As I look out the window of the parsonage, I can’t help but notice a dense, thick blanket of fluffy white snow layering over the lawns, cars, and buildings on this side of Burlington. And this big snow is come as an answer to prayer, about which there cannot be any doubt. In our numerous prayers offered during Sunday morning worship and during our monthly prayer meetings, we have asked the Lord to provide the moisture that this dry and thirsty land so badly needs, and we ought to be thankful for this small answer to prayer, in the snowstorm that came through. But as we consider the blessing of moisture to alleviate a period of drought, there is something even more important to consider. It is the blessing of the Word of God.
God has provided that His word is proclaimed to us week after week, as fresh manna falling from heaven. But how many are there who take it for granted? There may even be some folks reading this who have not attended church in the last few weeks, or more. But public worship in the church of God is vital to sustain the spiritual life of the Christian, especially the preaching of the word. In the Book of Amos, chapter 8, we read about the most terrible judgment of God which can come against a people. It is a famine, not of food, and not a drought of water, but a famine of God’s word. For in the Word of God proclaimed by his chosen mouthpieces, the precious promises of grace and the forgiveness of sins are offered. In the Word of God, His people get to know Him, to appreciate Him for who He is and what He has done. Can there be any judgment from the Lord, in this world, more fearsome than a withholding of that precious Word?
In the eighth chapter of Amos, that terrible judgment from God is spoken on His people. They had been unfaithful to Him, and instead of paying careful attention to those ordinances that He had commanded, they had set up other activities instead: particularly the worship at a shrine in Dan, toward the north of the land, and at the place in Beersheba where Abraham had worshipped God. This was directly contrary to God’s commandment to seek Him at Jerusalem. In punishment for the disobedience of His people, God declares that He will send upon them a famine of His word, when He would no longer speak to them.
Amos 8:11 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: 12 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. 13 In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. 14 They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again.
In this passage we learn, that when the Word fo the Lord is despised, neglected, and disregarded, He will sometimes take it away entirely as a judgment against those people. This means they will no longer hear of God’s mercy and grace, His covenant of salvation, His precious promises to be a God to them forever. When a people disregards God’s Word, it is only just that He take it away from them as a testimony and a judgment against their disobedience. And there is no judgment more terrible, for this withholding of God’s Word takes away from them His gracious promises of mercy and a means of salvation.
In history this same thing happened many times, for example with the Christian churches in North Africa, who lost their lamp posts, lost the opportunity to hear the Word of God, when the Islamic Arabs invaded in the 7th and 8th centuries, after a long period of decline and a gradual increase of worldliness in those churches. And I fear that the same withdrawal of God’s word is experienced in far too many American churches, where a desire for seeker-sensitivity, self-help, popularity, and pop psychology has replaced the serious proclamation of God’s Word in the ministry of the churches. This too is a famine of God’s Word.
Seeing this example from Scripture, and what has happened to other churches throughout history and in our own day, let us, therefore, as the body of Jesus Christ, be diligent to hear the Word when occasion permits. Let us give thanks to God for it, relish it, receive it with gladness and faith, and obey it. For His Word is light and life, it is nourishment for the hungry, and water for the thirsty. For if we continue to receive His Word with gladness, it will never depart from us. Let us also pray that God would not take away the blessing of His Word from the other churches in the community, in the region, and in this nation.