Amos 8:11-12 (KJV) 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:  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.
Amos prophesied during the final days of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Kingdom was enjoying great power and great prosperity. But the Kingdom had fallen far away from God. Selfishness filled the land. Lovelessness was everywhere. Most tragic of all, many of God’s people no longer loved the Lord.
The very first commandment given by God to man was that we love the Lord. God told His people in the very first four commandments:
You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3)
You shall not worship the creation of your hands (Exodus 20:4)
You shall not take My Name in vain (Exodus 20:7)
You shall remember one day in seven for My sake (Exodus 20:8)
These first four laws could bed summed up simply as “You must love the Lord your God above all else”. The Lord reminded His people of this in Deuteronomy 6:
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NKJV) You shall love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with ALL your soul, and with ALL your strength. 6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Prosperity in the Northern Kingdom had an opposite effect on God’s people.
They stopped loving the Lord.
They began to do things not because they loved God, but because the Law demanded it.
In our text we see God’s people:
Amos 8:5 (KJV) Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?
Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ Day they outwardly were becoming (Matthew 23:27) … “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear outwardly beautiful, but inside are filled with dead people’s bones and uncleanness”. It is as Jesus exhorted in another place:
Matthew 5:13-14 (NKJV) You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
God’s people are to be the salt of the earth – a preservative for civilization.
God’s people are to be the Light of the world.
Nothing but mushrooms grow in the dark.
When God’s people love God the Lord makes them salt and light.
But when love for God decreases, then something happens.
Catastrophe Is Used By God To Bring Repentance
God told His people:
Amos 8:11-12 (KJV) Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land ….
One of the worst disasters that can come on a land is FAMINE. In physical famine people starve to death.
- In 1846 a famine in Ireland killed 2 million people.
- In 1932 a famine in the then USSR killed 10 million people.
- In 1959 a famine in China killed 43 million people.
When famines happen people ask “Where is God in this terrible time?”
The truth is that God sends famines for a reason.
Proverbs 16:9 (CSB) A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.
Over 400 years before Joseph was sold into captivity by his brothers a famine caused Abram to go to Egypt (Genesis 12:10). God allows trials and tribulation in our lives to teach us to trust in Him, to love Him no matter what might come. God is faithful to His Children, and uses circumstances and even things like famines to teach us to cling wholly to Him. The Scripture says:
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
The way of escape in trials is to trust in God.
- It was a famine that caused Israel and his family to be blessed. When Joseph was betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers, God raised Joseph up so that Egypt could prepare for the coming famine. Because Joseph was faithful to listen to and hear God’s Word the Lord gave Israel and his little family a place to stay and grow until Israel became a mighty nation.
God uses famines for our good, if we but trust His leadership.
- In the Book of Ruth we see that a man named Elimelech and his wife Naomi were caused by a famine to go to Moab, a place as godless as Egypt. This was a good thing. Why? Because God knew a Moabite named Ruth that He not only wanted to save, but to put in the lineage of Christ our Lord. Ruth entered Naomi’s family when she married Naomi’s son. Later when all the husbands passed on to glory Ruth told Naomi:
Ruth 1:16 (NKJV) .. Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God.
Ruth came to know the Lord, and was married into the line of Christ by the will of God! Famines and trials can be blessings when we focus on our God and love Him first and foremost. We need the Lord! We need His Word! We need to love God with all our hearts, to love Him who first loved us (1 John 4:19).
This Catastrophe Was Different From Other Famines
Amos 8:11 (KJV) … 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:
The famine that God was going to send was not a famine where food or water were lost, but a famine of the Word of God. The people would not hear the blessing of God’s Word. What is the problem with this? The Bible tells us that …
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then FAITH comes by HEARING, and hearing BY THE WORD OF GOD.
As hearing the Word of God decreases, faith in God decreases. When God first said this I am sure that few in Israel were upset.
“Good, we didn’t care for the sermons anyway.
We would just as soon have the feast days, the eating meetings, the celebrations”.
But as people no longer cherished God’s Word the Lord took it away. He gave them what they wanted. The British preacher George Whitefield said:
“As God can send a nation or a people no greater blessing than to give them faithful, sincere, and upright ministers, so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm, and unskillful guides.”
Whitefield was one of the founders of Methodism and the Evangelical Movement.
When God removes His Word – when He stops speaking to His people – then the people of God become like the world. We are told in Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NKJV) All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Word of God equips us to serve the Lord. Our Lord Jesus said:
Matthew 4:4 (NKJV) …. It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ …
In His Word is life and light. It is His Word that gives us doctrine or the way that God have us go. By His Word we are reproved and corrected, instructed as His Children in what is righteous. The word of man is fragile and ever changing, but God’s Word is eternal. Jesus said:
Matthew 24:35 (NKJV) Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.
It is a failure to hear the Word of the Gospel that causes damnation and eternal condemnation. Jesus said:
Mark 8:38 (NKJV) For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
When the Word of God departs the God Who speaks those words departs. God said to the people of Amos’ day “I will send famine in the land, a famine of My Word”. You do not wish to hear God then God stops speaking to you. God is fed up with disobedience.
The same thing happened in the ministry of Christ. He went about teaching the truths of God, but the Pharisees – who loved the rituals of religion – cared nothing for His Word. So Jesus began to speak in parables. The disciples asked Jesus why He
Matthew 13:10-15 (NKJV) And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.’
I have heard “Bible Scholars” say that Jesus spoke in parables to make things clearer, but they did not hear His Word. The parable hid spiritual truths that – without Jesus – you could not fathom. You had to love the Living Word in order to understand the Word of God.
When God sends a famine of His Word people become spiritually weak and anemic. There is no power in the Church nor in the Christian. Energy of the flesh rules, but not the Spirit of God. When people refuse to hear God’s Word He can remove that Word from them.
The Consequences Of This Famine
Amos 8:12 (KJV) 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.
When people experience famine of God’s Word they chase after other things to seek happiness and peace. This frantic search for happiness never brings the expectant results.
I remember years ago I had a friend named Sammy Scott, a great Christian man. Sammy lost one of his legs in a terrible accident years before. Sammy told me that the worst part of losing his leg was the phantom pains that came. There were times when the foot on his missing leg would itch, and he would reach out, but there was nothing to scratch. With nothing to scratch the itch would drive him nearly crazy. The doctor had to give him some type of sedative when phantom pain struck.
When God’s Word is not cherished because God is not loved, people – all of whom were designed to walk with God – begin to run around and scratch an itch that cannot be satisfied. They run to and fro seeking what is no longer there. There is no satisfaction. No happiness.
We need God’s Word. We need Him in our lives. We need His presence above all else.
At the very start of our study I shared an illustration with you that Pastor John Piper once used. He said:
“Perhaps, you are looking at a picture of a young woman facing away from you. You may look for hours and not see that her jaw is the nose of an old woman, and her ear is the old woman’s eye, and her neck-band is the old woman’s mouth. Then, in the twinkling of an eye you see the old woman. That’s an analogy of many issues in life and many perplexities in the Bible. We look and we look. We think. We study. We may even discuss and debate. And all we see is a young woman looking away from us. Then, one day, we realize we have not intentionally stopped, admitted our blindness, and called on God for the gift of sight. So we stop and get down on our knees — to say with our body how weak and helpless we are — and ask him for a breakthrough.”
We need the Word of God. We need the Word of God more than anything else in life. We need the Spirit leading us along the Highway of Righteousness. We need the Word of our Lord! We need His Presence and His Word guiding us. His Word is a lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path!