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A FAMINE OF THE WORD!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, February 3, 2013

“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. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:11-13).


Amos came from Tekoa, a small village near the Dead Sea. He came from the wilderness of the Southern kingdom of Judah. But God sent him far to the north, to the Kingdom of Israel, which had split away from Judah. Their king, Jeroboam I, had set up a false place of worship at Bethel. Amaziah was the priest of that idolatrous place of worship. Amos said that the judgment of God was about to fall on Judah. His fiery preaching caused the false priest Amaziah to rebuke him. Dr. Charles L. Feinberg said,

Such straightforward proclamation of the will and purpose of God is [always] displeasing to the unregenerate and ungodly man. And so it was in the days of Amos. The Word of God did not go unchallenged. Amaziah, who was the high priest of the golden calf in Bethel, accused the prophet before [king] Jeroboam...Ungodly Amaziah begins with the baseless charge of treason and concludes with the alarming word that revolution or sedition may result from the prophet’s words... Amaziah distorts the words of Amos so they appear to be a personal charge against the king...Now Amaziah...advises the prophet to flee to his own country of Judah...that he prophesy no more at Bethel...because the city was the seat of the religion of the kingdom as well as one of the king’s residences (Charles L. Feinberg, Th.D., Ph.D., The Minor Prophets, Moody Press, 1982 edition, pp. 113, 114).

Amos answered the ungodly priest, and said to him,

“I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. Now therefore hear thou the word of the Lord: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. Therefore thus saith the Lord; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shalt die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land” (Amos 7:14-17).

In those days, that prophecy seemed incredible. The nation was at the peak of prosperity and strength. But Amos delivered the Word of the Lord. He preached that four judgments would come from God. The first judgment of God upon Israel was that they would go into slavery in exile.

“Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose name is The God of hosts” (Amos 5:27).

The second judgment of God upon Israel was that it would be laid waste.

“And the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword” (Amos 7:9).

The third judgment of God was that there would be death in every place.

“And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence” (Amos 8:3).

Death would be everywhere. Those few that remained would cast their corpses out of the cities in astonished silence. But the fourth judgment from God was very different from the others. Listen to the fourth judgment again.

“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. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:11-13).

Think of it! At the end of those warnings of slavery, desolation and death – the climax of God’s judgment would be a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. But, in a very real sense, that truly is the worst judgment of all! Slavery, desolation, and death can be endured. But the loss of God’s Word takes away all hope.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001) spent fourteen years in a Communist prison in Romania. He was tortured and he lost everything – everything, that is, but the Word of the Lord! And the Word of God took him through all that pain and torture! Pastor Wang Mingdao (1909-1991) spent twenty years in a Communist prison in China. When an interviewer asked him what had been most important to him during his time in prison, Wang said, “the Word.” These men had the words of the Bible in their hearts, and it comforted them through the many years they spent in prison for their faith. There is no greater punishment to an individual, or to a nation, than God judging it by sending a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). That is the judgment given in the text.

“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” (Amos 8:11-12).

Thus we have seen the background of the text, and a brief explanation of it. But there are two matters that I will deal with concerning it.

I. First, the doctrine we learn from the text.

God said, “I will send a famine in the land...of hearing the words of the Lord.” It would not happen by accident. God said “I will send” it.

We must not think that this famine of the Word referred to Bible reading alone. They obviously had the Torah, the first five books of Moses. They didn’t have it in their homes, because it was handwritten on scrolls. But they could hear it read on the Sabbath. This famine was a famine of preaching, a famine of hard-hitting prophetic preaching. Dr. Feinberg said,

God in His boundless love for Israel sent her messages through His servants to draw her back into the path of His choosing and conformity to His will for her. But these prophets....were opposed; their messages were scorned; and they were told to [stop preaching]. Now the Lord tells [Judah] that, since she despised His Word through the prophets when it was brought to her, she was to know the [end] of all prophetic communication. The Word of the Lord will be withdrawn from her (Feinberg, ibid., p. 118).

When people don’t want to hear Spirit-filled preaching, God withdraws it – as a judicial punishment. There are several examples of this in the Bible. King Saul rejected the prophetic words of Samuel, and God no longer spoke to him (I Samuel 28:6). In the Book of Ezekiel we read,

“Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none. Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients” (Ezekiel 7:25-26).

Again, Micah 3:6, 7 said that God would judge Judah by stopping the prophets from preaching. Dr. Feinberg said that God brought an end to prophetic preaching as a “divine retribution for such opposition to the truth” (ibid.).

The godless priest Amaziah said to Amos, “Prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king’s court” (Amos 7:13). And, so, God judged Israel by sending a famine “of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11).

In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ wept over the city of Jerusalem saying, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate... And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple” (Matthew 23:37, 38; 24:1). At another time, after Jesus healed the demoniac of Gadara, “the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts” (Matthew 8:34). He did depart. And He never went back again. They rejected Him, and He left them to die in their sins. In the Book of Acts “Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:5).

“And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles” (Acts 18:6).

In the last chapter of II Chronicles we read of this type of judgment again. 

“The Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand” (II Chronicles 36:15-17).

Thus we see from the Bible that God often removes strong prophetic preaching as a judgment when it is rejected. It is a judicial punishment from God. That is the doctrine we learn from our text.

II. Second, the application of the text.

“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. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:11-13).

Dr. Keith M. Bailey, Home Secretary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, once said,

      I think A. W. Tozer was a prophet. He could see far beyond most men of his generation. He was able to discern and analyze that which was decaying the church at its heart. In the prophetic sense, he was courageous in speaking to that truth with anointed ability and power (Dr. Keith M. Bailey in the preface to I Call It Heresy! by Dr. A. W. Tozer, Christian Publications, 1974 edition, p. 6).

Here are two prophetic statements from Dr. Tozer.  First, he said,

      The devil will not cause any trouble for a preacher who is scared stiff of his congregation and worried about his job to the extent that he preaches for thirty minutes and the sum of what he says is “Be good and you will feel better.” You can be as good as you want and yet go to hell if you have not put your trust in Jesus Christ! The devil is not going to waste his time causing any trouble for the preacher whose only message is “Be good!” (A. W. Tozer, D.D., “Who Put Jesus on the Cross?” in The Best of A. W. Tozer, compiled by Warren W. Wiersbe, Baker Book House, 1986 edition, pp. 230, 231).

Again, Dr. Tozer said,

      Any man with fair pulpit gifts can get on with the average congregation if he just “feeds” them and lets them alone. Give them plenty of objective truth and never hint that they are wrong, and they will be content. On the other hand, the man who preaches truth and applies it to the lives of his hearers will feel the nails and the thorns. He will lead a hard life, but a glorious one. May God raise up many such prophets. The church needs them badly (ibid., p. 142).

Leonard Ravenhill was a friend of Dr. Tozer. In fact, Dr. Tozer wrote the introduction to Ravenhill’s great book, Why Revival Tarries. In his book, America is Too Young to Die, Ravenhill said,

      There is a famine of great preaching, a famine of conscience-stirring preaching, a famine of heart-breaking preaching, a famine of soul-tearing preaching, a famine of that preaching like our fathers knew which kept men awake all night lest they fall into hell. I repeat, “There is a famine of the word of the Lord.” There is a famine of sound gospel preaching (Leonard Ravenhill, America is Too Young to Die, Bethany Fellowship, 1979, p. 80).

I think that Dr. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill were exactly right. “There is a famine of that preaching like our fathers knew which kept men awake all night lest they fall into hell.” Yes, there is a famine of that kind of preaching today, even in very conservative churches.

But that is what you need to hear if you are not converted. The men who stand with me behind this pulpit, men like Dr. Chan, Dr. Cagan, Mr. Griffith, Mr. Lee, Mr. Prudhomme, Mr. Song, and Mr. Mencia, are men who have paid the price for speaking the truth, the hard truth, the truth of God’s judgment on sin, the truth that you must be born again, that you must be converted – or you will go to Hell. That is not often heard today. But it is the truth! The Lord Jesus Christ said,

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment...into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:46, 41).

We have to tell you the truth. We have been called, like the prophet Amos, to tell you the truth. We must not hold back the truth. We are compelled by God to tell you the truth! We are forced by the Holy Spirit to tell you the truth! We are constrained by the Lord Jesus Christ to declare unto you your lost condition in the sight of a thrice holy God! You are lost! You are lost! You are lost! Christ said that you are doomed to “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).

Let others laugh. Let them mock at our preaching. Let them reject what we say, as the wicked priest Amaziah rejected the warnings of the prophet Amos. We are compelled to say what Amos said to that sinful man, “Thou shalt die in a polluted land: and [thou] shall surely go into captivity forth of his land” (Amos 7:17). Sooner than you think death will strike you. And down will go your soul, falling headlong into everlasting fire! Let others mock and laugh, and slander us, as the false priest did to Amos. But we cannot hold back the Word of the Lord. The Word of the Lord! The Word of the Lord! The Word of the Lord saith to you that you “shall go away into everlasting punishment...into everlasting fire.” That is the Word of the Lord – the Lord Jesus Christ!

Oh, consider His Word! Oh, hear His Word! Oh, take notice of His Word! Oh, fear His Word! Oh, flee to Jesus Christ. He alone can save you! He alone can purge away your sin by His precious Blood! He alone can clothe you with His righteousness! He alone can make you fit for Heaven – and He alone can save you from the everlasting flames! Repent, trust Jesus, and His Blood will cleanse your sin, and you will be saved! 

I’m going to sing a song. If I have spoken to your conscience, leave your seat and go to the back of this auditorium while I sing. Dr. Cagan will take you to a quiet place where we can speak to you about salvation and cleansing from sin through the Saviour’s Blood. Go right now while I sing. 

There is a fountain filled with blood
   Drawn from Immanuel’s veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
   Lose all their guilty stains;
Lose all their guilty stains, Lose all their guilty stains;
   And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.
   (“There Is a Fountain” by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Amos 7:10-17.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Saved By the Blood” (by S. J. Henderson, 1902).


THE OUTLINE OF

A FAMINE OF THE WORD!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“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. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:11-13).

(Amos 7:14-17; 5:27; 7:9; 8:3)

I.   First, the doctrine we learn from the text, I Samuel 28:6;
Ezekiel 7:25-26; Micah 3:6, 7; Amos 7:13; Matthew 23:37, 38;
Matthew 24:1; 8:34; Acts 18:5, 6; II Chronicles 36:15-17.

II.  Second, the application of the text, Matthew 25:46, 41; Amos 7:17.