Scripture: “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when 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. Amos 8:11 ESV
Observation: A shepherd and farmer, God called Amos to prophesy during the reigns of Uzziah (792–740 B.C.) in Judah and Jeroboam II (793–753) in the ten northern tribes. During this season of political stability and prosperity, most of God’s people strayed from his Word. They regressed to a life of moral turpitude as evidenced by oppressing the vulnerable and poor and engaging in “solemn assemblies” that masked their hypocritical, self-indulgent hearts (5:21). So Amos denounced Israel and Judah for breaching the Lord’s covenant and repeatedly warned them of looming disaster.
Israel, however, ignored God’s prophet, so Amos now pronounces a coming day of bitter mourning (chapter 8). Too little, too late, only the weight of judgment will spur Israel to seek and submit to God’s commands. As consequences roll out, they will desperately search for the words of the Lord that bring relief but will encounter only silence. Thankfully, Amos concludes his prophetic ministry with a message of hope. Israel’s gracious and loving God “will raise up the booth of David that is fallen” (10:11) and one day restore his people through a new covenant.
Takeaway: We grieve for those suffering from drought and starvation, but how much worse is a famine of the Word? While the first wreaks havoc on the body, the latter, when unabated, starves the soul and results in certain agony of eternal separation from God and his glorious kingdom. So understanding the gravity of spiritual famine, we would do well to consider what causes God’s words to dry up? The short answer? Our unrepented sins. Like Israel, who did what was right in their own eyes, we squelch the Word when we think we know what is best. And people-pleasing preachers and teachers who dilute the challenging verses (that otherwise bring flourishing repentance and healing to our souls) are also culpable.
How then do we avoid a famine of “hearing the words of the Lord?” By turning our affections away from ourselves and the world to the Word made flesh, to the booth of David who God raised from the grave to restore us to him. Thus, when we gratefully desire to please the Father and Son above all else, the Word will penetrate our hearts and bring conviction, repentance, and abundant life (John 10:10).
Prayer: Father God, we confess that we are prone to self-indulgence and need your Word to convict us when we stray from you. Would you please turn us away from our worldly affections toward your Son and instill in us humility and a teachable spirit that we might submit to your Word and prosper in obedience to your will? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
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