A FAMINE FOR THE WORD

A FAMINE FOR THE WORD
 
Around 750 B.C. a sheep herder named Amos was called by God to be a prophet. His mission was to warn Israel of God's coming impending judgment upon the children of 
		
			Israel and sure enough his words came to pass as the Jewish nation was led into Assyrian captivity. After this happens the 10 tribes that made up the northern kingdom cease to exist. While these prophecies are very interesting I want to focus in on one prophecy that Amos made about an unusually famine that would come upon the children of 
		
			Israel. Let read this prophecy in,

 

Amos 8:11 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. 12 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.

 

Usually when people think of famines they think of famines of food or water but Amos is telling the children of 
		
			Israel that there is going to be a famine of the word of God. This is famine that is worse than just a famine of food or water because this means that there would be a period of time where there would be no more prophecies which means no one would be hearing Gods assurance or confirmations. To be void of hearing Godís word would leave humankind empty as Jesus said, 
 

Matthew 4:4  "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' "

 

I believe this prophecy of Amos was fulfilled by the 400 year period of silence from God between the OT and the NT time. However in very similar way we seem to have a famine for Gods word today. In lesson what I would like to do is to compare our present-day famine with the one prophesied by Amos.

 
The first thing  I would like to show is how our present-day famine of the word is different than the one Amos speaks about. 
 
First of all our famine of Godís word was not sent by God. In fact just the opposite is true. God has given us a feast of his word. This can be seen in the abundance of Bibles that are available. In fact we have access to Gods word in so many different ways that it unreal. We have printed Bibles in just about every language that I know of, we have the Bible in many software formats, it can read on the internet, it available on cassettes, VCR taped and DVD. There has never been time in our history to where Godís word has been so plentiful and easy to obtain.
 
You see the difference between Amos prophecy and todayís famine is that it is SELF-IMPOSED! In Amos prophecy it says they will search for Godís Word but will not find it but today we have God words but choose not to read it. A great illustration of this is a little story I found written by Gene Baker called,
 
Diary Of The Bible  
 

JANUARY: A busy time for me. Most of the family decided to read me through this year.  They kept me busy for the first two weeks, but they have forgotten me now. 

FEBRUARY: Clean-up time. I was dusted yesterday and put in my place. My owner did use me for a few minutes last week. He had been in an argument  and was looking up some references to prove he was right. 

MARCH: Had a busy day first of the month.My owner was elected president of the PTA & used me to prepare a speech. 

APRIL: Grandpa visited us this month. He kept me on his lap for an hour reading I Cor 13.  He seems to think more of me than do some people in my own household. 

MAY: I have a few green stains on my pages.  Some spring flowers were pressed in my pages. 

JUNE: I look like a scrapbook. They have stuffed me full of newspaper clippings - one of the girls was married. 

JULY: They put me in a suitcase today. I guess we are off on vacation.  I wish I could stay home; I know I'll be closed up in this thing for at least two weeks. 

AUGUST: Still in the suitcase. 

SEPTEMBER: Back home at last and in my old familiar place.  I have a lot of company. Two women's magazines and four comic books are stacked on top of me.  I wish I could be read as much as they are. 

OCTOBER: They read me a little bit today.  One of them is very sick. Right now I am sitting in the center of the coffee table.  I think the Preacher is coming by for a visit. 

NOVEMBER: Back in my old place.  Somebody asked today if I were a scrapbook. 

DECEMBER: The family is busy getting ready for the holidays.  I guess I'll be covered up under wrapping paper and packages ,again ... just as I am every Christmas. 

 

While this just a made up story its principle hit close to home for many people who call themselves Christians. I find it very sad that many today have 2 or 3 Bibles in their homes and yet they neglect to read them even though they contain Godís perfect will. They would rather use them for their looks instead of their content but why is this case? Why are so many willing to neglect the Word of God?

 

Well I believe some of the answers to these questions can be found by us comparing the similarities of what caused the famine of Godís Word that Amos spoke about and our modern day famine of his word.

 
One thing that brought about there famine back then was there pride associated with material luxury. Notice what Amos says about this in, 
 

Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria, Notable persons in the chief nation, To whom the house of  Israel comes!  2 Go over to Calneh and see; And from there go to Hamath the great; Then go down to  Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is their territory greater than your territory?  3 Woe to you who put far off the day of doom, Who cause the seat of violence to come near;  4 Who lie on beds of ivory, Stretch out on your couches, Eat lambs from the flock And calves from the midst of the stall; 5 Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;  6 Who drink wine from bowls, And anoint yourselves with the best ointments, But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.  7 Therefore they shall now go captive as the first of the captives, And those who recline at banquets shall be removed.  8 The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself, The LORD God of hosts says: "I abhor the pride of Jacob, And hate his palaces; Therefore I will deliver up the city And all that is in it."

 
You see their luxury caused  them to put the day of doom far from their minds because they didnít want to think about the future or consequences of their pride and selfishness. 
Being blessed with material things seems to have great effect on people and tends to make them forget about what God has done for them. This is exactly what God warned the children of 
		
			Israel about in, 
 

Deuteronomy 8:11" Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today,  12 "lest -- when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them;  13 "and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;  14 "when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;  15 "who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock;  16 "who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end --  17 "then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.'

 

We also know that the NT warns over and over again of how the riches of this world can choke out Godís Word and how it hard for a rich man to enter into heaven. But this is exactly what is causing many who proclaim to be Christian today to hardly every pick up the Bible and read it. They allow their material possessions and their hobbies to rule their lives and some even been to think that all their blessing came from their own hands without any help from God and they move farther and father away from and care less and less about reading his word or making time to do so. 
 
Another similar problem that caused famine of Godís word was moral corruption
Notice how corrupt the people had become in the days of Amos 
 
Amos 2:6 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of 
		
			Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals.  7 They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, And pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, To defile My holy name.  8 They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, And drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.            
 
These people had so much immorality that is disgusting and living such a sinful life made it difficult for any prophet to change them because Godís word was in direct contrast with what they were doing. But this exactly what is effecting todayís Christians. Here what happens when a society in morally bankrupt this has great influence on those who call themselves Christians and this being the case you end up with a lot worldliness within the church. 
 
Now when people are use to a worldly morality is almost always in direct contrast to Godís word and so people donít want to want to here the truth so they donít read their Bible and they will find a church where the preacher preaches more out the reader digest than the word of God. These type of people are described in,
 

Isaiah 30:9 this is a rebellious people, Lying children, Children who will not hear the law of the LORD;  10 Who say to the seers, "Do not see," And to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.  11 Get out of the way, Turn aside from the path, Cause the Holy One of  Israel To cease from before us."

 
Another similar problem that caused the famine was religious corruption. Again this can be see in, 
 
Amos 8:4 Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail,  5 Saying: "When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit,  6 That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals -- Even sell the bad wheat?"  
 
Here we see that the people couldnít wait until the days were over so that they could back to their evil ways. You see they would observe the certain days only because they felt they had to not because they wanted to. The same thing happens today. Many cant hardly want until worship service is over so they can make the appearance and then go back to living a worldly way. Just think this there are many self proclaimed Christians out there that are like this and if they have this attitude about church you can just imagine how much motivation they are going to have to open Godís Word on their own precious time clock. 
 
Now the we have looked at several causes of the famine of Godís Word let now take a look at the result the famine produces. Notice how Amos describes the result of the famine of Godís Word in his prophecy in, 
 

Amos 8:13 "In that day the fair virgins And strong young men Shall faint from thirst.  14 Those who swear by the sin of  Samaria, Who say, 'As your god lives, O Dan!' And, 'As the way ofBeersheba lives!' They shall fall and never rise again."

 
Here Amos talks about young people fainting from "thirst" and others falling and not rising again. Doesn't this sound very similar to the lives of many Christians today?
Think about how many Christians are suffering from a lack of  "spiritual food". 
Whenever we stop feeding ourselves physically we become disoriented and weak and when we stop feeding ourselves spiritual the same thing happens to us which makes it easier for us to become overtaken by temptations and the common trials of life. When purposely cause a famine of Godís word in our life it does nothing but harm and makes it to where we have no confidence in the power of prayer or the providence of God. 
 
A famine of Godís word is not just limited to the individual because entire congregations have chosen that path. Elders and preacher alike have decided its to hard to fight against worldly ways and so to make things easier for them and to boost the budget and the number of people that attend they have set aside the Word of God and have made way for teachings that apply to the masses. As sad as this sound this is result that happens from a famine of Godís word.   
 
So how can we end this self imposed famine today? 
 
Well as simple as it sounds the answer is to simply return back Godís Word and make it a part of our daily lives. We need to develop the same attitude as David had. 
 
Psalm 119: 9 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.  10 With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  11 Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!  12 Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes!  13 With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth.  14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.  15 I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.  16 I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.  17 Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. 18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.
 
Now if we all had the desire that David did for Godís word,  just think about how faithful and strong every Christian would be today. We would all understand that Gods word is the  power of salvation and thatís it truth will set us free. But in order for us to develop such a desire we must remind ourselves daily of what God has done for us and the fact that this life we live on this earth is nothing more than an vapor and so its imperative the we lay our treasure and hope in heaven.
 
We have examined this morning how sad it is to be without the word of God and what happens when we make a famine out of Godís Word. So I hope this lesson will encourage you to develop a habit of reading your Bible daily. The experts say it only take 21 days to make a new habit and I cant think of any better habit then reading Godís Word. 
 
Now I would suggest starting out slow and make a realistic goal you can achieve. For the first month or 2 just commit to reading 1 chapter per day. If you read a chapter per day you can easily read the NT in a years time. However, I would suggest that once you get used to reading a chapter a day you should and another chapter and keep doing this as time goes on. Think about this if you read 3 chapters per day you can read the entire Bible in one years time. It only takes 15 to 30 min for most people to read 3 chapters and if you read your Bible through once a year you will be accomplishing more than most because you would be surprised at how many Christian have never read the entire Bible. 
 
But not only do I hope you will become a daily Bible reader I hope that you mediate upon what you read and how you can apply to your life as the writer of Psalm 1 says, 
 
Psalm 1:1 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;  2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.  3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
 
The more you think about Godís Word and it living message the more desire you will have to learn more. 
 
Another important thing I want to encourage you to do is to pray for wisdom as James says,
 

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

 

Finally the last thing I want to encourage you to do is to be a doer of Gods word and not just a hearer, again James puts it best in,

 

James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;  24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.  25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

 
So in conclusion 
 
We have learned both the difference and the similarities between Amosí prophecy and our modern day famine of Gods Word. The difference of course was their famine came about by the power of God but our famine today comes by our own choice. Now the  similarities that brought about this famine of Godís word was indulging in luxuries or hobbies, moral corruption and religious corruption. We also learned that the consequence of this type of  famine leaves us spiritually thirsty and hungry even when we donít realize it and if we are left in this state we will die in our sins. Then finally I offered a simply solution to the problem by getting back to God word and being a daily Bible reader, meditating on what your read, praying for wisdom and by being doer of Gods Word. 
 
If  we can commit to making the changes in our life then we will never have to worry about a famine of Godís word in our life. I want to end this lesson with the words of Paul.
 

 Acts 20:32 "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.