33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37, NKJV)
Jesus knows there are people who think what they say is only binding when they give their word with an oath. Without it, they feel at ease to break their word (see Matthew 23:16-22 for examples of this). Such people still exist. Honesty holds little value to them, so they break their word easily and repeatedly. Apparently, they think by emphasizing or exaggerating their honesty they increase their integrity and credibility. So, they swear by God, by heaven, by earth, and by many other things. They assure you they are telling you the truth as they say, “I swear…” For Christians, a simple “yes” or “no” is enough to establish the truthfulness of our words. Jesus said, “more than these is from the evil one.” Be the person whose integrity of heart means your word is your bond. Then, when you speak, others never need to wonder whether you are telling them the truth. (Revised, Sword Tips #320)
7 Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. 8 And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said: “Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore.” (Amos 7:7–8, NKJV)
Amos’ message was far from positive. God’s prophet had a dreadful message of punishment for the northern kingdom of Israel. Instead of standing upright against idolatry, immorality and injustice, they had participated in them. God’s plumb line, His truth, was in the midst of Israel, and they were not straight. God had repeatedly called them to repentance, but they would not return to Him. It was time to meet God (Amos 4:12). God’s word remains the standard of morality, teaching and faith. Everyone is judged by it (John 12:48-50; Romans 2:16; Revelation 20:12). God is longsuffering toward sinners, calling them through the gospel to repent (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4). But, God is also just. His day of wrath will come, and we dare not have an impenitent heart toward His judgment (Romans 2:2-5). Like Israel, the church today is under threat of compromise with sin. Many have already accepted the world’s values and practices. The house of God will not escape judgment when we fail to stand upright and be faithful to the word of God (1 Peter 4:17-18). God’s plumb line is in the midst of His people (Galatians 1:6-10; 2 John 9).
11 Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. 12 For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me. (Psalm 40:11–12, NKJV)
While pleading for God’s mercy to abide with him, David acknowledged God’s merciful protection comes from His steadfast love and truth. When evil surrounds us and our own sins overwhelm us, God’s mercy secures our souls. He supplies abundant mercy when sinful forces from without and within test our hearts and try our faith. God’s mercy flows from His eternal love. His every purpose and act is founded in His abiding love for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-10). Simultaneously, it is His truth that safely protects us against evil and its forces. His word (which is truth, John 17:17) explains how mercy and truth meet to give us relief from our sins (Psalm 85:10). We do not mandate the mercy of God; His word of truth does that. It explains how and upon whom the Lord shows mercy (Romans 9:14-18). Truth teaches us that we cannot expect to receive God’s mercy if we are practicing sin. Sin brings wrath (Romans 1:18). Mercy comes when we repent and obey God’s truth (Ephesians 2:4-10; Hebrews 5:8-9; Titus 3:4-5). God’s mercy proceeds from love and is revealed by truth. All who put their trust in Him and do His will shall be preserved by His mercy (Psalm 40:1-8).
You are near, O Lord, and all Your commandments are truth. (Psalm 119:151, NKJV)
Are we actually to believe that the commandments of God are truth? Absolutely (John 17:17). People loath obeying the commands of God when they do not have an abiding allegiance to divine truth. It is no great surprise that many people believe truth is relative, a shape-shifting concept that morphs into whatever they dictate truth to be. Such is the influence of this present, evil age (Romans 12:2). Absolute truth is ridiculed, mocked and discarded out of hand. They try to shape God’s truth into whatever they want it to be. Why do you think more and more people believe gender identity changes with one’s moods and personal perceptions? Such distortions of reality merely reflect their relativistic concept of truth. Nevertheless, God’s commands are not shaped by our moods, our culture, and our environment. God is still the potter, and we are still the clay – too many believe it is the other way around (Jeremiah 18:6). Today’s verse implies the obvious; God is near the person who respects and obeys His commands. This is the person God will never leave nor forsake (Hebrews 13:5). The disobedient have no assurance that God is near because they do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6-7; John 14:23). If you want God to be near you, then keep His commandments. They are truth.
20 “Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, 21 That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?” (Proverbs 22:20–21, NKJV)
God’s word repeatedly extols the virtues of wise counsel that comes from God’s words of truth. Wisdom is not merely knowing something is true. Wisdom is correctly and consistently applying one’s knowledge of truth to life’s situations and circumstances. Wisdom is not merely something to possess, it is something we must apply. As James said, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). The proverbs are a case in point. These general maxims of life do us little good until we practice them. When followed, their wise counsel leads us down constructive and righteous paths. The wisdom of God is contained in the certainty of His words of truth. We see that one’s attitude toward truth is integral to shaping wisdom within the heart. If we refuse to bend and shape ourselves to the truth of God’s word we will inevitably make foolish, hurtful, and sinful choices. To be wise we must listen to and follow the wise counsel of God’s truth. Write His words on your heart and follow them (Hebrew 8:10; 10:16). They will equip you with wisdom for life’s endeavors and insight to sustain you as you face life’s challenges.
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:12–13, NKJV)
Isaiah described Zion (Messiah’s kingdom) as a time when weak hands are strengthened, and feeble knees made strong (Isaiah 35:3). In Zion, straight paths for our feet are established by God’s word, from which we must not to turn to the right or to the left to do evil (Proverbs 4:26-27). Since we have come to Mount Zion and are redeemed by the blood of the reigning Lamb of God, it is no wonder Christians are now exhorted to do these very things (Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 5:8-10). Let us lift a discouraged Christian by bearing his or her burden (Galatians 6:1-2). Let us exhort a disciple who has stumbled along the path to repent and return to the right way of truth (Acts 8:18-24). Let us refuse to compromise with sin by warning those who stray into paths of error and immorality (Revelation 2:20-23). Strength in the kingdom of Christ is measured by service, not by being served (Mark 10:42-45). So, commit yourself to strengthening your fellow Christians and being a blessing in their lives. “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
6 You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! (Psalm 61:6–7, NKJV)
King David was sure that God would hear his prayers and protect him from his enemies (Psalm 61:1-3). For his part, David would abide with God and keep trusting in God’s sheltering wings, sure of God’s favor and reward of a heritage and abundant life (Psalm 61:4-6). God prepared two things that would preserve the king, mercy and truth. By these the king would be guarded by God to lead the people in wisdom and righteousness. Like the king, each of us will be shielded by God and assured of His blessings when we are merciful and guided by truth. “God shall send forth His mercy and His truth” to save the righteous and reproach is enemies (Psalm 57:3). “Mercy and truth preserve the king,” and they also bless us when we walk in them (Proverbs 20:28). With David, we praise God for the extent of His mercy and truth, “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds” (Psalm 57:9-10). Let us commit ourselves to being merciful and living by God’s truth. By doing so you will have His favor and reap eternal life.