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A Famine Of Hearing The Word Of God

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Scripture A Day


                                    By James L. Thornton

There are many instances of famine in the Bible. Most of these were caused by lack of rain or some other natural disaster. There were times when God caused these natural disasters to come because of the transgressions of His people and the lack of food and water brought them to repentance.

But in this study we want to look at another and far more terrible famine than that cause by natural disasters. It would be a famine of the hearing the words of the Lord is threatened:

 Amos 8:11. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:                                            
12. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”   

 To lose the Word from God is the loss of a necessity of spiritual life. The deepest need of humanity is a communication from God. “This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God,” Hence the Word which God speaks is the Word of life. Apart from it spiritual life is impossible.

Amos is the third of what is called the Minor Prophets. His name is usually taken to signify “Carrier,” but is better interpreted “Heavy” or “Burden,” in allusion to the grievous message which he had to deliver. Amos 1:1. tells us that Amos “saw the words,” indicating that his message was from God.

 At the time when Amos prophesied both Israel and Judah stood high in prosperity and wealth. Most of their surrounding enemies had been subdued and some paid tribute into the coffers. Jerusalem was highly fortified and had a powerful standing army. (2 Chronicles 26:1-15)

 Israel, secure from outward enemies and strong in inward resources, was very far from expecting ruin and destruction. Prosperity in both kingdoms had produced its too common fruits—pride, luxury, selfishness, and oppression. In Jerusalem and Samaria alike such sins were widespread; but in the northern kingdom, Israel, they were highlighted and increased by the calf-worship which was still practiced there.

 It was to Bethel, the central seat of this idolatry, Amos was sent from Jerusalem. Never since the man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord in the days of the first Jeroboam (1 Kings 13) had any southern prophet gone on such an errand.

 Now God is sending a second messenger. Though his special mission was directed to Israel, Amos does not confine himself altogether to denunciations of this kingdom. His cry extended to Judah and to the hostile nations which surrounded the covenant people.

 Even though the Prophecies of Amos are filled with destruction and captivity, both by natural and inhuman means, at one time Amos is heard to cry, “.. prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12) and when it seems that God was going to make an end to these people He had called and chosen, God had Amos close his book with five promises of restoration (Amos 9:11-15).  God is merciful even in judgment.

 In our study of our text (Amos 8:11), A famine of hearing of the Words of the Lord is taken from a series of five visions God gave to Amos. Each portraying a catastrophe God was going to send on Israel and Judah because of their apostasy. The afflictions are climactic, and increasing in intensity.

 In the first two visions (Amos 7:1; 4), grasshoppers and fire symbolize judgments which are averted by the intercessory prayer of Amos. The third and fourth visions, a plumbline, and a basket of summer fruit, are forceful and definite. The fifth proclaims the overthrow of the temple and the old theocracy, and government.

 In the fourth vision (Amos 8:1-14), the basket of summer fruit, the Lord shows that the people are ripe for judgment. Explaining this revelation, Amos denounces the oppression and greed of the chieftains (verses. 4-10), and warns them that those who despise the Word of God shall some day suffer from a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord (verses. 11-14).

Amos 8:1. “Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit.                      
2. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.”

 Sin has its day. It disturbs the harmony of things, and when derangement reaches a climax a catastrophe comes, and arrests the process with a “thus far and no further.” Israel’s wicked course had reached this critical point.
1. Idolatry, the archetypal sin against the first four commandments, had practically superseded the worship of God.
 2. Oppression, the archetypal sin against the second table, had reduced society to dissolution. The safeguards of property, liberty, and life were alike removed, the poor was being oppressed (Amos 8:4-6), the ones who could least resist, there was deceit by false balances, selling inferior products, even taking the shoes of the poor.

 IT HAS SELECTED AN EASY PREY: (“the poor; the meek, Verse. 4.”)
 The poor cannot defend themselves. Their poverty makes them helpless,

The oppressors will have men’s money although their life should pay the forfeit. This is the very spirit of murder. To make money, at the necessary cost of human life, is to break the sixth commandment as well as the eighth.

 God’s judgments sometimes take, and will continue to take, the wicked by surprise (Matthew 24:36-39). But this need not be, and should not be, and can be only where blindness, or heedlessness, or incredulity makes warning useless.

 God always warns before he strikes (Amos 3:7). Sometimes he warns by several methods at once. Often he warns again and again. Invariably he warns with a solemnity that makes disbelief a crime and stupid.

God said that He would not forget their sins (Amos 8:7). “I will not forget and forever.” To forget is to forgive, put out of sight, treat as non-existent. “I will remember their iniquities no more.” Sin un-atoned for cannot be forgiven. God must be just in his justifying, and justice demands satisfaction. From the provided satisfaction the unbelieving sinner has turned away, and so from the grace of his own salvation.

God then told them He would turn them over to the oppressors (Amos 8:8-10). There are chains being forged somewhere for the man who can neither consider others nor rule himself.

They had rejected prophet after prophet, turned away from God’s word, and refused to hear their calls for repentance and now God is rejecting them and condemning them to the worst of catastrophes, a famine of the Words of the Lord.

They had wasted the Word of God, neglecting it, despising it, and at last forbidding it to be spoken (Amos 7:13). Now they would wander from sea to sea and not hear from God.

Amos 8:11. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:                                                12. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”

“Not a hungering for bread, nor a thirst for water, but to hear the words of Jehovah.” This is a new form of disaster, and one that is especially severe. It is in the spiritual sphere.

Jesus Says, “Fear not them which kill the body.” It is the least part of us. Whether it live or die, enjoy or suffer, is a question involving trivial interests, and these during a limited period. The soul is the man, and its well being, next to God’s glory, the great interest. For the soul’s injury, there is no compensation, for its loss no parallel. When the soul suffers, the worst has happened.

To lose the Word from God is the loss of a necessity of spiritual life. The deepest need of humanity is a communication from God. “This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God,” Hence the Word which God speaks is the Word of life. Apart from it spiritual life is impossible.

 The Word of the Lord is the revelation of spiritual things.
After trying four thousand years, “the world by wisdom knew not God,” it did not because it could not. In all saving relations Christ is the Revelation of the Father (Hebrews 1:1; John 1:18), and Scripture alone reveals Christ (John 5:39), and the way of life through him.

The Word of the Lord is the source of spiritual power.                                                      

“The power of God unto salvation” is Paul’s synonym for the gospel.

The Word of God is the assurance of spiritual goodness.
The Scriptures (Word From God) reveal the heavenly blessings in store, and thus supply the warp and woof out of which the web of comfort is woven. What we shall have, and that we shall have it, is the burden of the Word of promise, which, making the rich future sure, makes thus the present glad and strong.

 Poor indeed would man be if there were no such word to rouse the heart’s ease when his brow is wrung in anguish and distress.

When God Lets Us Alone:
When sin continues and abounds despite all of God’s warnings there is nothing for it but the extreme penalty of being let alone. And even that (being let alone) will be inflicted.

 “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone. (Hosea 4:17). 

Saul had provoked it when “God answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”         

Israel had provoked it when God said to his servant, “Thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover” (Ezekiel 3:26).                                                                                                                                                       

“Then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients” (
Ezekiel 7:26).

When a man sins on principle, he is not far from “a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.”

Not long after this prophecy given to Amos, God shut the heavens and spoke not for 400 years, from the days of Malachi till the coming of the angel to Mary in Matthew.

 There is a famine of the Word on Israel still. “Blindness in part has happened” (Romans 11:25) to them, in that, “when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart.” (2 Corinthians 3:15).  

 This practically amounts to the removal of the Word. It is a sealed book to them — sealed by their blindness to its spiritual sense. Not even heathen ignorance is more effectually cut off from the knowledge of the truth than Jewish prejudice and hate.

 It rests on them for the same reason for which it came. Persistently, blindly, bitterly, they rejected the truth of the gospel. They made it evident that they would not have it. And so sadly, reluctantly, but sternly, it was taken from them.

 “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46). When that Word was spoken, Israel was left to the darkness it loved. In that chosen darkness they still grope, and will till the latter-day glory dawns.


There are many blessings which are not suitably valued until they are withdrawn and missed. It is so with bodily health, with political liberty, with domestic happiness. And the prophet assumes that it will be found the same with the Word of God.

 When it is possessed -- when the Scriptures are read and the Gospel is heard -- it is too often the case that the privilege is unappreciated. But what must it be to be shut off from all communication with Heaven! And such, it was foretold, was to be the lot of Israel in the days of retribution and calamity which were about to overtake Israel

Man’s bodily constitution is such that food and drink are a necessity to health and even to life; to be even partially starved is to be disabled and to be rendered wretched.

 Even so, the truth, the righteousness, and the love of God, through His Words, are necessary for the aliments of the spiritual nature. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Fellowship with God by his Word is indispensably necessary in order that a high, holy, and acceptable service may be rendered.

1. If the knowledge of God himself be withheld, there is for man no solution of all the mysteries of the universe, the mysteries of his being. Why am I here? What is my end? Is there any purpose in life?

 2. If the Law of God be concealed, there is no sufficient guide through human life.

 3. If the gospel of Christ be withheld, there is no peace for the conscience, no sufficient inspiration for duty, no assurance of immortality.

 4. If revelation be denied, there is no power, no principle sufficient to guide and to govern human society. (‘The Eclipse of Faith,’ by the late Henry Rogers, where a chapter “The Blank Bible,” sets forth the consequences which may be supposed to follow upon the disappearance of the Holy Scriptures.)


This Brings Soul Famine:
Which is the greater lack of the body — the lack of food, or the lack of appetite for food? The latter, I believe, for the latter implies disease. It is so with the soul. The vast majority of souls have lost the appetite for the Divine Word. They are perishing, shrivelling up, for the lack of it. The desire is gone.

 We Could Call It Spiritual Anorexia.
They die, not for the lack of the food, but for the lack of appetite. As a rule, the starvation of souls is not for the lack of food, but for the lack of appetite for God’s Word.

Paul says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The worst thing of this disease is,                                                                                         
(1) men are not conscious of it;                                                                                              
(2) it works the worst ruin.

Amos 8:12. “They shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”

This verse follows immediately after the Lord said there would be a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. The appetite will be quickened sooner or later. Sometimes — would it were ever so! — it is quickened here, where supplies abound.

Hear Job’s cry, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” And hear Saul’s cry at Endor, “Bring me up Samuel.” Oh for one word from his lips, one loving sentence from the mouth of the great Father! “Bring me up Samuel.”

 “The days shall come,” says Christ, “when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it” (Luke 17:22). And again, “Ye shall seek me, and not find me: for where I am, thither ye cannot come” (John 7:34).

Oh miserable state of immortal souls, to be crying to the heavens, and those heavens to be as hard as brass! — This was to be the situation of the nation of Israel.


God has not said that in the New Testament era that He would send a famine of hearing of His Word. But we do know that for a period of 1200 years, which we call the dark ages, the Word of God was hid, not by Him, but by false religions, and by the workings of Satan.

The Word of God was repressed and hidden by the false church. The Bible was only in the hands of false church leaders and written in a language, Latin, that the average person could not read.

 After these many years of suppression the Bible was once again written in the language of the common people by men God used, like Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and others and the Reformation of Christianity began.

 The danger that we in the New Testament era face is brought about by our own lack of reading, studying, and especially a desire to know more about the Word of God. Of course Satan would try to put other things like, doubt of the authenticity of the Bible.

 2 Thessalonians 2:9. “Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,                                                                                      
10. And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.                                            
11. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:                                                                                                                                         
12. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 Paul tells us that we can be deceived by Satan if we do not have a LOVE OF THE TRUTH. Paul also warned that individuals who do not have a LOVE OF THE TRUTH and are deceived by Satan, God will take hold of their minds and cause them to believe the lies Satan puts forth to them.

 It is not because God is withholding the Truth of His Word, but people do not want the Truth preached, because they do not have A LOVE OF THE TRUTH.

This is the day we are living in, when people are so preoccupied with everything else besides longing to hear from God. Satan has stolen their minds and God’s Word has no place in their hearts.

 Another thing, is the ministry is not preaching a strong doctrine and emphasizing the truth of Gods Word. Paul warned Timothy to, “Preach the Word.” Do not water it down, do not be afraid of offending, it is the Word that convicts. “The word of God is powerful, sharper than a two-edeged sword, It will make a husband come home at night, it will do what no other thing can do.

 The scripture tells us to,                                                                                                          

“Desire the milk of the Word that ye may grow thereby.”                                        

Paul likened The Word of God to “Meat.”                                                                             

 Several times it is likened to “Bread.”                                                                                 

 In any wise the Word of God is Food for the soul.

 I hope you received something from reading this article on the Word of God and will read he other articles on this web-site.

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 James L. Thornton

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