************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 52c ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 3, 2019
Lord's Day 52c
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
The sound doctrine of the Catechism teaches us to end our prayers with an Amen. Amen is a Hebrew word that has been taken over without being translated into Greek, Latin, and all modern languages. There is no other word as universally used as that little word Amen.
Today, as you know, many people think of and use Amen merely as an end word, a signing-off word in worship, liturgy, and prayer. It means the sermon is finished or the prayer is ended. One summer I worked for my grandfather. He tended to talk softly when he prayed, and he did it all in Dutch. I had no idea what he was saying. I would listen carefully for the Amen because that meant the prayer was finished. But, as the Catechism indicates, Amen ought to be and is more, far more, than an end word.
I Biblical Usage of Amen
A Before we look at the meaning of Amen, let's look at how and where it is used. When we turn to the Bible we see three major uses of that little word Amen by the people of God.
First, more than once we see that Amen indicates the people's assent, their submission, to the words and deeds of God. God gives this command in Deuteronomy 27:
(Deut 27:14-18) The Levites shall recite to all the people of Israel in a loud voice: (15) "Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol--a thing detestable to the LORD, the work of the craftsman's hands--and sets it up in secret." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!" (16) "Cursed is the man who dishonors his father or his mother." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!" (17) "Cursed is the man who moves his neighbor's boundary stone." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!" (18) "Cursed is the man who leads the blind astray on the road." Then all the people shall say, "Amen!"Twelve times this formula is repeated in Deuteronomy 27.
We see that Amen is used the same way by the prophet Jeremiah:
(Jer 11:4-5) [God said to Jeremiah] Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. (5) Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your forefathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey--the land you possess today. [And Jeremiah] answered, "Amen, LORD."
When the prophet Nehemiah pronounced the Word and Law of God to the priests and nobles and officials, they repented of their sin and responded together with an Amen (Neh 5:13).
The people's Amen is a sign of their submission to and obedience towards the Word and Law of God. "Amen, LORD, we will do as You command us."
When God's people hear the Law and will of God, an appropriate response is "Amen, LORD."
B Second, Amen is also a joyful and wholehearted response to the praise and worship of God. Before the assembly of Israel, Ezra praised the LORD; and, when they heard this, all the people lifted their hands and responded "Amen! Amen!" (Neh 8:6).
In the vision he was given, John saw thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand angels encircling the throne of God. They sang a song of praise to God,
(Rev 5:12) "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"Then John heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing,
(Rev 5:13) "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"When the four living creatures in the center, around the throne, heard all this praise to and for God they responded with "Amen" (Rev 5:14).
In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul stresses the need for an interpreter to be present when someone praises God in tongues for how can someone
(1Cor 14:16) who does not understand say "Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?Take note Paul assumes that Amen is said.
In all these passages Amen is a wholehearted and joyful response to the praise and worship of God. When God's name is praised God's people cannot help but shout out, "Amen, LORD, Amen!"
Let's say a choir or a soloist praises God in song; or there is a beautiful organ/piano or organ/trumpet duet. It is entirely appropriate and Biblical for God's people to respond to this praise of God with an Amen. That certainly is better than the applause we often hear in churches today.
C Third, Amen is also the closing of a statement of praise. This probably comes the closest to the way in which we use Amen -- as a conclusion to our praise and prayer. The Jewish song book, what we know as the Psalter or the Psalms, is divided into five sections. The first four sections all end with a word of praise concluded with an Amen:
(Ps 41:13) Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.
(Ps 72:18-19) Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. (19) Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.
(Ps 89:52) Praise be to the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.
(Ps 106:48) Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, "Amen!" Praise the LORD.
Not just in the Psalms but throughout the New Testament too we see Amen used as the conclusion of a word of praise to God. For instance, in eight chapters in Romans Paul talks about the marvelous, electing grace and mercy of God. Finally he can restrain himself no longer and simply has to sing a word of praise to God, a word of praise concluded with Amen:
(Rom 11:33-36) Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! (34) "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?" (35) "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" (36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, is the same as Paul. He too concludes a word of praise with an Amen:
Jude 24-25 To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-- (25) to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
And John, in his vision of the angels of heaven, sees them falling down on their faces before the throne and worshiping God, saying:
(Rev 7:12) "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"(cf Gal 1:5; Rom 16:27; Heb 12:21; 1 Pt 4:11,5:11; 2 Pt 3:18; Rev 1:6).
When we bring praise and worship to God it is fitting for our service to end with an Amen -- at the end of the doxology, as the conclusion to the benediction, as the congregation's final word of praise to God.
II Meaning of Amen
A God's people often use Amen in worship and praise. So what does it mean?
In the Hebrew Amen is used to describe the faith, trust, and confidence that a citizen puts in the king to guard, protect, and keep him safe. The king is Amen. In other words, he is reliable, firm, true, and sure.
B In the Greek Amen is used to describe something real and authentic, not at all fake and make-believe. Some of you who lived through the Great Depression or in Europe during World War II heard your parents speak of an "immes cup of coffee." At that time, many people could not afford a cup of the real stuff and had to make do with substitutes. Immes is a Yiddish word that comes from Amen. An "immes cup of coffee" is the real stuff, the real McCoy! Mom and dad would drink that on Sundays, or when visitors were down, or when the minister and elders came for home visiting.
C We see that Jesus often used Amen to introduce a statement (Matt 31 times; Mk 14 times; Lk 9 times; John 25 times). "Truly, truly ... Verily, verily ... For I tell you the truth ... Amen I say to you." Amen here is Christ's assurance that what He says and promises is true and utterly reliable. In fact, Jesus is called the Amen in God's Revelation to John:
(Rev 3:14) These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation.Jesus is the truth, the way, and the life. He is the Amen. All of God's promises to us are utterly reliable because of Christ the Amen. Amen is God's oath to us in Christ that what He says and promises to us is true and utterly reliable and may not be doubted. In our Scripture reading Paul says,
(2Cor 1:20) 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 Amen, we may not doubt but must believe all the promises of God. What promises? The promise of grace and peace are Amen in Christ. The promise of salvation and forgiveness are Amen in Christ. The promise of eternal life and the resurrection of the body are Amen in Christ. The promise of comfort and the presence of the Spirit are Amen in Christ. The promise of being God's child and God's heir are Amen in Christ.
III Amen and Prayers
A Now, what does all of this have to do with prayer?
When we pray as Jesus teaches us to pray, we make a staggering number of requests. We start with our Father in heaven. We end with His kingdom, power, and glory. We offer petitions about God's name, God's Kingdom, God's will. We offer petitions about daily bread, forgiveness of sins, and temptation. We use the acronym ACTS to guide our prayers:
A = Adoration,
C = Confession
T = Thanksgiving
S = Supplication
Are all these petitions mere wishes and hopes and dreams that this will happen? Do we have any kind of confidence that any of these petitions are going to be heard? Can we be sure our prayers are going to be answered?
B In answer to these questions, the sound doctrine of the Catechism tells us to end our prayers with an Amen. According to the Catechism,
Amen means,Closing our prayers with an Amen doesn't mean we send them off with a "maybe" or with a "perhaps." According to the Catechism, to conclude our prayers with an Amen is to express a certainty.
This is sure to be!
It is even more sure
that God listens to my prayer,
than that I really desire
what I pray for.
O God, help us know, bless, worship, and praise You. May Your name be always honored and praised and not blasphemed because of us. Amen. That is, this is sure to be!
O God, rule over us, keep Your church strong, and destroy the devil's work. Amen. That is, this is sure to be!
O God, help us reject our will and obey Your will. Amen. That is, this is sure to be!
O God, do take care of all our physical needs. Amen. That is, this is sure to be!
O God, forgive us our sins and grant us the grace to forgive others. Amen. That is, this is sure to be!
O God, grant us victory when faced with temptation and the evil one. Amen. That is, this is sure to be!
C Amen. This little word says three things about our prayers. First, when we add Amen to our prayers we are saying we have prayed for nothing contrary to God's will. The contents of our prayer, like the Lord's Prayer, are true and right and in harmony with what God wants. Which means we better be careful with our Amen because not all of our prayers can be said to be in conformity with the will of God. Sometimes, I'm afraid, our prayers are selfish or silly or meant to please man rather than God.
Second, when we add Amen to our prayers we are saying we really, truly, and sincerely want what we have just prayed for. What do we want? What God wants, of course. I am saying my desire is that God's name be glorified. The coming of God's Kingdom is important to me. I want to do God's will. Give me each day what I need and not what I want. Forgive me my sin because I know I have offended You. And deliver me from all evil because I want nothing to do with it.
Third, Amen means I believe, I trust, I am confident my prayer is heard. All I have prayed for is sure to be. Why? Not because my prayers are so fervent. Not because I am so holy and pious. Not because I am an all round good guy. But because God is reliable, firm, true, and sure. Because God is real and authentic. Because God, in Christ, is the Amen.
Amen. It is more than an end word. It is more than an a signing-off word for our worship, liturgy, and prayer. It directs our attention to God -- Who hears and answers all our prayers.
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