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A FAMINE IN THE LAND
Intro: The prophet Amos prophesied during the final days of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It was a time of great military power. It was a time of great economic prosperity. It was a time of peace, joy and happiness for most of the people.
Amos comes to them with a message of condemnation. His message to them is one of judgment and condemnation. His message exposes the true spiritual condition of the nation. They are wealthy and they are powerful, but they are spiritually destitute. They are enjoying peace, safety and prosperity, but they are in the midst of a spiritual drought and do not even recognize it.
Amos preaches to them a message hat lifts the lid off their hypocrisy. This message lets the people of Israel know that a time of terrible judgment is coming upon their land. He wants them to know that a destructive famine is about to fall on their land.
When I read the book of Amos, I can see a lot of parallels between the conditions in Israel then and the condition of our world today. It is true that we are not as prosperous as we once were, but we are still richer than 99% of the rest of the world’s population. We are not a strong militarily as we used to be in this nation, but we are still the world’s lone superpower. Yet, in the midst of our peace, our prosperity and our endless pursuit of personal happiness, we are in the midst of a spiritual drought and we do not even recognize it.
I want to take this passage and preach for a while about A Famine In The Land. Let’s notice the lessons that Amos teaches us in these verses, because they have something very important to say to us! Whether we know it or not, we are in trouble and this passage has some much needed warnings for us today.
I. v. 11 A CATASTROPHE DECLARED
God says that there will be “a famine in the land.” A physical famine is time when there is no food for the people. Famines throughout history have taken the lives of untold millions of people.
· In China, between 108 B.C. and 1911 there were 1,828 recorded famines.
· In 1846 the great Potato Famine in Ireland claimed between 1 and 2 to million people.
· In 1932 in the USSR between 6 and 10 million people starved to death as famine swept that nation.
· In 1943 the Bengal Famine in India claimed the lives of over 4 million.
· In 1959 a famine in China killed over 43 million people.
It was a famine that caused Abraham to leave Canaan and go into Egypt in search of food. It was famine that caused Isaac to do the same. It was a famine in Egypt that brought Israel into Egypt during the days of Jacob and Joseph. According to the book of Revelation, the last days will also be marked by times of famine and starvation, Rev. 18:8.
When a famine comes, bodies dry up. Body fat is depleted. Limbs shrivel and people become walking skeletons. Stomachs swell. Faces take on that familiar hollow expression. Disease runs rampant as immune systems are compromised and sanitation systems are overwhelmed. When there is no food, there is no life. When the food fails, life is not far behind. Famines are terrible times of death, deprivation and destruction.
God says, “Behold.” “Pay attention!” “Listen up!” “Hear what is being said!” He wants these people to know that a famine is coming. There will be no reprieve. There will be no second chances. A famine is coming and it cannot be avoided.
Famines are terrible, but we can’t really identify with that. We have never been in a famine. Most of us have food enough and to spare. We are totally strangers to physical famine. Thank God for that. But, the Lord has more to say about this famine.
I. A Catastrophe Declared
II. v. 11 THE CHARACTER DECLARED
God tells us that this famine will not be a famine in which there is a lack of food or water. This famine will be a famine “of the hearing of the Words of the Lord.” The people will have food. they will have water. They will not, however, enjoy the great blessing of hearing the Lord speaking to them any longer.
Amos is not talking about a physical famine where there is a lack of material things. He is talking about a spiritual famine in which the Word of God cannot be found.
As I read this verse, I see that it can be understood two ways.
· First, God could be saying to Israel, “I will no longer be speaking to you.”
· Second, God could be saying, “You will not longer be able to hear me when I do speak to you.”
Either way, what we have here is a catastrophic situation. These people are going to be unable to hear from God. Israel might not have thought this was too much of a curse when they heard it. After all, they cared little for the ways of the Lord anyway. Verses 5-6 tell us about the true spiritual condition of the people. They were involved in the feast days and in the sacrifices, but they were bored with the things of God and they could not wait until they were free to pursue their true love: money. They could not wait until the feast days ended so they could open their stores and sell. They could not wait until the Sabbaths were over so they could exploit the poor and make themselves rich. They endured with impatience the demands of God wanting only to be free from the yoke of His bondage so they could do ads they pleased.
God’s response is to give them what they want. They are sick of the Law, so He withholds it from them. They are fed up with His Word, so he feeds them silence. They no longer desire to hear His truth, so He obliges them by taking it away from them.
This is a terrifying thought! The great English preacher George Whitefield said this, “As God can send a nation or people no greater blessing than to give them faithful, sincere, and upright ministers, so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm, and unskilful guides.”
And so it is when a people refuse to heed the Word of God, He will take it away from them. Jesus said it this way, “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath,” Matt.13:12.
Jesus also said this about the Word of God when Satan on the Mount of Temptation challenged him. “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God,” Matt. 4:4. If any people are going to survive and thrive, they must be able to get a word from the Lord. When a people refuse to hear the Word of God, God will give them His silence in Judgment. That is a judgment greater than any other.
Of course, there are times when people have the truth, but refuse to hear it. Paul wanted Timothy that such days were coming to the church, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
We are living in those days right now! The Word of God is being preached, but people would rather listen to fables. Some men of God are entering the pulpits of the land and they are preaching the Word of God in power and glory, but people are turning a deaf ear to the truth they are preaching. When that happens, God will allow them to go their own way. He will allow them to reject His Word He will allow them to starve to death spiritually. If they reject His truth, there will be no more Words from God, and they will shrivel up and die spiritually.
When there is a famine in the land, pulpits dry up. Churches close their doors. Congregations wither up and perish on the vine. Hope, blessing and joy vanish away. Preaching becomes empty and devoid of life. Choirs sing without joy in their voices. The Bible becomes a dead book. When there is a famine in the land, the people are left without direction, hope, peace or joy. It is a time of absolute desperation!
I. A Catastrophe Declared
II. The Character Declared
III. v. 11, 14 THE CAUSE DECLARED
It is worth noting that this famine does not have a natural cause. In fact, God takes full responsibility for this famine, v. 11. God says, “I will send a famine in the land.” The direct cause of the famine is the wrath of God. God is fed up with they disobedience. He is sickened by their failure to heed the voice of His prophets. Thus, God will send them silence. He will send them judgment. He will stop speaking to them, and even when He does speak, they will not be able to hear it!
We seem to have the idea that people are just walking around in the world and they are just waiting on God to speak to them. When He does, they will respond to His voice and run to Him. Nothing could be further from the truth! The fact is, a man cannot hear God until He is given ears to hear.
Notice the words of Jesus when He was teaching His disciples the reason He spoke in parables, Ill. Matt. 13:10-17. The ability to hear from God is a gift from God. We hear when He opens our ears, and not before. In 1 Cor. 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
So, God is the instigator of the famine that is coming. He sends it upon the people because of their sins, v. 14; vv. 4-6. They were wicked at heart. They were dishonest in business. They were guilty of exploiting the poor. they were guilty of idolatry, and God judges them for all these things and more.
This passage stands as a warning to our generation. We are blessed in our day to have an abundance of good, biblical preaching. There are preachers all around our area who are preaching the truth to the people of God. When that truth is heard and heeded, God will bless His people in great spiritual ways. When that truth is rejected, god will abandon them to their choice.
That is why believers are spiritually weak and anemic. That is why there is no power in the average church. That is why many modern churched more closely resemble mortuaries that churches. They worship is cold, stiff and dead. In other places, there is fire, but it is nothing more than the energy of the flesh. It is not enthusiasm based on the Word of God. It is excitement produced by music or a message that caters to the flesh.
When people refuse to hear the Word of God, that Word will be removed from them. Either God will stop speaking to that people, or He will take away their ability to hear His speak. He will either give them silence, or He will be speaking to those around them while they sit in the midst of a divine famine, hearing nothing from the Lord.
I. A Catastrophe Declared
II. The Character Declared
III. The Cause Declared
IV. v. 12-13 THE CONSEQUENCES DECLARED
When this famine comes it will produce restlessness and weariness. The people will run from place to place looking for a substitute for the Word of God they are no longer hearing. They refused the hear the Lord when He spoke to them, and now His silence has left them spiritually famished. So, they run from here to there looking for some substitute to fill the void in their heart.
They are not looking for the truth; they are looking for a placebo. They are looking for spiritual saccharine to replace the sweet voice of the Lord they are no longer receiving. They become spiritually restless as they go from place to place, from activity to activity, from thins thing to that thing, always looking for something new. When all they really need is to stop and pay attention to the Word of God that has already been given to them.
This restless activity produces a weariness, v. 13, that causes the strongest in the population to become discouraged and quit. They get so fed up searching for substitutes that never satisfy that they simply stop looking. They faint and they give up spiritually.
I would submit to you that this is an accurate picture o our modern world. Many in our world have turned a deaf ear to the Word of God. Because of that, God has stopped speaking too them. They go to church, but they cannot hear His voice. They become disillusioned with the deadness of fundamental religion, and they drop out. They saw their parents profess one thing and live another, and they got fed up with the hypocrisy. They got tired of the staleness of way the things have always been and they closed their ears and their hearts to the voice of God. But, there is an itch inside them that they cannot scratch. They are not satisfied.
So, they run to the church where there are no standards of separation or dress. They run to the church where the preacher only preaches sermons that are culturally relevant. They run to the church where the preacher preaches sermons that do not challenge them to a deeper spiritual walk with God. They run to the church where they no longer have to listen to the old hymns and the old songs, but they can get caught up in the beat of some contemporary song. They go to the place where they can come as they are and leave just like they came. They look for the place where everything is about them, their needs and their feelings. They run themselves to death running away from the very thing that will give them exactly what they are looking for: the Word of God.
You see, we are living in a time when old-fashioned churches are dying. Churches that exalt the expositional preaching of the Word of God are seen as dinosaurs in our world. We are out of step with the times. We are out of touch with the needs of people. People want to be entertained. They do not want to be preached to. People want to feel good; they do not want to be challenged about their spiritual life. Most people do not want to be bothered by all that, “Bible stuff.”
And, God obliges them! He sends them exactly what they want. He sends them a famine of hearing His Word. He closes His mouth and He stops their ears and they receive nothing from Him at all. That is a horrible place to be. But, that is where we are! It is a catastrophe, but it is true, there is a famine in the land!
Conc: We are living in desperate times spiritually. I heard just this week that the head chaplain for the North Carolina Department of Corrections, who is a woman by the way, has ordered all the chaplains preaching and ministering in the correctional system to stop praying in “Jesus’ name” and to stop using the name of Jesus when they preach. There is a famine in the land!
A North Carolina Pastor, who was an honorary chaplain for the state house of representatives was fired when he refused to remove the words “in Jesus’ name” from the invocation he had been invited to give. There is a famine in the land!
An appeals court recently upheld a ruling that said it was unconstitutional for a preacher to pray at a county council meeting and close his prayer with the words “in Jesus’ name.” This happened in Iredale County when two women were offended that the preacher prayed in such an exclusive way. There is a famine in the land!
The average church member does not know the books of the Bible, the Ten Commandments, or how to share the Gospel with an unbeliever. Yet, they know how to argue against everything that is said from the pulpit or from the Sunday School lectern. There is a famine in the land!
We need to pray that God will help us to “have ears to hear” Him as He speaks to us through His Word, His preachers, and His Spirit. There is a famine in the land, but we don’t all have to starve to death. There is plenty available for those willing to reach out and take it.