Nehemiah 8:5-6, “5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, Amen, Amen! while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground”
Many say the word Amen, but few know what it actually means! Have you ever said Amen in church, at a conference, or at a ministry training either quietly or out loud? What does the word Amen mean, why do you say it, and what does it mean when you say it?
John Piper writes, “In most languages of the world where Christianity has taken root the word "Amen" has been taken over untranslated. Listen to a person pray in Chinese or Japanese or Swahili or Maninka or German or French or Russian or Arabic, and very likely there is at least one word you will understand: "Amen" – pronounced differently perhaps, but discernible. One of the reasons for this is that the Greek New Testament took it over from the Hebrew Old Testament untranslated (even though the Greek Old Testament [the Septuagint, LXX] rarely did, using "let it be"  instead of "amen" ).”
So what we have, all over the world today is a word, "Amen" that is a direct transliteration – not translation – of the Hebrew "Amen". Now we see from our text that the word was taken to Corinth, a Greek city speaking the Greek language which did not have a word "amen." And, within a matter of weeks or months, Paul and the other missionaries had already begun to transform the Corinthian culture by grafting a brand new word onto their great Greek language. It wasn’t the only one. Paul also taught them the Aramaic words "maranatha" (1Corinthians 16:22, Marana qa) – "Lord, come." And, of course, he taught them a vision of reality that exploded many of their preconceptions.
In the Old Testament the word "amen" was mainly a congregational response to give a strong affirmation or agreement – to a curse or a word of praise to God. In, Deuteronomy 27:16 the Levites say, “"‘Cursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’"” That is, we agree with that curse, so let it be. Therefore, they affirmed curses as well as blessings. This is not something that generally goes through ones mind in the modern church service when one says Amen. Yet, we should say Amen to everything that aligns with the word of God, whether we read it, or hear it preached, and whether it speaks about a blessing or a curse, a blessing or a judgment.
Look at what took place during the time of Ezra when he was open air preaching in Nehemiah 8:111 (please read the whole thing).
First, there was a gathering and a standing, to hear the Law of God. This expressed the great reverence the people had for it. Secondly, there was preaching of the Law and the blessing of the God of the Law. Thirdly, there was an understanding of the Law because of the exposition or explanation of Gods Law. Fourthly, because of the explanation of Gods Law, there was the understanding of Gods Law. This is paramount, because many understand what the text of the Bible says, but not what it means. We help people understand what it means by using hermeneutics, which is discovering the authors intent through the historical context of the text at hand. Fifthly, there was an answering that took place, showing the people agreed with Gods Law and this is where the Amen was shouted and a lifting of the hands! The agreement with the mouth and outward accompanying praise of the body (lifting the hands) took place among the people. And finally, there was worshipping, which is the proper response to Gods holy Law. This whole scene was a glorious account which you too should say a hearty Amen. Oh how we should long to see this type of reverence for Gods Word, and preaching that pierces the heart which causes people to say Amen! John Piper again shares, The "amen" meant, "Yes, we agree with your blessing! We join in your blessing! All that you have said of God’s greatness we let it echo in our Amen. We say, "True, and firm and reliable is what you have said."
However, people say Amen for much lesser things, and usually when it is all about them. Perhaps I should not use the term lesser, but many do in fact Amen when it is about them and are not consistent, when it is purely about God. For example, a man gets a promotion at work, and says, Amen, but the preacher says, God is holy and there is no Amen. Yet it was the holy God that blessed me with the job, and because the job was a blessing, the man focused on the blessing and not on the One who gave the blessing, namely God! Furthermore, people say Amen to things that are totally unbiblical as well. When someone such as the famous Joel Osteen does his motivation speaking, many say Amen, even when he only tells stories and uses the Bible out of context. It is up to Gods people to study Gods Word, and to say Amen when the preacher not the motivation speaker, preaches what is in line with Gods Word. Would the people of Ezras day say Amen if he were merely motivational preaching. Yes there are many that gather to hear many of the preachers on the television, but are the things that are being preached worth an Amen? Be mindful of what you are saying Amen to. When you say Amen you are saying you agree with what you have read, or heard preached.
Would you say Amen to the first part of this message? Well that depends if it is biblical, and if you agree with the truth, or if it is unbiblical and if you are more concerned about pleasing God than hurting my feelings.
To be continuedBlessings, Phil, the evangelist <><