“People Of The Amen” Nehemiah 8:5-6 1/27/02
SI: Chapter 8 marks a major shift in the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah did not come all the way from Persia to Jerusalem just to build a wall.
He came to restore the spiritual lives of the people.
But not just as individuals, he came to restore them as a body of believers.
He came to restore or revive the church.
The wall simply paved the way for this great spiritual work,.
Nehemiah knew there had to be some physical safety and order and freedom
in order to have a spiritual revival. That’s why he built the wall. Means to end.
Revival begins with an assembly of all the Jews, at which the Law of God is read
and preached by Ezra and the Levites.
Going to re-read just two verses.
The reaction of the people to the opening of this assembly.
Verses 5 and 6
INTRO: Re-read first part of verse 6. In Hebrew.
Purpose of this exercise is not to show how rusty my Hebrew has become,
to show you that in Hebrew the word for “Amen” is “Amen.”
Amen is one of those biblical Hebrew words not translated,
simply transliterated into other languages
“Amen” Spanish, Russian, Korean
Could go to a worship service anywhere in the world, would hear “Amen.”
If you could go back in time to a worship service of the early church.
The church in Rome, reading Paul’s letter. Would be Greek to you, but “Amen”
And I think the same thing is true of heaven.
We don’t know what language is spoken in heaven.
Paul talks about the tongues of men and angels.
But I assume that if we could hear them, would distinguish the word “Amen.”
Amen is a unique word. On the lips of believers everywhere.
Amen is not just a word that believers speak or sing in worship.
Amen is one of the names/titles of Jesus Christ
In Revelation 3:14 calls Himself “The Amen.”
“In Christ all the promises of God are yes and amen.”
Jesus Christ, the Amen, makes all of the promises of God available to us.
In Nehemiah 8, the people of God were gathered for worship,
when Ezra brought out the book of the Law and praised God,
they responded by saying, Amen. Amen.
Interesting because Amen not used often in the Old Testament, only 11 places.
Two of those 11, in the book of Nehemiah, the first in chapter 5.
Virtually all of the times the word “Amen” is spoken, very important junctures in
the life of the church.
Times when God rebuilding and reviving His people. Preparing for great things.
When the covenant was renewed in the Promised Land on Mt. Ebal, people
When the ark of the covenant was brought back to Jerusalem, people
When King Solomon was crowned, Benaiah the prophet
Here we have the rebuilding of the wall, revival of the people of God.
Certainly, the word “Amen” was spoken at times that were not crucial junctures.
Even during the times when they were wandering far from God (motions only).
But I want you to see that when God did stir them and revive their hearts
through the ministry of the word read and preached,
this old word “Amen” became very precious to them. Said with all hearts.
To them it spoke of great spiritual truth.
What I want to suggest to you this morning is that as the Holy Spirit revives
and stirs us as a church, we must be able to say “Amen” with the same fervor.
So I want us to study the word “Amen”.
We’ve already said it and sung it number of times this morning, now let’s study it.
So easy to say things and not reflect on their significance.
When a Christian says Amen he is doing two thing:
He is making a solemn affirmation:
He is making a confident appeal:
Use these two aspects of Amen in our study.
MP#1 Amen is a solemn affirmation
When a Christian prays or sings Amen, he is making a solemn affirmation.
The heart of that affirmation is this: I believe God’s word is true.
The Hebrew word Amen has the idea of truth or faithfulness,
in its verb form it means “to be made firm” “to be established”
it is not the expression of a wish or desire—
It is a solemn affirmation on the part of the person who utters it
that he believes God’s word is true
Amen is used in the Bible in three settings, used in praise, in prayer, in oaths.
Let’s look at each of these and see how each is a solemn affirmation.
1. Amen is used in praise.
In our passage, Nehemiah 8, Ezra brought out the book of Moses,
and he praised the Lord, the great God.
Ezra said something about God, don’t have exact words recorded,
he made some statements about God—His attributes or works.
The people respond by lifting their hands and saying Amen, Amen.
Their double Amen was a solemn and joyful affirmation that the words
Ezra spoke were true words, reflected God’s revelation of Himself
Consider another place Amen is used in praise—the book of Psalms, OT hymnbook
150 Psalms, divided into 5 books,
Amen is used four places, at the end of Books 1,2,3,4.
Where it seems to be giving an affirmation, not just of that Psalm
but of all that has come before it.
Psalm 41, printed at the top of our bulletin is one example.
One of the greatest examples in Revelation 5. Worship of Lord before throne.
These mysterious figures, four living creatures, 24 elders respond to words of
praise by falling down and saying Amen. Affirmation of truth of praise.
So in praise, in singing. When Christian say Amen, affirming, solemnly, joyfully,
that we believe the Word of God is true,
God’s revelation of Himself, His attributes and works are true and praiseworthy.
2. Amen is also used in prayer.
It is the practice of Christians to pray, “In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
None of the prayers in the OT actually end with Amen.
Same in NT, none of the prayers of the church in Acts end with Amen.
But the place you do see Amen at the end of prayers is in the benedictions
of the Apostles. Grace of Lord Jesus be with you. Amen.
Amen at the end of a prayer, is not a wish that God would answer the prayer.
Lord, please make it so.
It is an affirmation that you believe God’s word is true,
Particularly, Amen is an affirmation of all of those promises that God
hears and answers the prayers of His people.
Heidelberg Catechism section of the Lord’s Prayer
Q. What is the meaning of the little word “Amen?”
A. Amen means: this shall truly and certainly be. For my prayer is much more
certainly heard by God than I am persuaded in my heart that I desire such things
In other words, as certain as you are that you want the things you ask for
(suppose praying for God to bless your children)
Amen is an affirmation that there is something even more certain—
that God’s word is true when He says, “Call unto me and I will answer you.”
One night, number of months ago, praying with children—I’ll pray, you say Amen.
A few nights later—Will. The boys pray, the girls say “cha-cha-cha”
3. Amen is used in oaths.
We rarely use Amen in oaths. But in the Old Testament it was used this way.
Amen in an oath was a solemn affirmation that God’s word is true with respect
to His law. That He will bless lawkeepers and curse lawbreakers.
Nehemiah 5, after Nehemiah had confronted the Jews who were sinning
against their fellow Jews in the matter of finances, he spelled out God’s law.
Called them to obedience, then spoke a curse. Shook out his robe.
“In such a way my God shake out of his house and possessions every man
who does not keep his promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied.”
“At this the whole assembly said, “Amen” and praised the Lord.”
Most famous use of Amen in oaths is in Deuteronomy 27,
God’s instructions to the nation of Israel when they reached the Promised Land.
To go to mountains Ebal and Gerezim and Levites to read the law,
After the curses were spoken, all the people were to respond with “Amen”
Exactly what Joshua did as soon as they entered the land
This was a solemn affirmation—God’s law is true, we are under it.
We believe that keeping God’s law bring blessing and breaking brings curses.
Throughout the Scriptures, Old Testament church, New Testament church,
Amen is never used lightly. A word of tremendous importance,
because it is solemn affirmation that the person who utters it believes God’s Word
Now you know what Amen means. Let me ask you a question—willing to say it?
Are you willing to affirm—I believe God’s word is true.
If you do believe, then God’s word is going to determine what you believe
and how you are to live.
As an American, grown up in a culture that says over and over
you are the authority of your life
you decide what you are going to believe, decisions make
and whatever you decide is right because your decision
If your feelings and impulses tell you something, that is right for you
“It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.”
If things appear to you in a certain way and act on them, that is right for you
want to ask opinions of other people, fine—but you are the authority
When become a Christian, a big blow dealt to that way of thinking
subject yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ—His is your Lord
a new authority in your life, speaks through the Word
Amen—truly spoken in your prayer and praise is an affirmation
I am not going to base my life on my impulses, my feelings, my hormones,
the appearance of things, or the opinions of other people?
I am going to base my life, my decisions, my assessment of each situation on the
truth of God’s Word.
As individual believers and as a church body, we must be people of the Amen.
We must affirm that we believe that God’s word is true.
MP#2 Amen is a confident appeal.
When a Christian prays or sings Amen, he is making a confident appeal.
The heart of that appeal is this—O God, hear me on account of Jesus Christ.
All of the rituals of OT worship pointed forward to the coming Messiah.
When Jesus Christ came, He fulfilled and competed all of them.
Some fulfillments are very obvious. Passover—Christ was the Lamb.
Priesthood—Christ has become our High Priest
Since the word Amen had its origin in OT worship, we would expect to see
Jesus Christ in some way fulfilling, completing this word through
His life and work. And that is exactly what we do see.
When an OT believer said Amen, he affirmed that God’s word is true.
Even though the occasion in which he said Amen might be a joyful one
(like this worship service in Nehemiah.)
He was also aware that saying Amen revealed a tremendous problem—sin.
He knew, even as he said Amen, that he had not kept God’s law perfectly.
Had not loved God with heart, soul, strength, and mind, neighbor as self.
Knew that law of God clearly stated that all who break His law are cursed.
Knew that the blessings of God’s covenant are only available to those people
who keep the covenant perfectly.
Sense in which, when the OT believer spoke an Amen—he was calling down
a curse upon himself. Affirming the truth of God’s word, but he could not keep it.
All OT worship had that element. Had a joyful, hopeful element, Messiah.
But it also reminded Israel of sin’s bondage and curse.
What we find in the NT is a marvelous fulfillment of the Amen.
Jesus takes this word Amen and He claims it.
He becomes the Amen for His people.
So when Christians say “Amen” not just an affirmation that God’s word true,
A confident appeal to God to bless us on account of His Son.
Two passages this is most vivid. We’ve read one. 2 Corinthians 1:18
Paul is explaining to the Corinthians how Christ has secured the promises of God
“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.”
In Christ the promises of God are available to us, even though we have broken law.
Even though lawbreakers are never blessed, always cursed.
Through the Gospel we can confidently say, Amen.
Our “Amen” is an appeal to the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Second place is just a phrase but it carries a lot of weight.
Revelation 3:14. Ascended glorified Christ speaking to the church in Laodicea.
“These are the words of the Amen.”
Calling Himself “the Amen” Jesus is saying,
I am the affirmation, living affirmation of the truth of God’s word.
I guarantee that you will receive all of the blessings of God through faith in Me.
By My perfect obedience, sacrificial death, and continual
intercession you will receive all of the blessings of God.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there.
Jesus Christ is not only the Amen of God’s blessings, also of God’s discipline.
If you live in rebellion against God, persist in going your own way,
do not submit to God in love and obedience.
Jesus guarantees that He will discipline you.
He will do whatever it takes to crush your rebellious spirit, bring back to Him.
That was His warning to the church of Laodicea—don’t love God,
love your money, position, your comfortable life—lukewarm towards God.
I am about to spit you out of my mouth. So be earnest and repent.
Are you able to say Amen truly?
Are you able to confidently appeal to God on account of Jesus Christ?
Let me ask it another way, Has the problem of sin been dealt with in your life?
Proof that it has is not in your words—“I believe in Jesus.” “I’m a Christian.”
The proof is this—are your words of profession bearing fruit?
Are you living in obedience and love?
Not asking if you are living in sinless perfection—don’t believe in perfection.
Are you striving towards obedience and love?
Are you repentant when convicted. Hate sin or cling to it? Desire obedience?
If not, if you are in persistent, deliberate rebellion,
then your words of praise and prayer, and your Amens
are not confident appeals to God, they are indictments against you.
You are like those professing Christians in the church in Corinth
who Paul warned away from the Communion Table.
They said they believed in Jesus, but their persistent disobedience
(in their case it was fighting and division in the church)
their persistent disobedience belied their profession.
So Paul warned them—don’t take Communion.
You will eat and drink judgment on yourself. Some have fallen asleep.
Some have died as a result of God’s discipline.
Could say the very same thing about Amen.
How dare you say it if you are living in persistent opposition to the very
life and confidence Jesus died to give you?
So I appeal to you, before the next Amen. Before we say Amen around this Table,
repent of your sin. Determine to put it away. Don’t dally, fondle it.
Get right with God.
Come to God and say, O Father, I’ve sinned, I’ve wandered,
but I confidently plead Your forgiveness on account of Your Son Jesus Christ,
who lived a perfect life for me, died for me, and prays for me.
I know you never turn away sinners who come to You in His name.
This is what it means to be people of the Amen.
To be constantly casting yourself on the mercy of God in Christ.