AMEN!

amen-with-man

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (Revelation 3:14)

AMEN! It’s a common interjection often expressed to show agreement or approval and often without knowledge of what the word means. Can I get an AMEN!

The word can be either an interjection, an adverb, or a noun. Dictionary.Com defines it like this: as an interjection, “it is so; so be it (used after a prayer, creed, or other formal statement to express solemn ratification or agreement;” as an adverb, “verily; truly.” and as a noun, “an utterance of the interjection ‘amen.’” The 1828 Noah Webster’s Dictionary defines it as follows:

AMEN‘. This word, with slight differences or orthography, is in all the dialects of the Assyrian stock. As a verb, it signifies to confirm, establish, verify; to trust, or give confidence; as a noun, truth, firmness, trust, confidence; as an adjective, firm, stable. In English, after the oriental manner, it is used at the beginning, but more generally at the end of declarations and prayers, in the sense of, be it firm, be it established.

For the best understanding of the word, we need to look to its origins in the Bible. We find the first use of the word in Numbers 5:22. In context, a woman is brought before the high priest for suspicion of adultery by her husband who has the “spirit of jealousy.” The priest would make a concoction of “holy water” and dust from the floor of the tabernacle, and he would make the woman drink it with the understanding that if she is guilty, the truth will manifest physically in her body. “And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen” (Numbers 5:22, emphasis mine). “Amen,” in English, is a transliteration of the Hebrew ‘âmên (Imagine that!). Strong’s Dictionary defines it thus: “sure; abstractly faithfulness; adverbially truly: – Amen, so be it, truth.” In this case, the woman would be expressing complete agreement with the test as indicated by the repetition of the amen – “so be it, so be it”

Deuteronomy 27 presents a long list of curses for violating the laws of God to which all the people must express agreement with an “Amen.” The next time we find AMEN in the Bible is in 1 Kings 1, where King David establishes his son, Solomon, as his successor. He calls for Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Solomon’s future top military officer, to witness the king’s transfer of power. “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the LORD God of my lord the king say so too” (1 Kings 1:36, emphasis mine). In this case Benaiah affirmed the king’s decree: “it is so” or “let it be so.”

First Chronicles 16 records the time when David brought the Ark to Jerusalem (after the incident with Uzzah recorded in 2 Samuel 6). Beginning with verse 8, the account recounts a psalm of David which is later repeated in Psalms 105:1-15; 96:1-13; and 106: 1, 47-48, and ends with: “Blessed be the LORD God of Israel for ever and ever. And all the people said, Amen, and praised the LORD” (1 Chronicles 16:36, emphasis mine). Here, not only do the people agree, but they also affirm the truth of the statement. Their acknowledgement of the truth of the statement prompts them to praise the Lord.

Another example of acknowledging the truth of a statement appears in Nehemiah, the eighth chapter. Historically this took place after the return of the Jews from Babylonian captivity where Nehemiah was tasked with restoring the bulwarks of Jerusalem, while Ezra, the priest, rebuilt the Temple. The walls were completed in the sixth month, and the following month, on Rosh Hashanah, the long neglected Torah was presented to Ezra. “And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Nehemiah 8:5-6, emphasis mine). Notice that at this point the Torah – “the book of the law of Moses” (v. 1) – had not been read. The double affirmation was to the statement “the LORD, the great God” – Yahweh ha’ĕlôhı̂ym hagâdôl. “Tis true, tis true,” they exclaimed, and with hands lifted “they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” The record states that the people “stood” (v. 5) from morning until midday (v. 3) to listen to the reading. Ezra stood on a platform – a pulpit – and “the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place” (Nehemiah 8:7). The returning Jews had been captive in Babylon for 70 years and had for the most part forgotten the Hebrew language. They were more familiar with the language of Babylon – Aramaic. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8, emphasis mine). That is something every good Bible teacher must be careful to do. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

AMEN appears in only four psalms: Psalm 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; and 106:48. In each psalm, the Amen affirms the eternal nature of God. In the prophets, only Jeremiah uses the word once. In this instance, God promised the return of Judah from Babylonian captivity in two years. “Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the LORD’S house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place” (Jeremiah 28:6, emphasis mine). Here “Amen” expresses the desire that God will perform His will – “let it be so.”

The New Testament takes the Hebrew “‘âmên” and transliterates it into the Greek “amēn,” but the meaning is the same. So, we can see that when we say “amen” in English, we are really speaking Hebrew. However, the proper pronunciation sounds more like “ah-men” rather than “ay-men” as pronounced in Texanese.

The King James translators of the New Testament (NT) made a distinction between the interjection (“it is so” or “so be it”) and the adverb (“verily, truly”). The word appears the same in the Greek, but the translators rendered it differently in the NT as either “Amen” or “Verily.” The distinction is especially important when Jesus speaks. Being God, anything Jesus says is truth, but when He takes the extra effort to emphasize a statement with “Verily, verily,” we need to pay extra heed to His words. What does Jesus mean when He says, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18, emphasis mine)? The “jot” is the smallest Hebrew letter yod (י) and the “tittle” is the smallest mark that distinguishes two similar looking letters like the Dalet (ד) and the Resh (ר). To that extent, Jesus says “Truly” He will preserve His Word. Those who like to criticize the Bible and say “this does not belong” or “this must be added” should consider Jesus’ “true” words. The psalmist said, “I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name” (Psalm 138:2, emphasis mine). Since God has such high regard for His Word, how much more should we take care to handle His Word rightly!

When Jesus says “verily” once, it is worthy of close attention, but when He repeats it twice, it is worthy of double attention. It is interesting that in all of the Gospels, only John, who identifies Jesus as the “Word” and as God, records the double stress on “verily.” Twenty-five times John records Jesus saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” A good point to note is that Jesus never said, “Thus saith the Lord.” He spoke by His own authority as the Lord. In response to Nathaniel’s acknowledgment that “thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel” (John 1:49),  Jesus answered, “Verily, verily [Amen, amen], I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (John 1:51, emphasis mine). Commentators vary on what Jesus meant by this statement, but to me it seems that Jesus was talking about His second coming when He will “truly, truly” be the King of Israel.

To Nicodemus, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis mine). To us all, Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” (John 5:24-25, emphasis mine). That makes me want to shout, “Hallelujah! Amen, amen! It’s true; it’s true!” Again Jesus says, “Verily, verily [Truly, truly], I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47, emphasis mine). Yet again Jesus says, “Verily, verily [Amen, amen], I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (John 8:51, emphasis mine).

In the final book of the Bible, Jesus refers to Himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14, emphasis, mine). He is the final affirmation, the ultimate truth. AMEN!

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