I absolutely love it when I’m at church and the speaker is leading the congregation in prayer and instead of finishing the prayer him or herself, he says, “And all God’s people said?” Then, the congregation speaks jointly and says, “Amen.” Not only do I value being included as one of God’s people, but I love the collective agreement to what was spoken to God. Amen means, ‘so be it’, it is an expression of concurrence or assent (dictionary.com).
For years, I misunderstood 2 Corinthians 1:20 to be, “for all God’s promises are yes, and amen in Jesus,” but as the Lord is opening up the mystery of intimacy with him, things that were hidden or unnoticed prior are now seen as if for the first time. I more fully understand the verse. I don’t even have to change the translation I read to see the full meaning. The verse actually says, “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.”
Whatever the Father promises through Jesus is a sure thing, but it requires our assent (our ‘amen’) for the promise to be birthed.
Stop, and think on this revelation with me for a moment. This is an ‘aha’ moment. Agreement (for God’s promises to develop, or be born) is complete in the context of covenantal relationship. In other words, intimacy is required. The dilemma with intimacy in any relationship is that it demands time to develop. Any fulfillment outside of intimacy, an ‘Ishmael’ is birthed.
Did you miss the jump I just did there? Allow me to explain...
When Abram was called by God, he was already an old man from a polytheistic family, but God had plans for Abram and wooed him to a monotheistic covenant relationship and made some spectacular promises, among them that Abram would be the father of many nations. The promise may not have been much of a stretch for Jim Bob Duggar but it was for Abram, who did not have children and his wife Sarai was long past menopause.
The Bible doesn’t mention whether Abram deliberated for long on God’s first instruction to “go to the land, I will show you,” so I can only assume Abram was agreeable. A transnational move might have been a large undertaking but the intimate investment required by Abram was minimal.
God promised Abram his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram believed God (gave his ‘amen’). If I could poll other Christians, I am confident many would be found in the same position as Abram – a promise is given, and we believe it. But also like Abram, I move ahead of God to force the promise into existence, just like he did with Sarai/Hagar relationship triangle.
Several months ago, I wrote a post about forced intimacy. It’s not pleasing to God. He wants us to come into intimacy in a with him as a freewill offering of ourselves. It can’t be forced, and whatever is birthed in it is born in strife – just like Ishmael. He was born to Abram but he was not the child of promise. It took another 12 or 13 years before Isaac, the child of promise, was born. The Bible doesn’t elaborate further on what took place in those years but let me suggest that’s how long it took to build true intimacy in a covenant relationship. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know God.” The word know is the Hebrew word, yada, which has as part of the meaning, a carnal knowledge – the kind of ‘knowing’ in which children are born. How long does it take to know God? It’s relative but from most discussions with friends or reading testimonies in Scripture, a common response is we lack patience and move ahead of God to try to force the promise, ahead of what intimacy will allow.
If we were still with God and just knew him, the natural progression of the relationship is to birth something – a promise. In Christ, it is already yes but it requires our agreement to bring about the glory which God intends. Abram already received the promise; his participation was in learning the practice of stilling himself before God, to know him. And from there, Isaac was born.
Outside of intimacy in a covenant relationship, you get Ishmael, but inside covenant relationship you get Isaac, the child of promise. God has already pre-ordained us to receive his promises and blessings. The question is will we say ‘Amen’?