When I joined the Navy I was pretty clueless. My aspiration was to be an astronaut and landing on Aircraft Carriers would really look good on a resume. Space travel to me wasn’t science fiction but just a few schools from reality and the Navy had schools. I was sure I could endure anything of the true blue service if I could get them to train me as a test pilot and send me to graduate school. As far as I was concerned anything could be tolerated as long as the future had a promise of return. So I signed the dotted line, said “so help me God” and jumped in the pool head first (literally). Little did I know that my oath was my amen and my intended purpose actually was a life-changing relationship.
When the Nation of Israel came out of Egypt they were pretty clueless. They saw freedom from Egyptian bondage and took the plunge into the Red Sea to get to the freedom shore. They were enticed by promises of promised lands. They had aspirations of greatness as a Nation. They were very goal oriented but had missed the part about relationship. They signed the dotted line on the stone tablets, declared “so help me God” and ventured into a life-changing journey. They were focused on milk and honey instead of stepping into a trusting relationship with their Creator. They grumbled and complained instead of cherishing their intimate time with God. They so missed the concept of trust they were provided an opportunity to learn it. They had to trust God every day for their food. They had to trust God every step for their protection. They had to trust God every moment for their future. They had to agree with His plan to realize the promises. They had to learn their “amen.”
This word “amen” means so much more than we might understand. It has been translated as “verily, truly, so be it.” It is usually interpreted as “an agreement” or “a resolution” or “a declaration” or “a proclamation.” It is something we say at the end of prayers. It is something that some would regard as “holy” and has “sacred” implications. The legalist will pronounce it as “binding” and is should be considered a contractual statement. It could be seen as our oath. You could say that it is the “so help me God” of the Bible.
The first time the word is used in the Bible is here:
Num 5:22 22 May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away. ’ And the woman shall say, ‘ Amen, Amen. ’ (ESVST)
This is an interesting passage about fidelity. Don’t get caught up in the graphic language or implications. There is no recorded example of this “judgement” being exercised in the Bible. I believe it was more about an “opportunity” to get over jealousy and encourage fidelity than a punishment. That discussion is for another time. The important point for this post is the backdrop of the first use of the word “Amen.” This “agreement” was profound. In light of all the potential bad stuff that could happen (if you take the text literally) the woman would declare her oath, her “so help me God.” I don’t think it is any coincidence that our first opportunity to proclaim our allegiance is in the context of fidelity and relationship.
Even though the Nation of Israel signed up for promises, God was pursuing relationship. Even though the human race has been running from God in shame, He has been chasing us in love. Even though we insist on trying to prove our worth, He died to declare our worth. Even though we are seeking an eternal destination, He is desperate for an eternal relationship. This is our God. This is our Father. He loves us that much. The question is…do we have an amen for Him?
Paul declares that mankind can get really messed up regarding our amen. The first time the Greek word for “amen” is translated “amen” is here:
Rom 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (ESVST)
No accidents in the Bible. Isn’t this our fallen state? Isn’t it “natural” for mankind to make an “amen” with itself? As fallen, poisoned-by-bad-fruit Adams we can easily step into the worship of self instead of God (remember worship is just an expression of priorities).
The really really good news however is Jesus. Our amen is His yes. When Jesus emptied Himself and humbled Himself as a man in obedience to death for us (not because of us) His “yes” is our “amen.” Our oath is His obedience. Our declaration of trust is His willingness to die. Our “so help me God” of faith is Jesus on a cross. Check this out:
2 Co 1:20 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. (ESVST)
Here it is in the Amplified:
2 Corinthians 1:20 AMP For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yesin Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God.
One last time in The Message:
2 Corinthians 1:20-22 MSG Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.
I had no idea what I was signing up for when I took the oath to join the Navy. I had no idea what my “amen” really meant. I bet that most of us don’t really understand our “amen” to God. I would venture that many, even those most devout ones, are still proclaiming their “amen” like the Nation of Israel when they should be declaring the “yes” of Jesus. His “yes” is our oath. His “yes” is our pledge. His “yes” is our “so help me God.” We don’t deserve it. We don’t merit it. Sometimes we are too selfish to receive it. Still it is what Jesus did and not what we do. It is what God provides not what we manufacture. It is His love that saves us not our commitment to duty. Praise God that our relationship with our Father isn’t like joining the Navy or running around in the desert. Jesus said YES so we can say AMEN!