A Famine of Hearing the Word

I do not know how many books have been written on the subject of when God is silent.  What I do know is that it is a theme that surfaces in the bible.  There are a multitude of factors at play with respect to the silence of God.  Before I stray off into this black hole of oblivion, I will not explore any passages in Job that deal with the Lord’s silence.  The same is true of many passages from the Book of Psalms.  My main focus will be the issue as it comes up in the following passage from one of the minor prophets:

11 “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when 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, to seek the word of the Lordbut they shall not find it'” (Amos 8:11-12, ESV).  

Those words are among the strongest and most terrifying that I have ever come across in the bible.  I wonder how Christendom as a whole today would respond to the Lord giving a word along these very same lines.  There is a finality to the words in the above passage, which command the attention of all those who claim to be numbered among God’s elect.  According to the immediate context of this passage, it is a picture of certain judgment levied against Israel or the Northern Kingdom due to its rebellion against God and his word. The man that the Lord chose to send this dire message was Amos, who farmed sheep and sycamore figs for a living (Amos 7:14-15, ESV).

Many in Amos’ day hated him and his message because of its unfavorable view of Israel and its people.  He lived during the time when God’s people stood divided into two separate kingdoms: Israel to the north and Judah to the south.  In the seventh chapter of Amos, we learn that Amaziah, the high priest, is in league with Jeroboam, who reigns as king over Israel or the Northern Kingdom (Amos 7:10-11, ESV).  When Amos comes on the scene, it is striking how this unfazes Amaziah (Amos 7:12-13, ESV).  The latter should have realized that God had raised up Amos in order to announce something big, something terrible, and something final.  Because Amaziah served as the high priest, he was in perfect position to be used by God.  Instead, Amos is the one to deliver God’s message.  This should have set off alarm bells for Amaziah.

What does the seventh chapter of Amos have to do with the passage that I quoted from chapter eight?  God’s choice of Amos to deliver his word of judgment to Israel and its people already indicates that the Lord has begun to remove his word from them.  God passes over Amaziah, the high priest, and raises up someone in his place who herded sheep and gathered sycamore figs.  The judgment has begun in part.  In fact, the Lord says as much to Amos at the beginning of chapter eight, in the second part of the second verse: “…The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass by them.”  Once again, these are strong words from the Lord; however, the people of Israel have trampled upon the poor and needy, the Sabbath or the worship of God, and the surrounding land and animals because of their rebellion (Amos 8:4-8, ESV).

When God’s people claim to be his while profaning his name in public, this behavior reveals a rebellious spirit toward God and his word. At this point, it should not surprise or shock anyone when the Lord proclaims a famine with respect to his hearing his words.  The hard truth here is that after this judgment has been proclaimed by God he even says that a time will come when Israel will seek for his word (Amos 8:12, ESV).  God is indeed gracious, and patient, and merciful; however, there comes a point in time when the Lord draws the line.  He says that is enough.  We live in a space of time where God has extended his grace and mercy toward all those who would believe in his Son.  Do we know how much longer it will last?  When Christ returns, judgment has come…the time to choose will have past.

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