The Names of God: Yahweh El Emeth

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In January 2017, Kellyanne Conway, US Counsellor to the President, was interviewed on NBC’s Meet the Press. At one point, she was questioned about White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s inaccurate statement about attendance numbers at President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The interviewer asked her to explain why Mr. Spicer would “utter a provable falsehood.” She replied that Mr. Spicer had offered “alternative facts.” The interviewer cuttingly responded, “Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”

While she later tried to defend her use of the term “alternate facts,” Conway’s words highlighted a sad reality: We live in a world of relative truth. It is considered an absolute truth that there is no absolute truth, and we are encouraged to speak “our own truth” while never calling into question someone else’s truth. Two thousand years ago, Pilate cynically asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). Nothing has changed.

The Bible places a high premium on truth. John urged his readers to display their love by truth (1 John 3:18). Our commitment to truth is displayed in our obedience to the authority of Scripture (1 John 4:6). Truth is one way in which we equip ourselves for spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:14). Christian worship is characterised by truth (John 4:24) and Christian discipleship by speaking truth (Ephesians 4:25). The Bible makes no apologies about the fact that there is truth and falsehood, with little room for grey in between.

One reason that the Bible places such a high premium on truth is because truth is consistent with God’s character. He does not and cannot lie (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalm 89:35; Hebrews 6:18) because he is the very God of truth.

In Psalm 31, David wrote of the untrue accusations with which his enemies were attacking him. Their lies were having drastic effect because his neighbours and acquaintances were viewing him unfavourably because of those accusations (vv. 11–13). The lies were proving damaging to his reputation, and were even threatening his life, as the lies of the religious leaders many centuries later did to Jesus. Rather than grow despondent, David knew where to turn when it seemed as if untruth would win the day. “Into your hand I entrust my spirit; you have redeemed me, LORD, God of truth” (v. 5, CSB).

“LORD, God of truth” (CSB) or “LORD, faithful God” (ESV) translates the Hebrew name Yahweh El Emeth. It speaks of the fact that God is absolute truth and offers hope that, while untruth may seem overwhelmingly powerful in the moment, truth will ultimately win the day. As we consider that Yahweh is a God of truth—Yahweh El Emeth—there are several implications to ponder.

First, we must realise that Yahweh is the only true God. Jesus prayed in the garden, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Any claim to truth that conflicts with the truth of God is not an “alternative fact” but an outright lie. The truth of God is not one truth among many; it is the truth in contrast to the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Christianity unapologetically claims to be a religion of absolute truth and unashamedly calls everything that contradicts it false.

As Christians, we must not allow the enemy to intimidate us into denying God’s truth. Claims to exclusive truth are met with derision and hatred, and those who claim access to such truth are often marginalised and excluded from polite society. We are ever tempted to deny Christian claims to absolute truth to avoid being labelled as bigoted and marginalised. But since God is “the only truth God,” we dare not deny the truth he claims.

Second, since he is Yahweh El Emeth, the God of the Bible is always and absolutely reliable. Paul wrote, “Let God be true though every one were a liar” (Romans 3:4). People cannot always be trusted. Humans err and do not always remain firm in the truth. Humans can be easily swayed by lies and untruth, but Yahweh El Emeth is absolutely reliable. He is, in the language of the ESV, the “faithful God” (Psalm 31:5).

One practical implication of this is that, in the end, God will always be proven to be right. Romans 3:4 goes on to quote Psalm 51:4: “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” When his claims are put to the test, God always emerges as reliable. Honest scrutiny will always show God’s word to be accurate. The truth of Scripture has been attacked time and again throughout history but it has always stood the test of time.

Third, and related to the above, Yahweh El Emeth encourages us that God cannot lie. Titus 1:2 tells us that God “never lies” and Hebrews 6:18 states it even more emphatically: “It is impossible for God to lie.” Yahweh El Emeth’s truth has never been found wanting, though it has often been tested. That doesn’t mean that no biblical truth is difficult to reconcile. Even a cursory Google search will reveal a plethora of supposed contradictions in Scripture. Furthermore, our experiences sometimes appear irreconcilable with the claims of Scripture. It is sometimes difficult to understand why God allows terrible things to happen to us if he loves us. His claims and our experiences sometimes appear at odds with one another.

But even when we cannot immediately reconcile an apparent contradiction, and even when we struggle to reconcile God’s promises with our experiences, Scripture assures us God does not and cannot lie. He always fulfils his promises, albeit not always in our time.

Fourth, because he is Yahweh El Emeth, God makes no error. This gives us confidence in his word. Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Not only is he absolute truth but his revelation to us is likewise absolute truth. God’s word is trustworthy and sufficient because it proceeds from a trustworthy and sufficient source.

Scripture draws a direct line from truth to righteousness. For example, Paul writes of “those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” (Romans 2:8). Here, the opposite of “truth” is seen to be “unrighteousness.” Therefore, righteousness and truth are closely related. Because he is “the only true God” we can be sure that his character and actions are always righteous. Indeed, the God of all the earth always does what is right.

For David, Yahweh El Emeth was not a purely theoretical truth. Instead, he knew that, even in the face of the harshest opposition and false accusation, he could commit himself into the hands of the God of truth. Jesus likewise entrusted himself into the hands of Yahweh El Emeth. The lies of the religious leaders directly led to his death and, as his last words, he quoted Psalm 31:5: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Because God was true and therefore righteous, he could humbly entrust himself into God’s hand with faith that, as difficult as it was, the Judge of all the earth was, as always, doing what was right. We can face our afflictions with the same confidence because he is Yahweh El Emeth.