Why do we say that something “rings true”? The expression comes from the way manufacturers would test the quality of metal or glass by striking it and evaluating the sound it makes. Bells can clang with dissonant noise, but it’s better when they chime with pleasant tones.
Based on intuition and experience we say things like these: “On the surface the advertiser’s sales pitch sounds persuasive, but his claims don’t ring true.” “The worker’s excuse for being late doesn’t bear the ring of truth.” “The witness impressed the jury because her testimony rang true.”
The Bible contains many passages I find puzzling, but I find the Scriptures consistently bear the ring of truth. Moses and Elijah were outstanding leaders, but in moments of exhausted exasperation both of them expressed feelings of self-pity and despondency. Their human reactions under stress ring true to me.
The Psalms bear the ring of truth as well. David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd,” but one chapter earlier he wrote, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Most believers resonate with both sides of that coin, for there are times God seems close and times he seems far away.
The Gospels are filled with eyewitness details that ring true and enhance their believability. Mark observed that the hungry multitude sat down on the green grass “in groups of hundreds and fifties” (Mark 6:39, 40), which made it easy to calculate the overall attendance of the crowd Jesus fed (over 5,000). Luke noted that Jesus sat in Simon Peter’s boat and taught the people gathered on the shore (Luke 5:3). Did you ever notice how the smooth water of a lake amplifies your voice? The Lord of creation didn’t need a microphone; he used the natural amplifier of the lake’s surface to help the crowd hear his voice. John wrote that Peter dragged ashore a net “full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn” (John 21:11). Those are the kinds of details fishermen would remember!
Witty observations recorded in the book of Proverbs ring true as well.
- “Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17). A simple salad eaten in peace beats a prime rib consumed in a hateful atmosphere that produces heartburn.
- “A cheerful heart is good medicine” (17:22)—and everyone could use a daily dose of cheerfulness.
- “‘It’s no good, it’s no good!’ says the buyer—then goes off and boasts about the purchase” (20:14). Did you ever go to a garage sale?
- “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse” (27:14). That rings true. Sleepy neighbors don’t enjoy loud greetings along with their morning coffee.
Hearing God’s Voice
The Bible says, “Let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5), and God guides us as we pray, search the written Word, and heed godly counsel. In prayer the church at Antioch recognized the Holy Spirit was guiding them to send Barnabas and Saul as missionaries. Later the Spirit enabled the apostles to discern that Bar-Jesus (Elymas) was a false prophet (Acts 13:1-12).
By soaking up biblical truth and devoting ourselves to prayer, we sharpen our ability to recognize truthful messages and discard those that bear the ring of falsehood.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
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