“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, 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 the LORD: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.”
Famine is a lack of necessary things. When we think of famine, we usually think of a lack of food or drink, as this verse suggests. But God here promises a famine of His Word. What a loss that would be, far more significant than the loss of food or drink.
In Deuteronomy 8:1-3, Moses told the Israelites, “All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.”
The LORD’s intention was to teach the Israelites that they were entirely dependent on Him. His commandments were their life. As Moses told Israel, all of mankind lives not only by bread, but by the Word of God. As Israel wandered in the desert, God provided them with the bread that they ate and the water they drank, by which they lived physically. He guided them in the way they travelled. And, He gave them His law, by which they would live spiritually, if they were obedient to it.
In Matthew 6:25-33 Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
As God’s children we should be entirely dependent upon Him and His provision, just like Israel was. And, praise His name, He knows what we need, just as He knew what the Israelites needed. He made us, after all. But from God’s perspective, our biggest need is to firstly seek Him and His ways. He will add to us the things that we need.
Notice what the LORD further said in Amos. They would wander over the whole country trying to find God’s word, and they would not find it. They would seek His Word, to no avail. The context reveals that this judgment would be because Israel had taken up with idolatry, turning their back on the One True God. A judgment like above would be awful indeed. Imagine desiring, wanting, aching to hear from God, and hearing nothing. Imagine searching far and wide to hear from Him, and He has sent a famine of hearing Him. What recourse could there possibly be?
Praise the LORD that we have His written Word. His Word is that by which we must and can live. He knows our physical needs, and meets them. He also knows our spiritual needs, and He tells us to listen to His Word. As Job put it in Job 23:8-10, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:…” Were God to hide Himself, we would be done. His Word is that important. Job goes on to say, “…but he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. (John Rippon)