Monday, April 26, 2010

A famine of hearing the Word

This is Tuesday's "In Other Words" post. If you are interested in participating, you can write about the verses above and link to other posts about it at this week's host blog.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to do a study of famine in the Bible. A few facts about Biblical famine:

1) Famine appears 84 times in the Old Testament, most frequently found in Genesis, then Jeremiah

2) Famine appears 10 times in the New Testament, referring to past famines in the Old Testament or famines that will occur in the end times, one prediction of a famine during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius, and the following verse -

3) Believers in Christ have this promise in Romans 8:35 concerning famine: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors"

4) Famine is one of four ways that the Lord punishes the breakers of His covenant in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 26:12-25). The other punishments are disease/plagues, defeat by enemies, and wild animals (such as locusts). These are all repeated in Revelation as means of punishment, along with a fifth - natural disasters. The Lord causes these disasters so that people will repent and seek Him.

5) The verses in Amos are the only time this particular type of famine is ever mentioned; also it is the last mention of famine in the Old Testament.

Here's my conclusion based on my study. We know that there was a gap of about 400 years between the last prophet of the Old Testament and the first of the New Testament, John the Baptist. This gap very likely describes the famine of the hearing of the Word of the Lord predicted by Amos. For 400 years, the Israelites went without hearing anything from the Lord. Of course they still had the written prophecies; but the prophecies about the Messiah were still unfulfilled. This famine, God's silence, was a punishment for their continued disobedience as evidenced over and over again in the books of the major prophets and the minor prophets.

After such a long famine, when a prophet finally did appear proclaiming the word of the Lord, the coming of the Messiah, they should have been very eager to hear!

Some of the Jews were ready to hear and repent, but most of them weren't. Most of them rejected Jesus when he didn't fit their idea of what a Messiah should be. It wasn't until after his death, until the Lord sent the Holy Spirit, that they began to understand (in large numbers) that Jesus really was the Messiah and that his death provided for our salvation.

Jesus is the bread of life. Matt 4:4 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Jesus is the Word. John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

It is certainly possible to experience a famine of hearing the Word, even today - by purposefully rejecting the message of the Gospel, rejecting Christ, by worshiping the creation instead of the Creator (Romans 1:25). Though a warning of famine such as the one in Amos is not repeated in the New Testament, there are some similar warnings: Luke 17:22 "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it." And again: John 7:34 "You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come."

Personally I've experienced a few famines of my own - when I get too busy for church, or to open my Bible on a regular basis. Eventually I get to the point where I am lonely, discouraged, feeling overwhelmed - and then I remember that I've been starving myself of the Bread of Life. I am so thankful that when I remember to seek the Word again, God does not make me stagger from sea to sea searching, and yet never finding. For believers, we have that marvelous promise in Romans 8:35-37. I am so thankful.


  1. I love your reminder that Jesus is the Word become Flesh! After that long silence from heaven, God's Word was heard again - in Jesus!

    Thanks for your study on famine and for bringing this Scripture to light even more so! I'm so glad you participated in today's IOW!

  2. I, too, am thankful that when I realize I am living in famine conditions I am able to immediately return to God and hear him!

    Great study on the occurence of famine in Scripture. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Wow! Thanks so much for the history! How interesting!

  4. I really enjoyed and learned from your post today. Thank you for participating in IOWT.

    How easy it is to get so caught up in daily distractions and over time find that we are in a famine from God's Word. However, I know that He draws me back whenever I tend to get to that point. I love my early morning quiet times and for me it's an appointment I don't want to break.

    Wonderful post today!


  5. I'm so happy you visited my blog so I could find yours. This was a great study on famine. Sometimes we have to go through periods of famine in order to more appreciate the Bread of Life.

  6. I, too, appreciate your history lesson and hope you are right that we won't have to experience this particular famine. If history repeats itself (and our American society is following suit), could it happen again?

    Much to think about. Thanks.

  7. Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog - and for sharing with me a bit of your earlier experiences. I have often said that my lack of experience has mostly been because I am such a sissy ;o) not because I am so virtuous! One of my daughters chose a difficult path, and has now returned to the Lord, so I asked her one day this question of what motivates a person to make choices that will lead to such self-destruction. She said that, at the time, you just aren't thinking about that. I am so grateful to God that He is gracious and forgiving, because we have all sinned and disappointed Him throughout our lives.
    I see that you are a writer - I have recently taken over the editorial responsibilities for Ruby for Women, an online Christian women's magazine, and we are looking for guest authors and guest bloggers. If you are interested, please email me at Hope to chat soon! Nina

  8. As much as famines are mentioned we still ignore it, "oh that won't happen to us." What a great thing that the word became flesh in Jesus so no matter we have Him with us. Thanks