Mercy & Truth
A. Mercy Defined
1. The Authorized versions translates this term as “mercy” 149 times, “kindness” 40 times, “lovingkindness” 30 times, “goodness” 12 times, “kindly” five times, “merciful” four times, “favour” three times, “good” once, “goodliness” once, “pity” once. (various translations)
2. Strong’s defines it as : Goodness, kindness, faithfulness.
3. Dictionary of Bible Languages defines it as: Loyal love, devotion.
a. Ex. 34:6 – This term is used as part of God’s character. It is translated here as “goodness.”
b. Ex. 34:7 – The same Hebrew term is translated “mercy” in the very next verse.
c. It speaks of the fact that God is LOYAL to His people. He is FAITHFUL to His promises to them.
d. His loyal love may be expressed in deeds of mercy and goodness… but the term itself highlights His faithfulness to them… His loyal love… His dedication to His people.
e. Ps. 89:28 – Here the same term is used and it speaks of God’s loyal love (faithfulness to His covenant) with David. God’s promise to David will stand because God is LOYAL.
f. This word is in Psalm 136 where it is used twenty-six times (mercy) to proclaim that God’s kindness and love are eternal.
• In that psalm, everything God does is an expression of his loyal love… His mercy is “forever.”
• It is undying… faithful… loyal.
• In this Psalm, His “mercy” is the basis for:
» His great and wondrous acts in creation (Ps. 136:4–9).
» Redeeming His people from Pharaoh and the Red Sea (Ps. 136:10–15).
» The reason for His guidance in the desert (Ps. 136:16).
» It is the reason he gave the land to Israel and defeated their enemies (Ps. 136:17–22).
» It is the reason He continues to deliver His people. (Ps. 136:23–25);
» It is the reason we should give THANKS to the One who rules in heaven (Ps. 136:26).
• The reason God delivered Israel was because He is faithful and has loyal love towards them.
• The reason God guides them and provides for them and gave them the land is because of His loyal love to His people.
• This is what is meant by the word translated “mercy” in Proverbs 20:28.
B. Truth Defined
1. The Hebrew term translated truth is variously defined as well:
a. Strong’s: Firmness; faithfulness; sureness; reliability; stability; continuance; faithfulness; truth.
b. Dictionary of Bible Languages: Faithfulness; reliability; trustworthiness; i.e., a state or condition of being dependable and loyal to a person or standard… and also as true, certain, sure.
2. There is some “overlap” in meaning in these two terms.
3. Both terms speak of loyalty and faithfulness.
a. The first term emphasizes being loyal and firm in LOVE.
b. The second term implies being loyal and firm to TRUTH.
4. Psalm 12:1 – A variation of this term is found in this passage in which the psalmist laments that “faithful” men are failing. (disappear) He laments that men are not as faithful to the truth as in years gone by.
C. Preserve the King
1. Preserve: To watch; guard; keep; protect; guard from dangers.
2. This “preservation” could come from four different directions:
a. The mercy and truth of God towards the king preserves the king.
• This is especially true of the theocratic king of Israel.
• Ps. 89:28 –
» Mercy = the same term as in Proverbs 20:28.
» A variation of this term is translated “stand fast.”
» Vs. 33 – God will not take away His lovingkindness from David (same word as mercy in Prov. 20:28).
» Vs. 34-35 – God is loyal and faithful to David because of the PROMISE that God made to David – the Davidic covenant.
» It will “stand fast.” This term is a variation of the word “truth.” (firm; steadfast)
» The REASON David is preserved as a king is because of God’s mercy (lovingkindness; loyal love) to him.
• Solomon wrote “Mercy and truth shall preserve the king.” God’s mercy and truth shall preserve the king.
• Psalm 40:11 – David prays for God’s tender mercies. Then he states (using the same two words in Prov. 20:28) that it will be God’s lovingkindness and thy truth that will continually preserve him.
• The mercy and truth of God will preserve the king.
b. The mercy and truth of the subjects toward the king preserves the king.
• However, when considering the proverb at hand, (since Solomon left it ambiguous WHOSE mercy and truth he is talking about) it is also possible that the mercy and truth of the royal subjects will preserve the king.
• When the people are happy, well cared for, they will demonstrate loyal love and faithfulness to the leadership of their king.
• The king and his position as king are safe when the people are loyal and faithful to the throne.
• However, if the people are NOT loyal and true to their king, then the king is not in a safe position. He will not be preserved.
• I Kings 11:43 – Consider the case of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.
» I Kings 12:4 – Jeroboam and the people came to him with a reasonable request.
» I Kings 12:13-14 – Rehoboam rejected the reasonable request of the people, and as a result the people were not loyal and faithful to him. They started a civil war!
» The king and his kingdom COULD have been preserved by the “mercy and truth” of the people… if they had demonstrated loyal love and were true to their king… but they were not.
» For a king or any leader to be preserved, he needs the loyalty and faithfulness of the people.
» Perhaps Rehoboam should have spent more time meditating on the proverbs that his father wrote—for his SONS to have wisdom and discretion.
» Wisdom and discretion were provided for Rehoboam in the Scriptures, but he did not avail himself of it.
» It did him no good and he paid for it dearly.
» It does us no good either if we don’t avail ourselves of it.
c. The mercy and truth of the king towards his subjects preserves the king.
• The story of Rehoboam also highlights the need for the King (and all that are in authority) to demonstrate mercy and truth to the PEOPLE they rule.
• If a king shows his devotion and faithfulness to his people (instead of his own self-interest), that too will PRESERVE the king… in that the people will not revolt and cast him off the throne… or out of office.
• When the king demonstrates acts of compassion he GAINS the affections of his people.
» This is what Absalom did.
» He showed compassion on the people (although it was phony)… and he stole the hearts of the people.
• Prov. 3:3-4 – Showing mercy and truth (same terms) puts a person in FAVOR with God and man.
» When a king shows mercy and truth to his people, he will be in their favor—and that means “safety” for the king and his throne.
» This is true for the result of us who are not part of a royal family. Demonstrate loyal love and faithfulness to your friends and you will be in their favor too.
d. The mercy and truth of the king towards God preserves the king.
• And of course, if the theocratic king in Israel was loyal and faithful to God, then that too would preserve him from evil and calamity.
• Deut. 28:15 – The king and his kingdom would be subject to the CURSE of God against them if they (especially the king) were not faithful and loyal to God.
• II Kings 25:7 – Consider King Zedekiah: “And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.”
» Because he was not loyal or faithful to God, he was not preserved.
» Had he and the other kings of Israel repented, they WOULD have been preserved.
• Mercy and truth of the king towards God preserves the king. A lack thereof results in calamity!
3. Like so many of the proverbs, the statement is ambiguous enough that it forces you to THINK about these various ways—probably intentionally.
1. Uphold: Support; sustain; make safe.
a. Used in Ps. 119:17 – “Hold thou me up, (same word as uphold) and I shall be safe.”
b. This is the meaning in our proverb too. The king’s throne is supported and sustained and made safe by mercy.
2. Thus, the second part of the proverb says virtually the same thing as the first part with a couple of distinctions.
a. Here Solomon speaks about the king’s “throne” rather than the king himself. (the difference between the person and his government)
b. And he states that the throne is “upheld” wherein in the first part of the proverb he uses the word “preserve.” (similar thoughts)
3. In this short proverb Solomon causes his readers to think about the importance of mercy and truth (loyal love and faithful steadfastness).
a. They preserve the king and his government.
b. God’s loyal love and faithfulness protected the kings of Israel.
c. The theocratic king’s loyal love and faithfulness towards God kept him and his throne safe too.
d. The theocratic king’s loyal love and faithfulness towards his people kept him and his throne safe from upheaval and rebellion.
e. The people’s loyal love and faithfulness towards their king also kept him and their government safe.
f. No matter how you slice it, these qualities are exceedingly valuable to any leader… to any people…
g. Loyalty and faithfulness are needed for a business to function efficiently and effectively.
h. Loyal love and faithfulness keep a local church strong and united.
i. Loyal love and faithfulness keep families together and protects the sanctity of the home.