Scripture Famine

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.” – Amos 8:11-12

One of the hallmarks of biblical prophecy is that it operates on two levels. On the one hand, predictive prophecies came to fulfillment in the not-too-distant future from the prophet’s own time. On the other hand, biblical prophecies find a parallel interpretation that will occur in the last days. This is why so many of the prophecies in Daniel (written in the 6th century B.C.) describe in great detail events that have already occurred during the four centuries before the birth of Christ, but also mirror many of the prophecies in Revelation which have not yet taken place. Biblical prophecy has a more immediate fulfillment, and an end-times fulfillment. The above prophecy delivered by the shepherd-prophet Amos is no exception.

Tracing the history of God’s people beginning with Abraham all the way back in Genesis, we find two 400-year stretches when Israel suffered a spiritual drought. God interacted personally and powerfully with Abraham, who lived around 2000 B.C., and with his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. Much of the book of Genesis is devoted to telling of God’s dealings with Joseph, Abraham’s great-grandson. As we finish reading Genesis and move into Exodus, we find the first 400-year dry period. The people of Israel moved to Egypt because of a physical famine, but there they experienced a spiritual famine that lasted for four centuries. They multiplied greatly, were enslaved by the Egyptian pharaohs, and seemed to have no hope. This was the first 400-year drought.

The spiritual famine ended when God used Moses to act miraculously on Israel’s behalf. This was in the 15th century B.C. Moses and his successor, Joshua, walked closely with God and revealed Him and His Word to His people. The nation then fell into disarray during the time of the Judges, but even then God kept intervening and raising up heroes who rescued the nation with His divine power.

This period of turmoil came to an end with the establishment of the Israelite monarchy, which was established by King Saul about 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus. The kingdom reached its apex with the reign of David, Saul’s successor, and continued through the reign of David’s son Solomon. All throughout this time, God was active and continually gave His Word to the peoples of the world.

After Solomon, the kingdom experienced a civil war and split into two nations, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Every single king of the northern kingdom was wicked, and it only lasted two or three centuries until being overrun by the Assyrians. (Incidentally, when Carolyn and I visited the British Museum in 2006, they had a lot of fascinating ancient accounts of Assyria’s dealings with Israel during this era, told from an Assyrian perspective. The Old Testament is well-attested and documented history, not a collection of fairy tales.) The southern kingdom endured an up-and-down series of rulers, some good and some bad… and some terribly bad. Finally God had enough, and the kingdom fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. By the way, the destruction of Jerusalem marked the immediate fulfillment of much Old Testament prophecy.

Babylon’s world dominion was unlike anything the human race had ever seen, but it was also short lived. Before the century ended, they had been conquered by the Medes and Persians. Under the Persian-Median Empire, a remnant of Judah was allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem. This is the period of history in which the story of Esther is set. It’s when guys like Ezra and Nehemiah led the movement to reestablish the spiritual life of Israel, and prophets like Haggai and Malachi challenged the people to return to God.

This is when the second 400-year period of spiritual famine commences. The Old Testament ends with the prophet Malachi, about four centuries before the first Christmas. In our Bible, we simply turn one page to go from Malachi to Matthew, from the Old Testament to the New Testament. But in human history, the space between those pages is one of the most tumultuous ages the world has ever seen. Between Malachi and Matthew, Alexander the Great has conquered the world, then had his empire supplanted by the Roman Empire. Jewish rebellions have come and gone, birthing new commemorative celebrations like Hanukkah.

And all during that time, God was silent. There was no new revelation, no more prophecy, no more mouthpieces for the Lord. After a millennium of God speaking to His people, He fell silent for 400 years. That’s significantly longer than the history of our nation! (To put it in perspective, the Mayflower had not yet arrived 400 years ago.) As Amos had prophesied, people thirsted for new revelation. They ran to and fro, seeking a word from God, but none was to be had. It was a spiritual famine.

That was the first fulfillment of Amos’s prophecy. I have to wonder if we’re starting to see the second fulfillment. There is a spiritual thirst in the West, and people are running to and fro seeking spiritual satisfaction, but so many ears seem completely deaf to the Word of God. In desperation we turn to so many other things, but often neglect what’s right in front of us and has been for many centuries. The Word is there for us to feast upon, yet so many choose to starve. It is a famine of God’s Word, and many are dying of hunger instead of feeding on Scripture.

“I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.” – Job 23:12

Published in: on December 12, 2014 at 5:45 am  Comments (2)  
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