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What the Bible says about Famine of Hearing the Word
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Amos 8:11-12

God says that He will soon send a peculiar famine—not a typical famine of food or water, but a far more destructive one. It strikes at the heart of His people, causing the very fabric of society to unravel.

Notice first that it does not say that it will be a famine of the word of the Lord, but a famine of hearing. God's words will still be available, but it will be rare that those words will be heard. The truth will still be obtainable; His inspired messages will still be accessible. However, as a curse on the land, God will cause truth not to be heard.

This "hearing" is far more than just being aware of words or concepts. It is a hearing that includes focused, careful attention that, taken to its logical conclusion, ends in obedience. The kind of hearing that will be in such short supply is one that causes right action—in fact, the Hebrew word is often translated as "obey." This famine causes God's words not to be heard, and the result is that sin and disobedience flourish—which are a reproach to any nation (Proverbs 14:34). It is a tremendous curse, because without having God's words as guidance—without the light of truth—the nation will be like a blind man, stumbling around and not comprehending why he keeps falling (cf. Deuteronomy 28:29; Isaiah 29:9-10).

This is an unusual curse. It is not like a physical famine, which everyone recognizes as a tragedy. Most of those who are struck by this famine will probably not recognize that it is a true calamity. A famine of hearing the truth will seem like a relief to many, because no voice is calling them into account or prompting them to think about eternity.

However, even though this famine may give the impression that a burden has been lifted, the reality is that without divine instruction, the nation can only stagger toward eventual destruction. Truth is a blessing, but God has every right to withhold it, just as He withholds rain when His people turn from Him. People may be vaguely aware that things are breaking down, that life seems to have a lot more tragedies, and that nothing seems to work as it once did, but they will not make the connection between their hardships and their spiritual deafness.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse

Amos 8:11-14

The first victims of this famine are the young. They are more susceptible because their parents failed to provide a solid foundation of truth. The young only know what the older generation has taught them. With anything remotely Christian being banished from public schools and colleges and ridiculed in the media, and with churches increasingly neglecting the Word of God, the youth are being supplied with a very weak or non-existent diet of truth.

God created mankind with a spiritual capacity, and our minds naturally crave something to excite us, fill us, and give us answers. If God's words are not sustaining the youth of the nation, something else will. Thus, the rap culture has become a religion—a belief system, a way of life—for some. The philosophy of materialism is firmly entrenched in these fertile minds, which are being fed all day yet starved of truth. Eco-religions and nature worship are drawing others off course. Witchcraft and other elements of the occult fill the minds of others. Eastern and New Age beliefs are becoming more mainstream, and we even have the cult of Oprah!

An entire generation is falling for the line that there is no absolute truth, that everyone's opinion is valid (unless that opinion is biblical), and that the only modern sin is to judge. All of these forms of idolatry are flourishing because God's words are not being heard, and something else has taken their place.

Amos 8:14 describes those who are so adamantly committed to their idolatry, who are so spiritually sick from malnourishment, that they will "fall and never rise again."

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse

Amos 8:11-14

One of God's annual feasts instructs us in how we can avoid becoming a casualty of such a famine of hearing. The New Testament clearly shows that Jesus Christ and the disciples observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread (see Matthew 26:17; Mark 14; Luke 22), and the latter did so even after Jesus' death (Acts 12:3; 20:6; I Corinthians 5:7-8).

In the New Testament, leavening and unleavened bread take on added meaning that the ancient Israelites did not grasp. In addition to leavening symbolizing sin, hypocrisy, and pride, Jesus uses it as a metaphor for false doctrine (Matthew 16:11-12). Conversely, Paul describes unleavened bread as symbolic of "sincerity and truth" (I Corinthians 5:8). A famine of hearing God's words, then, is like a famine of eating unleavened bread. When such a famine occurs, people turn to eating leavening—false doctrines, false philosophies, and ways of thinking that are ultimately "malice and wickedness."

Remember that this famine, this curse, simply continues the trajectory that the people are already on. They suppress the truth and reject God's Word, and so God gives them what they ask for. However, this famine begins in the heart, in the mind. It has its genesis in the regard and esteem—or lack thereof—in which the people hold God's Word. When His Word is not valued, God takes away the hearing of it. The result is stumbling, as the people lack the means to evaluate their circumstances and make right decisions.

The instructions for the Days of Unleavened Bread give a solution—a simple one, but one that takes continual diligence. God instructs, on the one hand, to remove all leavening and to ensure that none is seen with us (Exodus 12:15, 19-20; 13:3, 7; Deuteronomy 16:3-4). He is telling us to be vigilant to keep the falsehoods out. We are to guard against this world's philosophies and ways that may seem harmless enough, but are actually slowly poisoning the mind.

On the other hand, God instructs us to eat unleavened bread—to take in truth—every day (Exodus 12:15, 17-18, 20; 13:6-7; 23:15; 34:18; Numbers 28:17; Deuteronomy 16:3, 8). In fact, God gives more instructions about eating unleavened bread than about avoiding leavening. If the relative number of instructions is significant, ingesting truth to make it a part of us is more important than avoiding falsehood. Even the name of the festival suggests that the greater emphasis is on the unleavened bread, which ultimately represents Jesus Christ Himself.

Of course, neither action can be neglected—God requires us to do both. Yet studying truth is vital because it enables us to identify and resist the leavening—to recognize what is false because we are so familiar with what is true.

The mind will feed itself on something. If we pass over the truth for something that may not be altogether wrong but is not actually nourishing, over time we will become spiritually weak and unable to resist the lies. All the while, because our minds are full, we may not realize that we are starving ourselves to spiritual death. This does not happen overnight, but it does happen.

This famine of hearing occurs as a result of people not esteeming the Word of God, and because it is not valued and not acted upon, He removes it. However, it does not have to be that way with us. We have been blessed with understanding—with the ability to hear God's words and rightly respond. If we value the truth, we will continually search it out, and we will hear it. Because we value it, we will recognize what is false and contrary, and not want to have anything to do with it.

The preventative for this famine lies in what we value, what we appreciate, and what our priorities are. If we are seeking God's truth—if we are diligently ingesting this unleavened bread every day and carefully avoiding what is false—God will continue to feed us and bless us with His truth.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse

Amos 8:13-14

When the famine of the Word of God occurs, the youth of Israel will fall most readily into the trap. There will be a tremendous revival in false religions, especially of the great false church. Where else can the young turn? They will be more susceptible because their parents failed to provide a solid foundation of truth on which to base wise spiritual decisions. The young only know what the older generation has taught them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)

Amos 8:14

"The sin of Samaria" refers to a name, Ashima, a Canaanite mother-goddess. This Ashima represents the importation of foreign cults and gods. Historically, Israel borrowed gods from the surrounding nations and combined their worship with that of the true God. By changing His nature, they destroyed the right image of the true God. This, in turn, changed the source of beliefs, ideals, laws, standards, ethics, and morality. Thus, when a famine of God's Word comes (Amos 8:11), immorality swiftly sets in.

Dan was the location of one of the sanctuaries that Jeroboam I set up to imitate the Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 12:29). His counterfeit sanctuary was made of a counterfeit Holy of Holies. Instead of cherubim, it had two golden calves arranged to form the base of a counterfeit mercy seat. Over the years, the visible presence of the calves became familiar to the Israelites, who soon were worshipping the calves as God. After a little more time, the nature of the calves became the nature of God.

Beersheba, with its false shrine associated with the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was in the southern part of Judah. People made pilgrimages to Beersheba, a very long and arduous trip. Over time, they came to believe that righteousness accrued to them simply by going there. They walked "the way of Beersheba," thinking to put God in their debt.

But God owes no one anything! He blesses those who are in the right attitude, who are following His way, who are growing and overcoming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 




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