish your offspring forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”
But then the poet accuses God of violating his promises.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant; You have defiled his crown in the dust.
Lord, where is your khesed of old, which by your emunah you swore to David?
God had allowed his people to go into exile. What had happened to emet? The exile was more than just a crisis of circumstance for Israel. For many, it was a crisis of faith. This is why it is so significant that the New Testament opens with a resounding reminder of promises kept: “This is the genealogy (lineage) of Jesus Christ—the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).
Jesus is the promised King of Israel and the fulfillment of God’s covenants to Abraham and David.
In Romans, Paul explains that Jesus came on behalf of God’s aletheia (Greek for “faithfulness”) to confirm the promises made to Abraham and Israel (Romans 15:8-9). And the author of Hebrews points out that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to David (2 Samuel 7:15-16).
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.”
In Jesus, God proves that he is trustworthy, consistent, and reliable. God has not abandoned his people or his own emet.
In part six (54:00–61:30), the team takes a look at trust in the New Testament. Because God shows himself trustworthy through Jesus, humans are then called to place their trust in Jesus.
Despite facing significant obstacles to faith, the New Testament is full of men and women who demonstrated incredible trust in Jesus.
In all of these stories, Jesus heals the person because of their demonstration of faith and trust in him.
Tim points out that the writers of the New Testament carry forward an important theme from the Hebrew Bible. A central theme of the Hebrew Bible is people trusting Yahweh despite all odds. The New Testament is centered on the theme of people trusting Jesus, Yahweh become human.
In part seven (61:30–end), Carissa leads the team through some final takeaways.
Relationships revolve around trust, whether we’re talking about our relationship with God or other humans. And that trust should never be blind; it should be based on the evidence of proven trustworthiness.
Throughout the story of the Bible, humans are repeatedly unfaithful, and God is repeatedly faithful. The pattern of God’s faithfulness in Scripture is something to which we can cling.
As we see in the New Testament, even when we struggle to trust, Jesus is still trustworthy and responds to us with compassion.
Interested in more? Check out Tim’s full library here.
Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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