Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 12:17
He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit"
This is the Hebrew word puach, which means to breathe, blow. The idea here is that the normal – almost unconscious – comments of a person should be evaluated for their truth content. If they are true, then that person is telling you what is right. But if the unexamined and almost unnoticed comments of a person are not true, then do not trust that person to advise you.
Does the person say inaccurate facts? Does the person exaggerate even when they don't need to? Does the person distort the truth to make themselves look good almost as an instinct?
This is the Hebrew word emunah, which means firmness, steadfastness, fidelity. It is translated truth, but it really has the idea of what can be counted on. When this person says it – even if it is a side comment – then you know it is true. That is the kind of person you can count on to guide you right.
This is the Hebrew word tsedeq, which means righteous, rightness. There is in this word both accuracy but also positive in its presentation. Remember that the righteous action is not just the one that is inside the boundaries of what is wrong; but it is positive towards God, others, and yourself. So the person who worries about even their throw-away comments accuracy will work hard to shape their comments to be a positive influence and proper in their orientation. They will not spread that which is a lie nor will they use the truth as a weapon to destroy others or damage that which is good.
Notice that the one is a prerequisite for the other. Solomon is essentially saying you want to know who will steer you in the right direction. Who is saying the best course of action? Who is giving the advice that will make the most positive impact and reliable information? It is the person who obsesses over whether they are accurate and not the person who is into half-truths and manipulative deceptions to make themselves look good.
This is made up of two Hebrew words sheqerwhich means deception or falsehood and edwhich means witness or evidence.
Solomon is saying that experience with people and the truthfulness of what they say trumps the words that are coming out of their mouth. If they have been a false witness in the past, they are deceiving you in the present. If they have bent the truth to their advantage, then they are most likely doing it again. Many times we get caught up in what they are saying – especially if what they are saying is what we want to hear – then our ability to be deceived is very great.
I hear this all the time. The gossip who has spread lies about others begins to tell you dirt about someone whom you want to hear dirt about, so you ignore the source of the information. The flirtatious boy or girl who lies to the right person to go with them is lying when they say that they love you – they only love themselves. They will deceive you.
This is the Hebrew word mirmah, which means deceit, treachery. Solomon is saying to look at the obvious. The person who manipulates words for their advantage is manipulating words to their advantage. Don't get suckered in by what they are saying. Realize who is saying it.
He is giving us a lesson in real life. We need this lesson.