We see the pictures from time to time – heart-rending pictures of thousands of people suffering under the tragedy of famine. In such desperate times, the world often mobilizes to bring food to these troubled regions, and often disaster is prevented from becoming catastrophe.
The Bible reminds us that there is another kind of famine: “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” (Amos 8:11). Notice carefully the nature of this famine. It is not a lack of God’s Word, but a famine…of hearing the words of the Lord. It isn’t that God’s Word isn’t available, but that it is not listened to. It is not a case of God withholding His revelation; but of people being in such a state that they do not see it, they do not hear the words.
It is true that there may be times where there is a famine of God’s Word, either through the neglect or the unfaithfulness of those who have the responsibility to present God’s Word. But that isn’t what Amos meant. This is a problem with the hearer, not with the preacher. The preacher may have his own problems to deal with and to answer for before God; but the hearer may have his own problems also.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 describes the right way to hear the Word of God: “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” They received the word, they welcomed the word, they regarded it as the word of God, and they allowed it to work effectively in their life. That is effective hearing.
Amos continued his warning: “They shall wander…seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it” (Amos 8:1). When we push away God’s Word for a long time, we may find ourselves in the place were we shall not find it even if we wanted to. This makes us remember that the ability to hear God’s Word and to benefit by it is a gift from God, and it is a gift that should not to be despised.
Jesus alluded to this principle in a parable: “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:24-25) When we seek God, it generally becomes easier to find Him. When we push away God, it generally becomes more difficult to hear and to receive His Word.
Is there famine in your life right now? Perhaps you find it easy to blame the pastor or the preacher, and you think that if they only preached better sermons, you would enjoy a great spiritual feast. But have you looked at your own life, your own attitude? Perhaps the famine in your life is a famine of hearing, and the problem is with you. You owe it to yourself to seek God on the matter. It would be terrible to stay in a problem and to blame others when the problem is really with you. The bread is out there – get your hearing right and enjoy the feast.