My Dear Shepherds,
At our wedding the pastor (my brother-in-law) insisted we use the old phrase, “I pledge thee my troth,” explaining that it meant our vows were forever after tied to our reputations as truth-tellers. That is true for pastors as well. Our word is our bond. When we open the scriptures, we pledge our troth.
When Paul was prevented from coming to Corinth as he had promised, his critics evidently accused him of not being a man of his word, and that cast doubt on his preaching of Christ. Paul came out swinging:
But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” 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 Cor. 1:18-20)
We must always speak and act with integrity and Christlike transparency lest our God-given gospel message lose its ring of truth. But more than warning, Paul’s words ought to have us clearing our throats and counting the hours till the next time we get to open our Bibles.
Who of us hasn’t imagined joining Jesus’ walk to Emmaus as “he explained what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself,” setting his companions’ hearts afire? Now Jesus has entrusted that incendiary privilege to us, whether we are holding up the grand covenants and prophecies given to Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and the others, or we are showing our people the more personal promises tucked all over Scripture. When I was a boy in Sunday School we sang, “Every promise in the Book is mine.” I’m not sure that’s exactly true, but I’ll tell you this: every promise in the Book is Jesus’!
Jesus did the Yes work. What we do in preaching, counseling, and discipling is the Amen work. The Hebrew word means surely or truly. Jesus Christ is the Guarantor. We are his Amen Corner.
Years ago I was invited to read Scripture in an ordination service at an African-American church pastored by a friend. Just two verses, Isaiah 61:1-2. When it was my turn I opened my Bible and intoned, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me.”
The congregation stopped me dead in my tracks: “Amen! That’s right! Amen!”
After I found my place again I forged on, “. . . because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” I punched the word preach a bit and there it came again: “Preach the good news! Amen! Preach!”
I girded up my loins and marched boldly onward. “He has sent me to BIND UP the brokenhearted.” Rolling back like an echo from heaven, God’s people shouted, “Bind UP!” “Praise God!” “Thank you Jesus!”
I declaimed, “To proclaim FREEDOM for the captives,” and some laughed for the joy of it. Some clapped their hands.
“And release from DARKNESS for the prisoners.” Again, they ran out to meet the Word with palm branches and hosannas.
“To PROCLAIM the year of the Lord’s FAVOR and the day of vengeance of our GOD.”
“Yes!! Hallelujah!” Feet stomped on the wooden floor. The congregation burst into applause—applause!—for the greatness of the commission.
I closed my Bible and stood there amazed. And I wished like everything they’d given me more than two verses to read.
Yes and Amen!
Be ye glad!