“Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” 1 Samuel 12:24
In Truth – Read it carefully. You are likely to understand this little phrase as though it were an adjective, not a preposition. Do you think that it says, “serve Him truthfully”? That’s how we probably interpret the meaning. We think that the prophet is exhorting the king to serve God correctly (truthfully, according to the right doctrines). We are terribly mistaken.
The Hebrew word is ‘emeth. It is prefixed by the letter bet (be’emeth). This is a prepositional phrase (“in truth”), but it’s not what we usually think about truth. We are inclined to interpret this as a modifier of the idea of serving, but it’s not. It’s a description of the way that we are to serve God. What it means is that we are to serve God reliably. We are to serve Him as one who genuinely embraces all that is required according to God’s trustworthy declarations. In other words, serving Him in truth means walking the talk. Serving Him in truth means taking His words so seriously that we put them into action in our lives without any hesitation or regret. This is serving God from the heart, especially since the heart in Hebrew thought is the center of will, decision and action. Who will dwell on God’s holy mountain? Only the one who “speak ‘emeth in his heart,” that is, only the one who honestly and genuinely puts into action all the words that he embraces from God’s mouth.
Of course, this is a problem. ‘emeth is not about us. It is about God. He is the only truly reliable one, the only truly trustworthy one. We are not like God, not even when it comes to our commitment and faithfulness. God never slips out of character. God never fails to deliver on a promise. ‘emeth is an attribute of His character. Truth, faithfulness and reliability belong to Him. Therefore, we are called to emulate His nature, not to manifest ‘emeth as though it were secretly hidden within us. In order for us to serve Him “in truth”, we will have to set aside who we are now and become like Him through obedience.
When Yeshua said, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” He had this same Hebrew word in mind. He spoke of Himself in terms that could only be applied to God. He told us that He is utterly reliable, total faithful and completely stable. His promises never fail. His love never fades. His commitment never slips. His acts display what ‘emeth means. So should ours! The only way that we can emulate this divine nature is through His life-giving power. For ‘emeth to be manifest in us, we must live in Him.
Doesn’t that sound great? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could express God’s faithful reliability in our lives? We can. He promises so. How? Ah, by following His directions for living, that’s how. By just doing what He says. When we determine to be obedient to His instructions (about days, food, people, conflicts, business and everything else), we are transformed into a living, acting example of God’s faithfulness and reliability. We don’t get there because we pursue ‘emeth. We get there because we pursue YHWH – and He changes us in the process. We are not Greek. Truth, beauty and goodness are not our goals. God is our goal, and truth is the by-product. Agreed?
Topical Index: Truth, ‘emeth, reliability, faithfulness