Amen to that

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Apart from the words God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Jesus, and Christ, the word Amen is one of the most used words by Christians.

They use it in their private prayers, in public worship together, and in songs. In fact, it is also one of the words commonly used in the Psalms. What does this little, but very popular word mean? What are we saying when we say ‘Amen?’

A Wake Up Call?

For some, the word ‘amen’ is just like a full stop at the end of a prayer. In most churches, it is the announcement of the end of the church meeting. At times, the word “amen” serves as an alarm to wake up those that have fallen asleep during the looong prayers.

I think most of us miss the gospel message hidden in this little word. To explain it, I want to go to its first usage in the Bible, which is in the book of Numbers. In Numbers 5:11-15 we read of a ritual which was to be performed if there were issues of jealousy or infidelity in marriage.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him  so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure – or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure – then he is to take his wife to the priest.’”

At first reading of this passage it is easy to think that this is about jealous husbands, and innocently accused wives. However it is wrong to think that this passage is about that. One of the greatest errors in reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is to read it apart from the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus said the scriptures (meaning the Old Testament) speak about Him. It is wrong to think that the Old Testament is only about a man sacrificing his only son, or a nation being rescued from slavery, or a young boy killing a giant, or a nation being fed food falling out of the sky, or water coming out of a rock, a young brother being sold into slavery by his older brothers, or twelve sons forming a nation. Those stories foreshadow Jesus and His ministry and his relationship to humanity.

In Exodus 20:5, God describes Himself as a jealous God and in many other places as the husband of Israel. The prophets lament the state of adulterous Israel who has departed from God. Hosea even marries a prostitute to show to Israel what they have become to God. The passage in Numbers 5 is about God, and not only about husbands and wives.

As we saw in Numbers 5:11-15 above, if the wife was unfaithful, and the husband suspects it but has no proof, or if the husband is simply jealous, but the wife has not been unfaithful, he  was asked to bring his wife to the priest, who would perform the ritual described below.

“The priest shall bring her and make her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. … Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you.  But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband’– here the priest is to put the woman under this curse – ‘may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when He makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.  May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.’ “Then the woman is to say, ‘Amen. Amen.” (Num. 5:16-22)

As we see above, when the woman appears before the priest (Jesus), the priest was to take holy water (Holy Spirit) in a clay jar (humanity), and put dust from the floor of the tabernacle (humanity of Jesus). This combination, of the Holy Spirit in humans, whose purpose is to convict humans of their sin (John 16:8); and the Holy Son of God who has become dust like us, brings judgment upon the errant, sinful, unfaithful humanity. This passage is about God’s judgement on humans, and not only about husbands and their wives.

Once the priest had mixed the water, he was supposed to pronounce a curse upon the wife if she was guilty of adultery and a blessing upon her if she was innocent. When he had done that, the woman was to say “Amen, Amen” (Numbers 5:22 ESV). This is the first time the word “Amen” appears in the Bible. The double Amen was like an oath to say the truth must come out. If she is guilty she would be destroyed, and if she was innocent, she would be okay. The Amen in this case was bad news if you were guilty. The truth is that all humans are guilty and are under the judgement of God, and our Amen is bad news for us.

A Curse for Us

However, this ritual is an allegory to communicate the good news of Jesus. Knowing that we are guilty before God, Jesus our priest became the curse for us! “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

However, not only did Jesus take the curse of our Amen, Amen on Himself, He also became our Amen! “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation” (Revelation 3:14). John calls Jesus the Amen! Even though we are guilty, Jesus has taken away the curse that was supposed to fall on us, and utters the ‘Amen, Amen’ of our judgement on our behalf. Therefore there is no more condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20, emphasis mine). Through Jesus, the promises of God are Yes, and through Him, we say Amen to the glory of God who has redeemed us from our guilt in Jesus Christ! Amen! Amen to that!

The word Amen is pregnant with the gospel. Amen is like a signature on the contract which says if you do not meet the requirements of this contract you will be killed, arrested, liquidated, etc, only to find out that Jesus has signed the contract on your behalf. He is the one who takes our prayers and presents them to God in a perfect way.

Therefore, despite what the jealousy ritual in Numbers 5 says, we can boldly say ‘Amen, Amen’ because Jesus has taken on our dust of humanity in His becoming human, and has given us the Holy Spirit, and has become our Amen. Guilty or not guilty, we can say ‘Amen, Amen’ with confidence, with no fear of the curse falling upon us, because it has fallen on Jesus already. Do I hear an Amen?

I say “Amen” to that!

 

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