Fast or Famine?
“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread or water
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from border to border[a]
searching for the word of the Lord,
but they will not find it.
13 Beautiful girls and strong young men
will grow faint in that day,
thirsting for the Lord’s word.
For years, I've read this passage and thought about a time when it would be virtually impossible to hear the Word of God preached or taught. I thought of a horrible dystopian future where the people of God would search and search, but be unable to find a church--or even a media outlet--where they could hear the truths of the Bible shared and explained.
Certainly Amos foretells this. Some may suggest that it was fulfilled during the intertestamental period or at some other point of history. Still, many scholars believe this passage has a future application--a time yet ahead of us, when we will all be left, "thirsting for the Lord's word."
But why? Why will there be a famine of this sort?
The obvious answer is that God will cause it in response to our sinful behavior. We might guess that He will cause the authorities in our progressive liberal political world to ban the teaching of scripture. They might even make it illegal to print or distribute Bibles. Christian publishing, radio, and/or television might become a thing of the past due to restrictive policies against what's already labeled, "hate speech."
But which will come first, a famine of the word...or a fast FROM the word?
I can't claim any special revelation for this, but I find it interesting that while access to scripture is at an unparalleled, all-time high; interest in the Bible is NOT. As a pastor for over 30 years, I've watched people turn away from the preaching of scripture in favor of virtually ANYTHING else. Even on social media. Try posting a verse from the Bible and see how many "Likes" or similar responses you get. Then post a stupid cat video or a selfie with someone in a star wars costume and compare. The later options will blow-up your account with comments and positive affirmations. The scripture--virtually any scripture--will not.
And, to be clear, it's the church I'm worried about. It is the lack of interest from Christians that concerns me. All of us, from the time we're saved, need the Word. Isn't it interesting that at a time when baby formula is in short supply, many believers are not seeking the "milk of the word." As Peter put it in I Peter 2:2, "...as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby (NKJV)."
As a pastor, I'm saddened by the fact that many, if not most, long-time Christians seem to have lost the desire Peter speaks of. Often, I'm told by those that should know better that, "I just don't read...that's not my thing." I've watched believers flock to small groups about hiking, biking, knitting, or anything but a simple Bible Study. The trend in public ministry and Christian media is similar. Leaders may read a verse or two here or there, but anyone offering an old-fashioned expository message from the Bible....well...they're just out of touch and thus, often avoided.
My friends, this scares me. You see, I believe in the future "famine of the word." But rather than it being just a matter of God's end-time wrath or His response to a sinful world, I think the famine is already starting. And, it's a response to God's people and their voluntary FAST from scripture. That fast results in leaders/pastors avoiding "too much" scripture in their sermons or studies. That fast, discourages publishers and book stores from printing and selling the Bible. That fast, means other things become the focus of media, etc., etc., etc.
It's simple. It's to do what Peter recommended 2,000 years ago. We need to ask for and develop a desire for the pure milk of the Word. I believe if we pursue that before God, things will change. And not just in terms of the availability of the Word, but also in positive changes in every aspect of our lives. We need to feast on the word--not fast FROM the word. God will bless that, and the famine will be thwarted.
To that end,