FAMINE FOR GOD!

Famine for God!

Badlands, South Dakota. Note sign warning to “Beware … Rattlesnakes”.

When we visited the Western United States, we saw much that exhibited the glory of God in creation.  Numerous national parks that boasted of incredible scenery, each of which were beautiful in their own way.  But the Badlands prompted us to wonder what the pioneers thought when they were traversing such inhospitable terrain.

Desolation – the breeding ground for rattlesnakes – the harshness of the terrain and the intense heat of the summer with the horrible freezing temperatures of the winter. Much of the area boasts no grass or tree coverage … just harsh rock.  Nothing warm and wonderful here – only hardship and difficult living conditions.

The prophet Amos had difficult living conditions too.  It was his lot to forecast the future to the people of Israel, to tell them of the coming discipline from God, to tell them of captivity and hardship.  Not something people wanted to hear.  Not the “good news” that would make everyone happy.

Indeed, in the Book of Amos we read:

“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.

Amos 8:11

The Lord, the God of gods and Lord of lords, the Creator of heaven and earth, is telling the people that, in the coming days, there would be a famine of “hearing the words of the LORD.” 

There would be no more prophets, no more preachers.  There would be no more reading of the scrolls or of the scriptures.  There  would be no congregations for ministers to preach to.  The word of the Lord will be precious and scarce.  There will be Bibles to read but no minister to preach the Word and provide application for daily life.  It is as if there is water in the well but no way to draw the water up so that you can drink of it. 

Matthew Henry says:

“it was a common saying among the Puritans that brown bread and the gospel are good fare. But it is here a threatening that on the contrary they should have plenty enough of bread and water, and yet their teachers should be removed. … This was a token of God’s highest displeasure against them. Surely He was angry indeed with them when He would no more speak to them as He had done, and had abandoned them to ruin when He would no more afford them the means of bringing them to repentance.”

Matthew Henry Commentary

Why did this punishment come upon them?  Because they went after the gods of the surrounding nations and considered those gods to be better than the Almighty God.  The result is described by Matthew Henry in this way:

“Those who thus give that honour to idols which is due to God alone will find that the God they affront is thereby made their enemy, so that they shall fall and the gods they serve cannot stand their friends, so that they shall never rise again. They will find that God is jealous and will resent the indignity done Him, and that He will be victorious and it is to no purpose to contend with Him.”

Matthew Henry Commentary

I realize that Amos prophesied millennia ago.  But, the God who spoke in the Old Testament is the same God that speaks today.  His attributes are infinite and unchanging.  Thus, if He is angry about people giving honor to gods that should be given to Him, that anger is still justified and the effect of it will still be felt. 

God’s grace and His patience stop the awful wrath that will come at the end of time.    But His holiness demands that the indignity of running after other gods must be dealt with.  God has frequently said that He is a jealous God. 

You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me,

Exodus 20:5

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

Deuteronomy 4:24

But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.

Joshua 24:19

They have made Me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.

Deuteronomy 32:21

In these difficult days, turn to the Lord, the God of gods and Lord of lords.  Read the Bible, study the Scriptures, listen to preachers who are true to the Scriptures.  Saturate yourself in the Word and let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts and paths in what is right and holy. 

Scripture is clear that the time for turning to the Lord is now, not at some time in the future.  No one knows how many days or hours we have on this earth.  God knows, but we do not.   At some point in time, God will send a famine on the world, not for food but for the Word of the Lord. 

Don’t find yourself in the “Badlands” without “water”. 

Don’t wait until you cannot hear the Word of God due to the coming famine.

Listen to the Word and learn. 

Listen to the Word and repent. 

Listen to the Word and rejoice in your salvation.

Lord, Your word says that there will be a day when the word of the Lord is not heard in the land.  I pray that Your grace, patience, compassion and mercy would be upon us.  We have gone after the gods of worldliness, of power, of money, of greed, of arrogance, of self-satisfaction, all of which are unworthy of You.  In Your mercy, cleanse us and turn our eyes to You and Your Word.

SABBATH REST

We enjoy camping.  While our method of camping is certainly not “roughing it”, we do enjoy the retreat into the RV and the varied scenery that we encounter in different campgrounds that we have visited across the U.S. 

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Mississinewa River, Indiana Standing along the shore looking at the 7 pillars of the Miami Nation of Indians near Peru, Indiana

Camping, getting away from the hectic schedule even we retired people have, is a marvelous way to unwind and just relax, contemplate your relationship with the Lord and with the various people in your family, church, work, etc.  And we do just that, but for the vast majority of the time, we relax.  We rest.  We just sit and look at the beautiful scenery, or we walk and get closer to it. 

Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho

There usually is no schedule and nothing that would require our attention if we didn’t want to pay attention to it.  And, at least after the campground deadline for “quiet time”, there is the solitude that comes from being in God’s creation, simply soaking in the silence and then the sounds of the evening. Rest for the mind, rest for the body, and rest for the soul.

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Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

God knows that we need rest – He made us and knows us intimately.  He knows that nonstop work is harmful to us, just about as harmful to us as nonstop idleness.  He commanded that we stop work and rest on the 7th day, the Sabbath, the day that He declared to be holy unto the Lord. 

In giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, God said:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11

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River in Yellowstone National Park

In the Garden of Eden things were wonderful – Adam and Eve were not subject to the difficulties that sin introduced into the world.  However, once they were banished from the Garden and subject to sin, God had to set out commandments so that His people would know His moral law. 

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”

Psalm 19:7-9

Consider what the Psalmist says about keeping the law of the Lord.  The soul is revived, the simple become wise, the heart rejoices, the eyes are enlightened, not to mention that the fear (reverence and awe) of the Lord endures forever, and His rules are true and righteous. 

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Badlands National Park, Interior, South Dakota

Needless to say, these commandments are not just for the Old Testament folks!  While the New Testament Christians are not “under the law”, the commandments reflect how our God wants us to live, and we are told of the benefits of following the commands of our God.  Surely, we must obey them even in the 21st century. 

[I realize that there are many in service professions that must work on the weekend, and that includes the day called the “Sabbath” or for the Christian on Sunday, the first day of the week;  but for those folks, there should be another day on which they look to their Savior dedicating their time and energy to Him.]

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Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

God understands that we need that time to recalibrate our lives and to refocus so that we are looking to God as the source of life and all that it has to offer.  Contrary to our world’s culture and Hollywood, we are not the center of the universe, God is.  He is due our reverence, loyalty and love.

Rest is not only a subject of the commandments — Jesus had some poignant words about rest as well.  In one of the most beautiful passages in Matthew, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Rest for your souls.  That, my Beloved, is what our culture is longing for and which they will not find in materialism, philosophies, or any place other than God.  Don’t be deceived by anything that promises joy, comfort and rest without reliance on God, the Father Almighty.  It is in His arms that rest and relief from sin can be achieved.  He is the author of rest and it is only through Him that it can be received.

Father, I praise Your Name for the rest that comes only from You through Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer.  For those who seek this rest, I pray that You would grant them Your Spirit to show them the way, through Christ our Lord, I pray.