The Dreadful Famine
When we think of famines, we think of a shortage of food/water in areas where there may be deserts and a severe lack of agricultural produce; places where rain is rare, and drought is common. There are many records of such famines in the scriptures, but none are more important than the dreadful famine spoken of in Amos. Famines were often a means of God’s judgment against the wicked and for good reasons you can imagine why. Going days and weeks without the primary objects that sustain our well-being is terrifying. But this particular famine in Amos 8, this dreadful famine, oh its much worse! The bible tells us in Amos 8:11-12:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the Lord. “People will stagger from sea to sea And from the north even to the east; They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, But they will not find it” (Amos 8:11-12).
The primary reason this famine occurred was because Israel, the people of God, rejected His love. God sent His prophets (their own people) to preach the word. Time and time again they vouched that they would listen. They shouted they would do His will but all it was just hot air (Jer. 42-43). When God spoke His word and it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, they refused to acknowledge any part of it. If it wasn’t peace, peace, peace they claimed it was all a lie and once again it fell on deaf ears. When they committed evil and sin, they wanted no part in a message that stood contrary to their actions. Even through periods of prolonged mercy and patience (4:6-13) the people wanted no part of God’s warnings. Israel is pictured as repeatedly rejecting God’s love but also oppressing their fellow man.
In their gluttonous desires to acquire still more for themselves, they did not hesitate to trample over their fellow man for the momentary high of a wealthy lifestyle without the slightest inkling of what they had done. Those who were doing right and practicing justice they considered their enemies because they wanted to thrive in their wickedness (cf. Dan. 6). If they could not have anyone around to hold them accountable, it made their consciences rest easier. Was it any wonder why God had decided to remove His word from them? They wanted no part of it and they certainly weren’t living by it and God was going to teach them a lesson the hardest way possible. He withdrew His word from them so they would realize who they really depended on.
When the people were carted off into Assyrian captivity, when they would truly begin to understand the depth of their actions, it would be far too late. For most of the book of Amos, the Israelites have clearly exhibited a lack of dependency on God. They trust in themselves, their idols and their sanctuaries. They reveled in their prosperity and wealth while forgetting where it had all come from. More importantly, they were not in the least bit concerned about the state of their spiritual well-being. That God would send a famine of the word of the Lord on them, demonstrates the extent to which He wanted them to see how much He was with them and how far He was always willing to help them.
Every single one of us depends upon God for our livelihood. Our physical and spiritual existence depends upon Him and no one else. When we fail to recognize this aspect and we start to believe that we can live independent of Him, we will learn the hard way just like the people of Israel did. Notice that Amos 8:11-12 describes the famine as one pertaining to the word of the Lord. A famine implies food. Thus, the use of the word famine suggests that God’s word is in fact food: food for the soul.
While in captivity God would be silent. In their distress when they would turn to God, they would not find Him (cf. 1 Sam. 28:6-20; Prov. 1:20-33). There would be no prophets, no dreams, no visions. The people’s sole guide would be lost, and consequently they are pictured helpless and blind in need of a path (Amos 8:12). When people refuse God, He will reject them and give them over to their vain desires (2 Thess. 2:8-12).
There will come a time when they will regret what they have done. Maybe not on this side but on the other. God’s word is the food we all need to sustain our souls and our spirits. It gives us hope and safety. There is protection and immense guidance in every page. We would all do well to learn from this story in Amos. We never want to find ourselves on the end of a famine of the word of the Lord. May we not take God’s love for granted. May we accept His message and not be merely hearers but also doers.