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With New Testament Eyes: 82 - A Famine to be Feared

By Henry Mahan


      Amos 8:11-13

      The nation of Israel often disobeyed God, rebelling against his law and commandments. Yet the Lord continued to send his prophets to warn them, to instruct them, and to call them.

      Though they were a stiff-necked people who 'erred in their hearts and did not know my ways,' even followed other gods, yet the Lord owned them, restrained them, and would not suffer them to be without 'a word from the Lord.'

      Now in this chapter of Amos, the Lord announces judgment upon Israel, the very worst thing that can come upon them, 'I will take my word from you and there will be no message from the Lord' (Amos 8:11-13). If men are deprived of light, they wander in darkness. If men are deprived of truth, they walk in error.

      Judicial blindness and no word from God is our greatest fear. It was said of Ephraim, 'Leave him alone;' and of the Pharisees, 'Leave them alone.' Nothing could be worse.

      David feared this and said, 'Take not thy Holy Spirit from me' (Psa. 51:11).

      Jeremiah wrote, 'The prophets also find no word from the Lord' (Lam. 2:9).

      Micah said, 'There is no answer from God' (Micah 3-7).

      Amos wrote, 'They shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.'

      These servants of God all feared for the people when the heavens were silent.

      1. What are the signs of 'a famine of hearing the words of the Lord'

      Religion does not cease; for religion is as much a part of man as any emotion, as revealed in John 1:11, 'He came unto his own (nation, priesthood, and tabernacle) and his own received him not.' But when there is a famine of hearing the word of the Lord: Ministers go on preaching but without the power of the Holy Spirit. The voice of a man is the only voice the people hear. The gospel is heard in 'word only' (1 Thess. 1:5); and there is no regeneration, no conviction, no revelation of Christ, and no comfort nor growth.

      Assemblies gather together on the Lord's day, but the Lord is not present with them. Like Mary and Joseph, 'They travel a day's journey supposing Jesus to have been in the company' (Luke 2:44), but he was not there and they sought him sorrowing.

      The word of God is read, but there is no application to the heart. The disciples said, 'Did not our hearts burn within us while he opened to us the scriptures?' Dear friends, someone said, 'We have listened to the preacher, truth by him has been shown; but we need a great teacher from the everlasting throne; application is the work of God alone!'

      The ordinances (baptism and the Lord's table) are observed, but they are meaningless rituals and ceremonies without him. The formality of prayer is kept up; but if the Lord God 'has no respect to the prayer of his servants,' it is useless to pray (1 Kings 8:28).

      The famine is in full drought when the scriptures become a source of controversy instead of comfort, a source of debate instead of instruction and inspiration.

      When we are more concerned with proving our doctrine than proving ourselves, then our table becomes a snare and the means of salvation becomes a means of delusion (2 Thess. 2:10-12).

      2. By the grace of God, how can such a famine be prevented in our area? In our day?

      I urge you to look at Psalm 51--the seeking sinner's guide and the believing sinner's comfort. God heard David when he lived and prayed this Psalm, and he will hear us when we do!

      Psalm 51:1-2 - A plea for mercy! David pleads for mercy on the grounds of the Lord's lovingkindness and tender mercies. He does not claim any merit nor righteousness; but he prays to be washed, cleansed, and his sins blotted out because 'there is forgiveness with thee' and 'thou art plenteous in redemption' (Psalm 130:3-7).

      Psalm 51:3-4 - A confession of sin! You can be sure that there will be no forgiveness of sin nor mercy from God where there is no confession of sin. 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive' (1 John 1:9). 'He that covereth his sin shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall find mercy' (Prov. 28:13). Note the openness and honesty of his confession. 'My sin is ever before me and against thee have I sinned and done evil in thy sight.'

      Verse 4 has a solemn and important statement. David justifies God and takes sides with God against himself. 'You are just when you speak against my sin and you are clear when you judge and condemn me.' A truly repentant sinner will own that he deserves to be damned (Luke 7:29-30).

      Psalm 51:5-6 - A reason for our troubles! Our great problem is not so much what we do as what we are. What we are (fallen, depraved, corrupt sinners) determines what we have done and what we do. David confesses that his problem is within. Not only is the water bad, the fountain is bad! We were conceived in sin and brought forth from the womb speaking lies (Psalm 58:3; Rom. 5:12). We need to be born again; we need a new heart and a new nature (John 3:3-8).

      Psalm 51:7-8 - A remedy provided! The Roman Church has a doctrine called purgatory, a place where all people go after death to be prayed from their sins by suffering themselves or by the good works of loved ones on earth. In purgatory they are purged from sin and made ready for heaven. One thing is true in all of this; if we are to stand in God's presence, we must be purged from all sin. This is what David desires when he says, 'Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean.' But David speaks of the blood atonement on the mercy-seat provided by the Lamb of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. The first mention in the Bible of hyssop was in Exo. 12:22 when the hyssop was dipped in the blood of the Passover lamb and sprinkled on the door in Egypt.

      God said, 'When I see the blood, I will pass over you.' This is the message which brings blessings, the presence of God, and good to his people. There will be no famine of the word where there is:

      1. A plea for God's mercy from the heart.

      2. A genuine confession of sin.

      3. An understanding of the root of our problem.

      4. The preaching of Christ, our substitute, and him crucified.

      Our God will honor those who honor his Son. Most of the time when there is a famine of the word, the problem is not in the pew but in the pulpit. Where God's servants faithfully preach Christ Jesus, the Father will bless.

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See Also:
   Foreward & Acknowledgements
   1 - The Fall
   2 - Abel's Offering
   3 - The Ark Of Noah
   4 - Sarah and Hagar; Law and Grace
   5 - The Lord Will Provide
   6 - A Bride for the Heir
   7 - Bethel - The House of God
   8 - Peniel - The Face of God
   9 - Joseph Opens the Storehouses
   10 - Joseph and His Brothers
   11 - Shiloh
   12 - The Passover
   13 - The Manna
   14 - Water from the rock
   15 - The Blood Before the Lord
   16 - The Ram of Consecration
   17 - The Day of Atonement
   18 - Caleb - The Faithful Dog
   19 - The High Priest Intercedes
   20 - The Brazen Serpent
   21 - A Prophet Like Moses
   22 - The Cities of Refuge
   23 - Joshua
   24 - The Scarlet Line in the Window
   25 - The birth of Samson
   26 - The Kinsman Redeemer
   27 - The Song of Hannah
   28 - Give us a King
   29 - Saul's Great Sin
   30 - David and Mephibosheth
   31 - Why God Permitted David to Fall
   32 - Comfort from God's Covenant
   33 - I Will Not Offer to God that which Cost me Nothing
   34 - The Queen of Sheba Comes to Solomon
   35 - Three Examples of Faith
   36 - Where is the Lord God of Elijah?
   37 - Empty Vessels Filled
   38 - Naaman, the Leper
   39 - Open his Eyes that He may See
   40 - Four Lepers Teach us a Lesson
   41 - Nehushtan--A Piece of Brass
   42 - Bringing Back the Ark
   43 - Uzziah's Great Transgression
   44 - Four Things Learned in Trouble
   45 - How Can Man be Just With God?
   46 - Three Vital Questions
   47 - I Know that my Redeemer Liveth
   48 - Now Mine Eye Seeth Thee
   49 - The Psalm of Messiah the King
   50 - God's two great books
   51 - The Psalm of the Cross
   52 - The Lord is my Shepherd
   53 - True God - True Israel - True Redeemer
   54 - Eight Great Precepts
   55 - My Hope is in Thee
   56 - Many, O Lord, Are Thy Wonderful Works
   57 - A Song of Love
   58 - The Sinner's Prayer
   59 - My Rock and my Salvation
   60 - Our Lord's Sufferings for Our Sins
   61 - Mercy and Truth are Met Together
   62 - The Victory of the Messiah
   63 - Bless the Lord, O my Soul
   64 - Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So
   65 - The King-Priest
   66 - The Chief Cornerstone
   67 - The Observer and the Observed
   68 - Praise the Lord O my Soul
   69 - Wisdom in Christ
   70 - The Conclusion of the Whole Matter
   71 - Remember Now Thy Creator
   72 - My Beloved is Mine and I am His
   73 - What is Thy Beloved more than Another Beloved?
   74 - The Lord Our Righteousness
   75 - The Believers Hope
   76 - From Nothing to Everything
   77 - Lost, Driven Away, Broken, Sick
   78 - Can These Bones Live?
   79 - Four Things God Taught Nebuchadnezzar
   80 - Thy God Will Deliver Thee
   81 - Hosea--Type of Christ
   82 - A Famine to be Feared
   83 - Salvation is of the Lord
   84 - A Fountain Opened for Mourners
   85 - The Messenger of the Covenant

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