By John Hooper
For those brought up in a Christian family and accustomed to church attendance from our earliest years, Amen will be one of the first words we learned to say. As father or mother gave thanks at the meal table we soon understood that prayer ends with Amen and would join in with the enthusiasm that only a 3-year old seems able to muster, probably to the amusement of everyone else around the table. But as time goes by and we mature in our understanding of the Scriptures, under the Spirit of God, we grow to appreciate this word more and more. It is so much more than a full-stop at the end of our prayers. It is a word of great richness in meaning and significance.
1. IT’S MEANING
Amen is one of those Hebrew words, like hallelujah and selah, that are often simply transliterated in our English Bibles. Rather than try to translate them into English equivalents, the translators have left them as they are. With the help of a concordance we can identify the passages where Amen or its root word are used and we are then able to build up a clear picture of the meaning of the word in the mind and usage of the Holy Spirit. It is important for us to know what Amen means in Scripture. We need to know how the Spirit of God has used it.
A helpful place for us to start is Isaiah 22. The text-books tell us that Amen comes from a root word meaning to build up, support or prop, and it expresses the idea of something that is immoveable, steadfast, firm and dependable, and that is certainly the idea in this passage. It concerns a man named Eliakim. He had been given the honourable position of “treasurer” or manager over the household of Hezekiah, and through His prophet God places on this man a heavy responsibility: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house” (Isaiah 22:22,23).
The interesting phrase for the moment is “a nail in a sure place,” for it is there that we find Amen. The underlying word for “sure” in that text is the root from which Amen is derived, and we can understand the picture. A nail in a sure place is one that is fastened securely so that it will hold, it will bear weight, it can be relied upon because it is secured in something firm and solid. It is of no use hammering a nail into a crumbly wall because we know that however strong the nail is, it will only fall out as soon as something is hung on it. The thought in the text is that Eliakim will bear faithfully the responsibility placed upon him. He will not fail as his predecessor had done, a man called Shebna, who was removed from office in disgrace. The illustration is a graphic one and it will prove very helpful in our quest to understand and apply the meaning of Amen.
The same word is also used in these passages (note the words underlined):
- Abigail’s words to David: “I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD…” (1 Samuel 25:28)
- Ahijah says to Jeroboam, “And it shall be, if thou wilt … keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David…” (1 Kings 11:35).
- The words of the man of God to Eli, “I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house…” (1 Samuel 2:35).
The house of David is described here as a “sure” house and no doubt there is a sense in which it refers to the wealth and political power of the kingly line of David, but that wealth and power did not last. They were only type and shadow. There came a time when the line of David became very weak and fragile humanly speaking, almost lost without trace, but in the purposes of God, and by His providential care and mercy, it still remained a “sure” house.
Many were the occasions when Satan attempted to destroy the royal Davidic line. We can think of Saul’s efforts to kill David himself, or of Queen Athaliah’s partly fulfilled ambition to take over the throne of Judah for herself (2 Chronicles 21 and 22), or Herod’s slaughter of the little children. In every case God graciously protected the line and house of David so that His own word would be fulfilled. David’s house was, under God, a most sure house right up until the fullness of the time was come when God raised up a virgin in Nazareth “of the house of David” (Luke 1:27). Through the virgin Mary God would raise up “an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (verse 69), and so in our Lord Jesus Christ that the sure house and kingdom of David are most gloriously fulfilled (verses 30-33).
In 1 Samuel 2:35, quoted above, the Amen word is found twice, not only as the “sure house” but also the “faithful priest,” one who could be relied upon to do all that was in the heart and mind of God. The same translation is found in 1 Samuel 22:14, where Ahimilech addresses Saul, “And who is so faithful among all thy servants as David, which is the king’s son in law…” In fact, throughout the whole of the Old Testament the Hebrew word for faithfulness is this “Amen” word. We do not have space or need to quote them all, but we will give just one more example and that is Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.” We might call this the Amen spirit. Someone who is of such a spirit is reliable and can be trusted to keep a confidence, one who is not a gossiper.
We find these twin ideas of strength and faithfulness coming together perfectly in the character of God Himself, as these Old Testament passages demonstrate:
- “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments…” (Deuteronomy 7:9).
- He is “the LORD that is faithful” (Isaiah 49:7).
- “That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16).
- “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). This brings us back to the idea of the nail in a sure place.
- “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3). God’s covenant is sure. It is everlasting and can never fail.
- “Among the tribes of Israel have I made known that which shall surely be” (Hosea 5:9). God’s revelation to His people is a revelation to be relied upon. All His words and prophecies are to be trusted and taken heed to.
Our God is the Amen God, the God who is true and faithful in all His ways.
Also, it is the internal testimony of Scripture concerning itself, God’s Word, that it is a faithful and reliable book. It is the Amen book:
- “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).
- “Thy testimonies are very sure” (Psalm 93:5).
- “All his commandments are sure” (Psalm 111:7)
How careful the professed people of God need to be when handling His Word, whether in translation or in teaching, that they do nothing to undermine or question its intrinsic truthfulness and reliability! That is one of the sad and evil consequences of the multitude of modern versions that have sprung up over the last fifty years. They have sown doubt into the minds of the Lord’s people as to the reliability, the sureness, of the Bible and thereby prove themselves to be a powerful tool of the enemy.
In man’s search for wisdom, security and guidance there is only one sure and dependable place for him to turn and that is the Scripture of Truth. It never fails. It is infallible. t is truth unchanged, unchanging. Human opinions and philosophies come and go, leaving their followers deluded, disappointed and lost. As the humble sinner searches for forgiveness, peace with God and contentment in life, he will find that the Word of God alone is able to make him wise unto salvation and fill his heart with the peace that passes all understanding.
Over the centuries that Word has been subjected to many vicious attacks, and none more so than in our own day as Satan has sought at every opportunity to destroy it or to undermine its veracity and trustworthiness, but always the Scriptures have been preserved pure and have lost none of their saving and sanctifying power. “What a blessing that in a world of uncertainties we having something sure to rest upon!” (Spurgeon).
From these examples of Biblical usage we can already begin to form in our minds some idea of the meaning and significance of the word Amen. Principles such as faithfulness, truth, certainty, and reliability are all encapsulated within it.
2. AMEN AND OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
At the end of Isaiah 22 we learn that the nail, referring to Eliakim, would one day be removed from its sure place: “In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall…” (verse 25). Yes, even faithful Eliakim must be removed. This is because Eliakim was only a type, a shadow, and as was true of all the types and shadows of the old covenant, he must make way for the reality, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Christ is truly fastened in a sure place, never to be removed, never to be cut down and fall. We know that only Christ truly fulfils the promise of verse 22: “And the key of the House of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” No one else is qualified or able to bear the burden of that responsibility.
The one whom John sees in the midst of the seven churches and who addresses the church at Laodicea is the true Eliakim, “he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (Revelation 3:7). Jeremiah 42:5 is a memorable verse in that it contains two Amens: “The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us.” But Revelation 3:14 is more remarkable and wonderful still because effectively it has no fewer than three Amens, and all are attributed to our Lord Jesus Christ: He is “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Revelation 3:14). What are we to learn from this?
In the first place, we learn something of the Saviour Himself. If we go back to the Old Testament picture of a nail in a sure place, we see pictured there One who is fully able to bear the awful load of the sin and guilt of all His people, redeeming every one of them from its dread penalty. We see too One who is able carry all the cares and burdens of His people, as well as all their every spiritual need.
I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God;
He bears them all and frees us
From the accursed load.
I lay my griefs on Jesus,
My burdens and my cares;
He from them all releases,
He all my sorrow shares.
When fastened to Christ we are fastened to a sure place, just as was the man in the Saviour’s parable who built his house upon a rock. Or to change the metaphor again,
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll:
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
In the second place, that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Amen tells us something about His words. It tells us that they are words of truth and that therefore they are to be believed by us and heeded. So, for example, the word that Christ the Amen, the faithful and true witness, brought to the church at Laodicea concerning its nauseating spiritual condition was a true word and His judgment of them was a right judgment. Still today the Amen speaks to His churches, bringing to them sound words of truth and faithfulness in the Scriptures. His judgment is right and His counsel is wise but are the churches listening? However unpalatable the message might often be, they are to take serious heed and obey. While there are many voices clamouring for the attention of churches and their leaders, many opinions crying out for their support, it is the Word of the true and faithful witness of the living Lord in Scripture that they must hear and do. And so must we.
2 Corinthians 1:20 assures us, “all he promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” Yea and Amen! There in both Greek and Hebrew we are given a double assurance that every one of the promises of God in Christ hold true. None of them has been rescinded. None of them has changed. All those wonderful gospel promises of free pardon, grace and glory are as sure today as when they were first revealed. Not one of them will fail. They cannot fail for they hang on Jesus Christ as on a nail in a sure place.
Do we ask ourselves why Christ is so worthy of such a description? He is worthy because He completed the work that His Father had given Him to do. He died, rose and ascended to His Father’s right hand. To Him has been given all power and dominion in heaven, earth and hell, as is demonstrated by the fact that He alone is worthy to take the seven-sealed book and open the seals (Revelation 5), and for this reason the work and promises of Christ will not fail.
(To be continued)