A Famine in the Land

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

In the Bible one can read about many different famines. Consulting any good concordance will show this to be a fact. Today we hear predictions of a worldwide famine. Those who study the population increase tell us that there will be such a worldwide famine in the decade of the 1970's. Even today ten thousand people a day starve to death somewhere in the world. Yet our little nook of the world is a world of plenty and even affluence.

However, the famine about which I wish to speak is a spiritual famine. It is the kind of famine about which the prophet Amos spoke. "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord Jehovah, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of Jehovah. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the word of Jehovah, and shall not find it" (Amos 8:11, 12).

The people were ignoring what God had spoken, so God stated that he was not going to speak to them frequently. His words would be few. Even when the people sought to hear his word, still he would not speak. During the periods of Israel's unfaithfulness God frequently ceased to speak. There was not much point in his speaking when they ignored and disregarded what he said.

The childhood days of Samuel the prophet were such a time in Israel's history. God was not speaking often. 1 Samuel 3:1 reads, "And the word of Jehovah was precious in those days; there was no frequent vision." When a commodity is scarce, the law of supply and demand causes its value to increase. When God spoke seldom, the people cherished what he said. Amos predicted the time would come when the people would hunger to hear God's voice, and he would not speak. There would be a famine of hearing the word of the Lord.

The Bible tells us that God's word is the spiritual food that sustains us. Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Again Jesus said, "The words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life" (Jno. 6:63). Our spiritual life is sustained by hearing the words of Christ. The apostle Peter instructed young Christians to "desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2).

People are starving to death in a land of plenty. I do not now refer to a physical famine. Though God's word is everywhere available, there is still a famine of hearing the words of Jehovah. It would be difficult to understand a person who would sit before a well furnished table and starve to death. But this is precisely what people do spiritually. Even church members are guilty of doing this.

Today one can purchase a copy of the Bible for a pittance. Yet there is a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. Lest you think this is not true of church members, let me cite you some statistics compiled by one Church of Christ from its membership. This survey was taken in the adult class on Sunday morning. It revealed that 79 percent had never read the Bible through; 79 percent were not daily readers of God's word; 40 percent did not know that Peter preached the first gospel sermon; 27 percent did not know when the church was established; 68 percent thought Jesus was a Nazarite instead of a Nazarene; 79 percent did not know where the expression, "Valley of the Shadow of Death" was found; 74 percent did not know that Joshua succeeded Moses; 45 percent did not know who Cephas was; 37 percent did not know what books recorded the life of Christ; 34 percent did not know the plan of salvation.

It is therefore obvious that there has been a famine of hearing the word of the Lord even among church members. In the long ago there was a famine because God ceased to speak. But now God has' spoken; men have simply ceased to listen and to read.


February 12, 1970