Monthly Newsletter Article

“Feast or Famine” A lesson from Amos

Can we talk seriously about food?  Many of us have felt the pangs of hunger in our bellies and exclaimed, “I’m starving!”  We then rummaged through a fridge filled to bursting with fresh food and concluded, “Well, there’s nothing to eat here.”  Have you noticed that while we say we’re “starving” and “there’s nothing to eat” we seem to be able to find our fill eventually?

What if there really was no food?  What if there really was nothing in the fridge and the cupboards were bare?  What if we went to the store and the shelves were as empty as our stomachs?  What if the coolers were as blank as the looks on our children’s faces when we told them to ignore the nagging pains in their sides.  This is what it means to experience famine.  There is a hunger for sustenance; however, there is no sustenance to be found.

2Kings 6:25 – 30 vividly captures the extreme desperation the besieged Samarians experienced in their famine.  It’s difficult for us to comprehend the horrors of a time where there is literally nothing to eat and people are literally starving.

Yet, even in the extreme circumstances found in 2Kings 6 there is a worse kind of famine.  God admonished His people about it in the days of the prophet Amos, saying:

"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 warning is that there would come a time when God’s people would begin to long for the sustenance of His word but would not be able to find it.  Instead they will “stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east” without direction or aim in a spiritual famine. 

Jesus shows us that this type of famine can be more sever than the absence of food.  After fasting for forty days in the wilderness, He became hungry.  When tempted by the devil to make bread from a stone Jesus replied, "It is written, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE” (Luke 4:4).  What could be keener than a man’s need for bread after forty days of fasting?  The answer lies in the completed quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 which says, “…man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

Do we grasp the significance of a man teaching that our need for the word of God is greater than our need for food, even after not having eaten in forty days?  The word of God is the only source of life for man’s spiritual need.  In Jesus, we come to understand that a man can live forty days without food.  How long can we survive without the life giving word of God?    

We can glean a lesson from Israelís mistake.  Their spiritual famine did not come crashing in on them all at once.  They did not wake up one day to find the well of Godís word had run dry.  Rather, their poor appetite for His spiritual sustenance allowed the word to subtly and silently slip out of their hearts, then out of their homes, and eventually out of their lands.  God explains in Amos 2:11, 12:

"Then I raised up some of your sons to be prophets and some of your young men to be Nazirites. Is this not so, O sons of Israel?" declares the LORD.  But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and you commanded the prophets saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’” 

Then in chapter 7:12, 13 the prophet Amos is sent away by Amaziah, the priest of Bethel who proclaimed, "Go, you seer, flee away to the land of Judah and there eat bread and there do your prophesying!  But no longer prophesy at Bethel, for it is a sanctuary of the king and a royal residence." And again in verse 16 Amos is told, “You shall not prophecy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.”

This is a common reaction to God’s word.  The Apostle Paul warned Timothy about a time when people “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2Tim. 4:3, 4).  Some don’t have an appetite for sound doctrine so they refuse to partake of God’s life giving word.  Struggling to digest His eternal truths, they dine on words that appeal to their personal appetite.  While feasting on man’s thoughts and ideas, they fast from God’s sovereign will; a recipe for spiritual famine.

In order to avoid a similar consequence, we must keep our appetite for God’s life giving word in check.  Unlike the Israelites in Amos’ day, we must feast on His word rather than fast from it.  Three passages come to mind to help us:

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” 1Peter 2:1 – 3  

The Israelites in Amos’ day ate their fill of idolatry and materialism.  This made them feel too full inside for the truth of God’s word.  In order to feast on the word we must first learn to put aside some things.  Peter explains that things such as malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander can curve our spiritual appetite for God’s word.  As disciples, we can’t be filling our lives up with these kind of things and then expect to feast on the word as well.  We must long for the pure milk of the word and accept no substitutes.

Concerning [Melchizedek] we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” Hebrews 5:11 – 14

Amos’ message fell upon the ears of Israelites who had long forgotten the elementary principles of justice and righteousness.  Their poor appetite for the word caused them to become dull of hearing the Law and the prophets sent to them.  As disciples, our appetite for God’s spiritual sustenance must increase as we grow in our faith.  Though we long for the pure milk of the word like babes, we should not remain infantile in our faith.

What characterizes an infantile faith?  If we become dull of hearing and need to be taught the elementary principles “again” and if we’re not able to handle the word of righteousness because we are not accustomed to it then we run the risk of the same spiritual famine the Israelites were about to face.  We must be dedicated to growing spiritually.  As our faith develops, our appetite for God’s sustenance must also be cultivated into a well balanced diet of the word.  There comes a time when we must partake of the “meat” of the word.

As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:30 – 32

While necessary, belief in God apparently is not enough.  The Israelites of Amos’ day believed and worshipped the One True God.  They were not confused about who God was nor uninformed of His will.  With a poor appetite for God’s word they worshipped God with hearts divided by idolatry and materialism.

Jesus says we must continue or abide in His word to be truly His disciples.  To abide in something means to live in it or hold to it.  If you abide in the word of Christ, then you live in it and hold to its sustaining powers.  We must learn to live in Jesus’ teachings and be sustained by His sovereign will.  What are the things that sustain you?  What are you living for?

Through His prophet Amos, God admonished the Israelites about a coming famine.  It would not be a famine of food or of water but of the word of God.  There would not be a shortage of the will of God.  Rather, their continued fasting from God’s word would lead them into a spiritual famine.

What is your appetite for the word like?  Is it keen and demanding like an infant’s desire for mother’s pure milk?  Does your appetite include a longing to be filled with the solid food for the mature?  Are you being sustained spiritually as you abide by the word of Christ?  Or are you on the brink of a spiritual famine?

 


Archive of articles
 

“Feast or Famine”
A lesson from Amos

Finding Endurance - part 1

Finding Endurance - part 2

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