Christianity 201

October 2, 2021

Becoming an Oasis in a Spiritual Desert

I am amazed at how much one man’s “deeper” is another man’s “boring.” While some theologian types salivate over a discussion of some tertiary doctrine, and others start hyperventilating at the discovery of a lost document by an early church father; others can’t get past the second paragraph before their mouse is clicking them off to a Christian dating site, or an online vendor of Christian t-shirts.

The love and grace and mercy of God should never be boring. But theology for theology’s sake can be dry and lifeless.

Instead, God’s word should be the opposite to dry; the Bible should contain words that refresh us. It’s the world which is the desert; it’s the company of God’s people sharing God’s word that is the oasis.

Which brings us to rather different place today, Amos 8:11

11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. (NIV)

The Message Bible couples that verse with verse 12:

12People will drift from one end of the country to the other,
roam to the north, wander to the east.
They’ll go anywhere, listen to anyone,
hoping to hear God’s Word—but they won’t hear it. (The Message)

How is that possible?

The website Never Thirsty (appropriately named for today’s discussion notes that,

…the rebellious and idolatrous Israel was doomed for punishment. Punishment was coming and it was unavoidable. Their sins were too great. In verse 3, God summarizes the pending punishment as songs of the palace that would stop and corpses that would be everywhere.

The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day,” declares the Lord GOD. “Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence.” Amos 8:3 (NASB)

Then God proceeded to list their sins in verses 4-10. Verses 11-14 describes the horrors of the punishment that would follow.

Therefore, Amos 8:11 is part of God’s description of judgement upon the nation of Israel. Verse 11 contains the phrase “famine for hearing the words of the Lord” that we want to understand.

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.” Amos 8:11 (NASB)

The first act of punishment listed is that God would send a famine. But the famine was not one of no food or no water. The people would not suffer from a lack of food or water. Instead, they would suffer due to a famine of not hearing the words of the Lord. That is, they would not hear the words of Scripture which God wrote. The judgement would be an act of God withholding prophecy. There would not be any prophets. God would not communicate through a prophet.

1 Samuel 28:6 is an example of Amos 8:11. In this passage we discover that God would not communicate to Saul through a prophet.

When Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by prophets. 1 Samuel 28:6 (NASB)

At a forum on eBible, someone asked how there could be a genuine famine for God’s word at a time we have so many copies of the Bible available in over 200 English translations. One reply reminds us,

…It could also be a statement about today’s world where people don’t understand God’s Word and are hungering for someone(s) to explain it to them.

Unlike the US, where atheism and other false gods (polytheistic religions) are drawing people away from God, many people in other parts of the world are desperate for answers to their problems which can only be found in Jesus and need to hear the Gospel message.

That reminded me of the passage where Philip encounters the Ethiopian official going to Damascus and asks him, ‘Hey, whatcha reading?’ Well he actually asks him,

“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.“How can I,” he [the Ethiopian] said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. – Acts 8:30b-31 NIV

I think that now, more than ever, people in the world at large need people like you and me who can (choose a phrase)

  • explain the Bible passage to them
  • provide additional background commentary; understanding
  • exegete; that is, take them slowly, word-by-word through a particular verse or passage
  • read it with the understanding and passion of someone who understands the bigger picture; someone who has “met the author”

This is the heartbeat of Paul’s words to the Romans:

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (10:14 NLT)

Sadly, in our time, as in the time of Amos, hearts have grown hard. The website Daily Verse tell us,

For multiplied centuries, the prophetic call to Israel was to return to the Lord. For generations of time, Israel consistently and continuously rejected God’s repeated calls to repent – a call for both individual and national repentance. But their collective disobedience finally resulted in the rejection and crucifixion of their promised Messiah, centuries later.

When a man or woman repeatedly refuses to acknowledge God’s Word and obey the truth, their proud hearts and unrelenting minds become seared and hardened, until God permits that inflexibility to become permanent – God gives them over to their rebellious heart.

The same is true with a people-group or nation, and Israel’s collective heart had become so de-sensitized to God’s Word, and so stiff-necked towards Him, that God finally gave them over to their lustful desires – pronouncing a famine for the hearing of the words of the Lord.

Lord, keep our heart always turned toward you; keep those around us from hardening their hearts toward you; and help us to be their oasis in a spiritual desert.


Worship song: Hungry


We recently touched on the Amos 8:11 passage briefly in two other devotionals:

Read the first part of A Famine of God’s Word from August, 2020 and the second part of the devotional What if Our Sabbath…? from just a few weeks ago (Famine of the Word).

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