“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.”
We have heard about famines. We have seen the pictures of emaciated adults and small children whose bones seem to show through their skin. We feel sorry for such people.
The Bible mentions many famines. We are told: “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe” (Genesis 12:10).
It was a famine that sent Joseph’s family down to him in Egypt. A famine brought a young man to Moab, where he met a woman called Ruth. David experienced a famine. So did Elijah.
The body suffers when there is a famine of food.
The soul suffers when there is a famine of the Word of God.
The Lord God controls the flow of food for the body—and for the soul.
We know that. But we wonder why the Lord would cause any type of famine. We are more apt to blame the weather for a shortage of food. We might blame human carelessness for a shortage of hearing the Word of God.
We don’t want to blame God—and we should not!
The blame always falls upon us.
But we can ask why God might be withholding something that he knows we need. In the end, there are only two possible answers. His action is either a judgment or a blessing.
It’s difficult to grasp how the withholding of food could be a blessing. But then, we consider the famine that sent Jacob to Egypt and the one that brought Ruth into the line of the Messiah.
The Almighty One can deliver blessings through hardships.
But the famine that he announces through his prophet, Amos, is not a blessing. Amos wrote: “Then the LORD said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”
Then came the words of judgment: “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!” (Amos 8:2,3)
But for the people of God, there is life in death. He who is the Resurrection and the Life assures us of that.
But how does a person become a member of God’s family? By what means does the Lord adopt sinful humans into his holy kingdom? How can a soul be fed with the Bread of Life?
The answer is: the words of God. The words of God are life-giving. The Holy Spirit uses these words to create faith, and strengthen faith, and guide faith.
The psalmist says it well: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105).
When the words of God are not available, we stumble in darkness. Without the words of God there is no life.
Americans do not have a famine of the words of life—at least, not now. But times are changing. We are seeing increased efforts to remove God and his words from our midst. We wonder if the next generation, and the one after that, will be able to feast on God’s Word as easily as we do.
“The days are coming…” the prophet was warned. They came upon Israel of old.
Might a famine of the Word occur in our lifetime?
We pray it will not. We pray it will not.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, giver of life who proceeds from the Father and the Son, you who has spoken through the prophets, deal with America in your mercy. Do not withdraw the saving Word from our lives. Bless us as you have blessed us. Feed our souls with the Bread of Life. Keep us from famine. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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