“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)
A Famine Of God’s Word
One of the greatest killers of mankind is the severe shortage of food resulting in widespread hunger or famine. Thirty million people died in China when famine struck in the late 50’s and early ’60s. Millions die from malnutrition and starvation each year, especially in the sub-Saharan African countries. From the beginning of time there have been various causes of famine brought on by natural disasters, infestations of insects, wars and failed policies of governments. Untold millions have died a slow and horrible death of famishment. The Bible reveals famines during the days of Abraham, and Isaac, and the great famine in the world during the days of Joseph when he rescued Egypt from destruction. During the period of the Judges and reign of David, there were famines. There was a severe famine in Samaria during the days of Ahab and Jezebel when Elijah and Elisha prophesied. The people of God were punished with the sword, judgment, pestilence, and famine seeking to bring them back to the Lord. God used the scarcity of food to impress upon His own people a day would come when there would not be a famine of food but an absence of the divine word. Knowing a famine was coming would strike terror and cause the heart to faint at the inability to find food. People would become frantic seeking ways to endure the blight of famine. During the days of Uzziah king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Joash king of Israel, the prophet Amos brought the reality of God’s judgment upon the people who had become secure in their prosperity of the golden age of the northern kingdom. There was a great social and economic revival in the land with the people enjoying a prosperous time of ease and wealth. Amos would talk about those who lay on beds of ivory stretching themselves on couches and eating lambs from the flocks and calves from the stalls. There was music that filled the land and wine flowing freely in the bowls not knowing a famine was coming. This famine was not in the absence of food but the famine of the word of God. No greater famine has plagued man than when the word of God is scarce. Like the famine of food, spiritual famine will bring certain death.
Israel had divided as nation after the death of Solomon. The northern ten tribes rebelled against the one true God setting up golden calves in Dan and Beer-Sheba. No king that ruled over the northern tribes was righteous and many of the kings would become more wicked than the nations around them. Men like Amos prophesied against the immorality, idolatry, and wickedness of the people but the messages of God’s wrath fell upon deaf ears. They oppressed the poor, neglected the needy and in their prosperity forgot God. As a nation, they were destroyed for lack of knowledge in forgetting the law of God. The Lord sent pestilence, drought and the plague like that of Egypt to show His wonder to the people trying to cause them to repent but to no avail. Finally, the day of the Lord would come when the famine of the word of God would come upon the people. There would come a time when God withholds His message of grace to the people. No prophet will arise to declare the word of the Lord. The day will come when the hope of God’s presence will fade away. As the people spiraled deeper into ungodliness, the Lord removed His presence and His spokesmen. The people of God would be cast into captivity never to return. None of the gods they served would deliver them and like their gods of wood and stone, the people would perish. When God leaves a land removing His word, death follows like a famine. It is complete, overshadowing and final.
What is tragic about the words of Amos is that he is speaking about the people of God who were given the law to guide them, train them and protect them. There was no excuse for them to be destitute of the way of the Lord. Everything they needed was provided by the hand of the Lord including the written word but they did not want to hear. Apostasy and rebellion come from ignorance dwelling in the minds of people and this was very serious for the nation of Israel. Lack of knowledge is a tool of the devil to destroy the hearts of God’s people. Because the Hebrews rejected the Lord He would stop sending His messengers with the word. This same ploy is found today in the body of Christ where Christian’s do not have any knowledge of the word of God. Again, like Israel of old, the church is destroyed for lack of knowledge. There was a time members of the church were well-versed in the Bible but those days are far removed from where it should be. Remarkably, the Bible is available in more formats and ease of use than any time in the last two thousand years but more and more of God’s people are ignorant of basic truths. Studying the word of God is no longer done. The joy of assembling with saints to discuss the righteousness character of godly living is ignored. Trying to fill the pews on Sunday night and Wednesday night is a greater challenge as people have no desire to assemble with the people of God. As a result, ignorance in filtering in among the people of God and the church is dying in many places. The hunger and thirst for the truth have diminished. What is feared is the word of the Lord will come to pass again when God declares a famine of His word in the United States of America. It is thought the church will always be on the corner of Main street and Third in middle America but that is a false hope because so many of God’s people are ignorant of the Bible. If God brings a famine of His word upon His people it will be a warning of how far removed the hearts of the people have become. Avoiding a famine is to keep the fields white with harvest in the souls of those who hunger for the word of God.