Amos – Chapter 8 – Famine!
When you study, or even just read the Bible devotionally you must consider the original biblical audience or you run the very real risk of misunderstanding, and therefore misapplying God’s word! You cannot “rightly divide” the word of God if you read it and immediately try to apply it in the modern day world. You must consider the original Biblical audience. In order to keep the text in context, one must ask questions like, “To whom was this passage we are studying written? What did it mean to them? Do principles exist in the passage which are timeless in nature and which can be applied to both them and us without altering the author’s intended meaning?”
The people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had departed their covenant relationship with God in favor of pagan worship and riotous living. They were constantly and consistently abusing the weak and poor among them. They ignored the commandments, precepts, and principles Yahweh had clearly laid out for them. As we saw at the beginning of chapter eight God had had enough. Part of their judgment is that God was about to send a major and very long lasting famine on the land.
11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD,
“That 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.
12 They shall wander from sea to sea,
And from north to east;
They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD,
But shall not find it.
13 “In that day the fair virgins
And strong young men
Shall faint from thirst.
14 Those who swear by the sin of Samaria,
‘As your god lives, O Dan!’
And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives!’
They shall fall and never rise again.”
History demonstrates that there was indeed a famine of hearing the Word of God. The prophets grew silent and the scriptures during the captivity were all but forgotten. The word of the Lord was once again heard sometime around 515 BC when Ezra read it to the people after the temple was rebuilt and reestablished.
Once again there was a “famine” of God speaking in the four hundred year period between the Old and New Testaments. John the Baptist, last of the Old Covenant prophets, broke God’s silence.
Hebrews 1:1-2 tells us that God spoke through Jesus,
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,
2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
No period in history has experience silence from heaven like the roughly two thousand year church age – the very age we are living in! Since the New Testament was written down we have not heard God’s voice. Not only has God not spoken to the Jew, but He has also been silent to the Gentile (including the church).
I strongly believe the silence prophecied in Amos is talking about the church age.
Israel today only has about twenty thousand Christians, which is less than one percent of their population. The majority of Jews in Israel are not religious at all. There is truly a famine for the word of God. We have not yet seen them running all over the globe looking for God’s voice. Israel has had a habit of calling out to God in their darkest hour. No hour will be darker in their history than the seven-year tribulation, which is when I believe the fulfillment of Amos’ prophecy will occur.
The text is clear, this prophecy is for Israel and Israel alone. It’s talking about the strained relationship between God and Israel. But I see an amazing parallel between their famine and the one we are experiencing today. I lost count somewhere around one hundred ten modern English translations of the Bible. A quick google search tells us the following:
The original languages of the Bible are Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek, from these original languages, the Bible has been translated into 636 languages. The New Testament has been translated into 1442 languages and portions of the Bible have been translated into 3,223 different languages. (https://www.quora.com/How-many-versions-of-the-Bible-are-there)
I have no idea how to calculate how many electronic versions of the Bible exist. There are arguably more preachers today than in any other epoch in history. Thanks to the internet, the pulpit messages are more accessible by more people than ever before.
As prolific as the written word of God is, there is still a major famine of hearing the word of God! God is not Himself speaking, He expects the preachers to be doing it. But sadly the famine persists in our pulpits today. There is no shortage of self-help, feel good, community-based messages, but rarely an exposition of the word of God.
Consider Paul’s instruction to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5,
4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:
2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
How should we respond to the famine? Pray, pray, pray! Then as Paul declared, “Preach the word”!
I should point out (by pointing us back to the text) that though God seems to not be speaking, the famine is not of His speech, but rather of their hearing. God does speak today through His written word, and through the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. The question is are we tuned in to the same frequency God is broadcasting on?
All Scripture Quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.