I’ll say Amen to that

What does Amen mean?

Through the many centuries of Jewish and Christian worship congregations have ended their communal prayers – in whatever language:  Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English or a tribal tongue – with that same word ‘Amen’. So what does it mean and when did the practice start?

I grew up believing it meant ‘May it be so’. But when I saw that it is God’s own nature and a name of Christ, ‘So be it’ seemed quite inadequate as an interpretation.

In fact it is a Hebrew word. Its other common form, aman, means truth – not in the sense of factual as in mathematical accuracy, but faithful as in the old English wedding vow of a bridegroom to his bride: ‘I plight thee my troth’ meaning ‘I promise to be faithful to you’. ‘So it is’ would be a better translation than ‘Let it be’.

It is used as God’s assurance

[] Amen is his nature:

In Deuteronomy 7:9 he is ‘the amen[faithful] God’; in Isaiah 49:7,’the Lord, who is amen[faithful]; and in Isaiah 65:16 ‘the God of amen [truth, faithfulness]. And in Revelation 3:14 Jesus addresses the church in Laodicea as the Amen, the faithful and true [real] witness’.

[] … and amen is the character of his ways:

‘the testimony of the Lord is amen [sure] (Psalm 19:7), as are his works [faithful] (Psalm 111:7) and his warnings: ‘I made known what is amen [sure](Hosea 5:9).

It is also used of our agreement

[] Our agreement with God

It is the standard practice in heaven, as John was shown on Patmos (Revelation 5:14; 7:12, 12; 19:4).

[] First seen on earth on the borders of Canaan

Moses promised divine punishment on anyone who disobeyed any one of twelve specific laws. And the young congregation, about to enter their new homeland, shouted Amen in agreement after each scenario (Deuteronomy 17:15-26).

The Psalms were Israel’s hymnbook, arranged in five books; each of the first three ends with ‘Amen and Amen!’ See Psalm 41:13; 72:19; 89:52; and after book four, 106:48, ‘Let all the people say, “Amen!”’

And we see the same practice when Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:1-13) had taught the people some godly working regulations about lending money to one another: ‘all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.’ Financial matters should be part of true public worship!

[] Agreement with an individual contribution to public worship – such as a solo sung in tongues with interpretation (see 1 Corinthians 14: 16).

NB Let us ever bear in mind that our primary agreement is with Christ:

‘For all the promises of God [in Old and New Testaments] find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we  utter our Amen to God for his glory’ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

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