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).

March 13, 2019

Jesus Feeding the Thousands was for More than Physical Hunger

Today once again we’re back with Elsie Montgomery, at the blog Practical Faith. Please, click the header below and read this at her blog and then check out some of the other devotionals.

Jesus sets up the crowd so they will listen

My mother amazed us when it came to feeding people. On the farm it was common for friends to drop in around lunch time. She usually prepared lunch for 2-4 people, but these drop-ins could bring the number up to a dozen or more. This didn’t faze her. She found ways to feed all of them. Her goal was meeting needs.

Our current church has brunch after the service on Sunday. This ministry started small but now we host between 400 and 500 people. We stack chairs, bring out tables and tablecloths and folks line up to several buffet tables with regular breakfast fare, plus a counter with toast and coffee, and another table for those on a gluten-free diet. This congregation is mostly well-to-do so it is not a charitable event. The main goal is that we can get to know one another as we fellowship over food. Brunch develops relationships. Unity in Christ is our goal for brunch.

Jesus fed people too. John 6 tells of a crowd who followed Him and when it was lunch time, all but one of the five thousand plus hungry people forgot to pack a lunch. The disciples were concerned. Finally, Andrew brought a boy to Jesus with his lunch of five barley loaves and two fishes.

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. (John 6:10–13)

What was Jesus’ goal in doing this? Filling their bellies, or did He have something more in mind?

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:14–15)

He was not ready to be exalted, but this miraculous picnic did prepare the people for what He wanted to tell them. The next day the crowd gathered again, seeking Jesus, but He knew their real motive:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:26–40)

This miracle gave Him opportunity to talk to them about their spiritual need. The rest of the chapter tells how Jesus used the situation to teach them the contrast between “the flesh” and “the spirit” and in doing so He uncovered their failure to understand spiritual realities. But some stayed, including Peter:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66–69)

He got it, at least got the part that kept him close to Jesus. He understood that Jesus was the Lord, and that they had no other options.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Jesus, so many times I’ve figured out other options. When challenges come, “I can do this” runs through my head far too often. It should be “Jesus will enable me . . . .” Forgive this reliance on the flesh and keep prodding me to walk by faith, trusting You for all that I need, including but not limited to lunch!

January 14, 2011

Hunger as a “Gift”

Today’s post is the daily devotional from Joni and Friends, the ministry founded by Joni Eareckson Tada.  The first link above is a general one that will get you a new devotional reading each day, not necessarily the one printed here.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  –Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Humans get hungry, and not just for food but for a whole range of desires and dreams. Hunger to have hopes fulfilled and longings answered seems to be built into us.

Sometimes our hunger gets us into trouble, and we wish we could curb our appetites. But in Deuteronomy 8:2, you’ll be surprised to learn who gives us these longings. The Lord is the one who causes us to hunger. He is the one who has put within us our desires and yearnings. At first, this seems odd. Doesn’t God know that the “hungries” often get us into trouble?

God has good reasons for giving us such large appetites. He has placed within us desires and dreams in order to test us and humble us, to see what is in our heart, to see whether or not we would follow Him. He causes us to hunger so that we might learn to feed on the Bread of Heaven, to live on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To hunger is to be human, but to hunger for God is to feed on Him. Hunger and thirst after His righteousness and feed on Him in your heart. Taste and see that the Lord is good; it is He who will fill you to satisfaction.

I am prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. I’m prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, please take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. 


Want to get more out of the devotional and teaching blogs you read online?  When I’m preparing Christianity 201 entries for each day, especially the ones where I’m reposting something that someone else wrote, it’s easy to just say, “That one looks good;” and do a quick cut-and-paste.  What I find causes me to really slow down and consider what I’m reading is preparing the “tags” that accompany each blog post.  If you blog, you know about these, but if not, you can pretend you’re editing a site like this one.  What keywords or “tags” can you think of to attach to what you’re reading?  The tags don’t have to be words in the actual text — I use “Christianity” and “devotional” most days simply to attract readers who are looking for those themes — but the tag can be something else that is suggested by what you’re reading.  We often find ourselves so hurried that it’s easy to miss the essence of what we’re reading.  Slow down and look for the tags!