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Famine of the Word

Date: 26 November 2017

As we end our sermon series on the book of Amos, there is a sobering warning in 8:11-12, “The days are coming, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger ... searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.” Many scholars believe this to be a dual prophecy, meaning that it applied both to the impending judgment of national Israel for their sins during the time of Amos and other prophets, but also foretelling a probable future judgment on the modern church.

Considering the proliferation of Bibles into hundreds of languages today – it remains the world’s most translated, best selling and most freely given book – this warning in Amos is surprising. What exactly would this “famine of the word” be like? Firstly, v11 indicates that it would be a famine of hearing God's word. This could indicate a future time where the preaching and teaching of God's word is scarce, or as many NT writers warn, false prophets and teachings will abound, so much so that it would be challenging to discern the truth of God's word.

Secondly, v12 suggests that people will seek and search for God's word but not find it, perhaps meaning a time where even access to God's word will be limited or rare. In this modern age of high-speed and widespread Internet access and Bible apps, it seems almost impossible to imagine not being able to find God's word in some form, whether physical or virtual. Throughout history, there have been fierce attempts to eradicate God's word, such as during the persecution of the early church, the start of the Protestant Reformation, and more recently during the two World Wars. In several countries today where persecution of Christians is still rampant, owning and distributing Bibles are often met with strong opposition and punishments.

Do we often take for granted God's Word in our lives? Perhaps you own more than one unread Bible yourself, or we do not stop to think when browsing our Bible apps where several versions are available at the touch of a finger. Scripture memory has become archaic and a lost art, especially amongst younger generations of believers. Isa 55:6 exhorts us, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” Let us grow to cherish and treasure God's word, and do all we can to learn and understand it so that we may come to know Christ and grow in our relationship with Christ.

Are we involved in the spreading and teaching of God's word to others, be it in our churches or amongst mission fields (both local and abroad) where God places or sends us? Paul explains “... how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? ... Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:14, 17). May the urgency of the gospel and the love of Christ compel us, as individuals and as a church, to share the good news of God's grace and to disciple believers towards spiritual maturity and likeness of Christ, to the praise of His glory.