It’s been a couple of weeks now, so I am hoping you are familiar with Emmanuel Cleaver’s prayer at the opening of the 117th session of Congress. It was all over social media, evoking comments from all kinds of people, including President Trump. Cleaver, the former mayor of Kansas City, is a Democratic representative in Congress and a Methodist minister – which says something about Democrats, Methodists and Congress. During his prayer he asked for divine help so that Congress would not do anything unworthy of the office, and of course seconds later Cleaver brought shame upon that “august body,” as he called it, and upon the nation of the United States, at least as far as I am concerned. As I watched I his prayer, it became obvious that he was reading something he had previously written. So this was no slip of the tongue under the bright lights of Congress and the media. He knew exactly what he was doing. As his prayer was winding down, this Methodist minister referred to the “monotheistic god who is known by so many different names and faces” – but he didn’t mention “Jehovah” or “Jesus Christ.” And then he concluded by infamously saying, “Amen and awoman.” Later Cleaver said that he couldn’t believe that this words were causing such a fuss. He said that it was just a pun, pointing to the large number of women who are now in Congress. It was a sort of joke.
Now, I have to admit to having a Canadian sense of humor, and I don’t mind employing it now and then. But there are places where I draw the line. Yes, my sense of humor comes out every once in a while in my sermons. But I never joke or insert puns into my prayers. Never. Our God is infinitely holy, and I don’t think for a moment He appreciates levity in our worship of Him. When I pray, as I hope is true of you as well – When I pray I am addressing the Almighty God in the ears of some of God’s people. Cleaver wasn’t praying – despite his religious words – he was posturing for points in Congress and hoping for a few more feminist votes in the next election. He was “kissing babies” so to speak, except this time it wasn’t babies it was unthinking women.
I know that while we were studying Nehemiah, we had a few words on the word “amen,” but I’d like to return to that word for our devotional this evening.
I trust you know the meaning of “amen,” but let me refresh everyone’s memory.
The Biblical meaning of the word is closely related to the ideas of truth & faithfulness – reality & reliability. Literally, it means something like “so be it.” It has absolutely nothing to do with gender – men as opposed to women. It began as a Hebrew word. When we use the word, inserting it into the context of a sermon, we might mean – “yes” or “that’s the truth.” We use the word as an encouragement to the preacher, telling him that we agree with what he has said.
“Amen” is found about 25 times in the Old Testament and about 50 times in the King James New Testament. Have you ever thought about that fact? – that the original Hebrew word has been transliterated into Greek? In our text in Revelation 3:14 the word is “amen” (am-ane’), while the Jews standing before water gate in Nehemiah said “amen” (aw-mane’). But it’s not just a BIBLICAL word any more, you can hear it on TV and even during the news during non-religious conversations. I have read that it has been transliterated into every major human language – the Japanese use the word and so do the Germans and Chinese. It is a Hebrew word which unites humanity. But it is not just some linguistic link; it’s much more important than that. And I’ll come back to that in a few minutes.
“Amen” is a word which can express AGREEMENT.
In Deuteronomy 27 and 28, Moses, with the priests and Levites, stood in the valley between two small mountains which together formed a natural amphitheater. Half of the nation of Israel climbed the hill of Ebal to one side, and other half mounted Gerizim. When everyone was sufficiently quiet the Levites pronounced in unison a number of accursed sins. When they finished, they said, “AND all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.” With each blessed point, the people standing on Mount Gerizim probably smiled and took notes. They heard things like, “Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.” And I just said, prior to the blessings, the Levites pronounced a group of curses. With each curse the people were ordered to shout their agreement – “Amen.” “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD… and all the people shall answer and say, Amen. Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen. Cursed be he that removeth his neighbour’s landmark. And all the people shall say, Amen.”
The word “amen” essentially means, “I agree and sign my name, consenting to this article.” Oh, and by the way, the women didn’t reply with “awomen.” Until the other day there was no such word in Hebrew, Greek or in any language known to man, with the exception of those languages of fools and Godless, religious unbelievers.
In I Corinthians Paul deals with “tongues” sometimes called – “glossolalia” – because of the Greek word for it. In that chapter he condemns the use of charismatic tongues in public church services. And he touches on the meaning of “amen” in the process. He says, “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” Apparently, it was customary for the saints in the early churches to say “amen” at the end of prayer, at the end of songs and perhaps at the end of sermons. But it was pointless – and even sinful – to voice agreement with something not understood. So Paul exhorted the brethren in Corinth to pray and preach in Greek, enabling everyone to understand.
Going on, why is “amen” so common after prayer? Because it is Biblical, and because it gives others the opportunity to voice their participation in that prayer. “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
Not only do men and women use the word to express consent and agreement, so does GOD Himself. Who can tell me the last word in the Book of Matthew? Did you know that it is also the last word in the Book of Mark and also the last in the Book of Luke? What is the last word in the Book of John? It is the same word in every case. “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” The last word in Matthew is “amen.” In the context, Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” Oh and by the way – this is very important – in my Bible, Matthew 28:18-20 is printed in red ink, but “amen” is in black. The publisher of my Bible was convinced it was not Jesus who said “amen,” but rather it was the Holy Spirit. Again, the Spirit was saying to each of the gospels – “Here is my signature and assent to all that is written herein.” I should probably add that “amen” is to be found at the end of nearly every book of the New Testament.
Besides CONSENT or ASSENT, the word “amen” also can have an ASSERTIVE meaning.
Paul may have concluded most of his epistles with the word “amen,” but he was not that word’s most frequent user. The Lord Jesus said “amen” (am-ane’), more than anyone else. But more often than not, He said it before making important statements – not afterward. 25 times Christ said “verily, verily” which is actually “amen” (am-ane’), “amen” (am-ane’).” For example, Jesus answered Nicodemus, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” “Amen” (am-ane’), “amen” (am-ane’) I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” In John 5 he said, “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.” As I say, Christ utters about two dozen of these types of statements.
Now, let me ask you, Why does Christ say “amen” before those life-changing declarations? It is because He was not like the rabbis teaching the previously written words of God or the ideas of men? “Never man spake like this man,” because He spoke with divine authority. He wasn’t like some politician saying, “I approve this ad.” Like the God He is, Christ was saying, “This is the way it is. Take it or leave it” – “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
“Amen” has another similar, but very special meaning.
We began this evening with Revelation 3:14. I hope you realize that these are the words of the glorified Son of God. “I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation…. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last… And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man.” It was the Lord Jesus who told John write unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans – “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” One of Christ’s many glorious names is “the Amen” – you’ll probably find “Amen” capitalized in your Bible.
How is Christ “the Amen?” In addition to being the Creator and the foundation of all that exists, He is the capstone of it all. “He is the author and finisher” of all things, as well as our faith. He is the beginning and the end; He is “the Amen?” And this is another way – the most important way – that “amen” is universal and universally important. When the Son of God became incarnate and subsequently died as a ransom for many, He fulfilled and satisfied a multitude of promises. Christ was the “so be it” to all the prophesies given to Adam all the way to Isaiah and beyond. And how many types and pictures did the Lord fulfill – from sacrifices – to festivals – and to individuals like Joseph? He was Jehovah’s revelation, and he was God’s exclamation mark on that revelation. And that includes the law? “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
And I think we can make one more application of this special divine title. I was born a sinner, and during my seventy plus years I have proven my sinful nature through the commission of many personal transgressions. But more than fifty years ago, I put my faith and trust in the sacrifice which Jesus Christ made on the cross. Today, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” You may look at me and decry my claim of salvation and sanctification in Christ. But your opinion of me is not particularly important. Because God the Father looks at me through the cloak of Christ. And it is Christ who says, “Amen” to my testimony and more particularly to my faith. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Christ Jesus is the “Amen” of God, and He is my “amen” as well. When it comes to deliverance from sin, I look to no other place, no work and no other person. I look only to the crucified Son of God. When it comes to salvation, Christ Jesus is my “amen.”