In a radio sermon I heard today, the pastor asserted the importance of a congregation’s “amen-ing” its pastor’s messages. By coincidence, in a devotional by Henry M. Morris, entitled “The People Said, ‘Amen,’” and published for today, the writer noted the use of the word amen in Deuteronomy 27. Morris concludes: “If we follow biblical precedent, therefore, whenever God’s Word is read to a congregation, either in denunciation of sin or thanksgiving for blessing and revival, or simply in praising the Lord for His eternal goodness, it is appropriate for the people to respond with a heartfelt ‘Amen!’” In a further coincidence, the last verse of that same chapter was referenced in two of our services this past Sunday. “‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say ‘Amen’” (v. 26).
Our English word amen is a transliteration of the Greek word, which in turn is a transliteration of the Hebrew term. In each case, the word means basically, “sure,” or “firm,” or “trustworthy.” We commonly and correctly suggest that amen means “so be it” or “may it be so.” Few words have such a lengthy history while preserving an essentially unchanged meaning.
The exclamation, “Amen!” is a verbal declaration of assent to some spoken statement and often expresses agreement with something that has been spoken. Twelve times in the chapter containing our text, Moses, with the authority of the Holy Spirit of God, commands that “all the people shall say, ‘Amen” (vv. 15-26). Making that declaration is a preliminary step on the road to spiritual victory; it is a succinct way of acknowledging at least four things: (1) I have heard the Word of God, (2) I have understood the Word of God, (3) I believe the Word of God, and (4) I will do the Word of God.
For amen is nothing more than a word unless we “confirm the words . . . by doing them.” A verbal confirmation is, in essence a vow, which we sin by breaking if we fail to follow up by doing what we have verbally committed to do. Failure to do more than speak makes the supposed confirmation merely a self-condemnation. Our every encounter with the Word of God should be followed by confirmation, not with mere words, but with proper behavior because obedience is the only genuine or worthwhile “amen.”
Nor can we cleverly absolve ourselves of guilt if upon hearing the Word of God we do not verbally or mentally “amen” it. For as James reminds us, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jam. 4:17). And, of course, that same principle covers the one who would attempt to escape guilt by refusing to hear the preaching of the Word of God and thus hoping to escape the necessity of amen-ing anything because, again, the Word warns us to not forsake “our own assembling together” for worship (Heb. 10:25).
In other words, we who have received the benefits of salvation purchased at the cost of the life of the Son of God have no recourse but to gather for the preaching and teaching of the Word of God frequently and faithfully, to absorb all that we are capable of absorbing, to give assent to it from our minds, wills, and hearts, and to follow up with obedience. If we respond in that fashion, as Moses told Israel: “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today . . . All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deut. 28:1, 2).
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