Theme: The Faithful God
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the need to praise the Lord for his enduring love and faithfulness toward us.
Scripture: Psalm 117:1, 2
There is one more word we need to look at before I bring this study of the shortest psalm to a close, and that is the word rendered “faithfulness” in verse 2. Actually it is the word “amen,” and it can equally well be translated “truth,” “steadfastness” or “reliability.” In the New Testament, in the words of Jesus it is often rendered, “Truly, truly.”
“Amen” is found in nearly every language of the world, one of the few in that category. But it comes from an original Hebrew verb meaning “to support with the arm” or “to carry.” In its intransitive form the verb meant “that which is supported” or “that which is held up.” Thus it came to mean “firm” or “unshakable.” The word occurs in this original sense in Isaiah 22:23 in reference to a firm place in a wall, where a nail can be driven: “I will drive him like a peg into a firm place.” Isaiah is speaking about the unshakable character of Christ’s kingdom.
Over the years this old Hebrew word took on two important uses which at last became dominant ones. First, the word was used of God, as one of his attributes, which is what we have in Psalm 117. This was perfectly natural, for if the word meant “that which is unshakable,” then it is rightly applied to God who alone is utterly unshakable. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God will never pass away. Nor will his words. Therefore we find God spoken of as the Amen or, as some versions have it, as the God of truth. It is in this sense that Isaiah speaks of God, saying,
Whoever invokes a blessing in the landwill do so by the God of truth;he who takes an oath in the landwill swear by the God of truth (Isa. 65:16).
The Hebrew says, “by the God of the amen.”
Being faithful is one of God’s great characteristics, and it is this that is mentioned in our psalm. It is the truth or faithfulness of God that endures forever. Strictly speaking, in this verse it is the truth or faithfulness of God that is said to endure forever and the love of God that is said to prevail. But this is an example of the psalms’ characteristically parallel constructions so that what is said in one line is repeated in the second line with only the slightest alteration in meaning. Since the terms are parallel we can as easily say that the love of God endures forever and the truth of God prevails as say that the truth of God endures and the love prevails. In fact, it is because God is the truthful God, who does not lie in his words or vary in his commitments, that his love prevails. And it is because his love does not vary that he can be trusted to be truthful.
The second use of the word “amen” is well known. It is used by human beings to express agreement with what God says. God says something, and we say, “Amen,” meaning that we are setting our seal to the fact that God is truthful. Can you do that with Psalm 117? The psalm says,
…great is his love toward us,and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever.
Can you say, “That is exactly what I have discovered in God’s dealings with me—I have found that his love is indeed great and prevails and that his truth endures forever. Amen”? If you have discovered that, you will extol God for it. You will say as the psalm does: “Praise the LORD.”
What are some ways that the word rendered “amen” can be translated? How does “amen” apply to God’s character?
What is the second use of “amen”?
Key Point: It is the truth or faithfulness of God that endures forever.
Reflection: How does knowing that God’s faithfulness endures help you? How can you encourage someone else who needs to be reminded of God’s faithfulness?
For Further Study: To study more about God’s faithfulness, download for free and listen to Eric Alexander’s message, “The Faithfulness of God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)