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“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
We live in a time when our world, that is the western world in particular, is literally awash with numerous and various translations of the Word of God and then to add to this we have all sorts of study aids to the Bible and commentaries that seek to address every book contained in this scared volume. And yet, for all of this, we still have congregations that are in the most part biblically illiterate and cannot in truth tell one much about the books of the Bible that they read. There is indeed a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord.”
At one level we must ask, “Why is this so?” And the answer would probably be: Because the people of God are not really encouraged to “receive the word implanted” (James 1:21) or thoroughly ingested by those who occupy our pulpits. Rather the people of God are encouraged to read snippets of the Bible every day that essentially disinvests them from acquiring an understanding of it contents. By contrast the Bible itself encourages us to dwell in its pages “day and night” and Jesus likened our intake of it to that of our daily consumption of food (Matthew 4:4). Actually, to be honest, we all eat too much and wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all had too much to eat of the Word of God. Sadly this is not true and in the main, despite all our translations and various “helps” the average Christian knows very little about the Bible. Paul well knew the power of the Word of God and so when he finally took leave of the Ephesian Church leaders he said, “So, now brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32). There is indeed a famine of the words of the Lord!
The context of Amos’s statement above is that of a people who, having the Word of God, have nevertheless not taken its pages seriously and have consequently lived in wicked ways and have even sought for ways to undermine its pages in a manner that it appears to condone this wickedness. Jesus understood this twisted practice of the human heart and said in response, “ But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46)” Today the biggest threat to the true Church is the wider church itself in that many denominations and movements that once, by their founding fathers, supported a Bible believing faith have actively sought to dismantle this by condoning behavior and practices that are in reality clearly condemned by scripture. This has impacted their understanding of marriage, family, sexual purity and mission in the world. Peter, in his day, encountered these same people and warned his readers, in his second epistle bearing his name, about them (2 Peter 3:14-18). Churches that remain true to the Word of God are therefore despised and ridiculed by so called fellow expressions of the Christian faith and this encourages the ungodly to join this throng of abusers. The God of the Bible warns through Amos His prophet that these evils will bring upon those who practice them a famine of the words of the Lord. They may seek the words of God and in so doing “run to and fro” but it will not help until they repent and amend their ways.
So then, apart from there being human reasons for which the Bible is a closed book to many in the Church today, there is in fact a heavenly reaction to neglect, wickedness and distortion that locks the truth of the pages of scripture from them. In short the famine “of the words of the Lord” is sent from heaven as judgment or as an instrument of correction with the hope of bringing them to repentance. We should note this carefully.
In the end we must humble our hearts before this amazing book and approach it with great reverence because it is fully inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) or “God breathed” (2 Peter 1:19-21) and we should cultivate reading habits of it that enable us to absorb, understand and know it contextually. When we do this, as the Psalmist declares, it will become “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105).” Indeed we should read all of Psalm 119 in order to appreciate the extreme importance of living in the Word of God.
When I first came to Christ He showed me that I needed to live in the Bible and read at least ten chapters of it a day. I did this by the grace of God and consequently my life has been transformed and my understanding of its pages has been enlarged. I then agree with David when he wrote the following:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel
of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight
is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he medi-
tates day and night.”