What is meant with the prophesied "famine of the Word," as alluded to in Amos 8:11-12?


Amos 8:11-12 reads:

“’Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That 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, seeking the word of the LORD, But shall not find it.”

Some have concluded that this passage tells us that in the future, God’s Word–the gospel of the kingdom of God–will NOT be preached anymore to the world. However, that conclusion would be inconsistent with Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24:14, which says: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

In addition, we read that at the time just prior to Christ’s return, the Two Witnesses will preach God’s Word (compare Revelation 11:3-7), and finally, we are told that the third angel has the everlasting gospel to be preached to all nations (compare Revelation 14:6-7). Christ commissioned His Church to preach His Word and to make disciples of all nations, and He promised to be with His Church and its efforts until the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Therefore, these passages don’t seem to allow for the concept that in the end time, just prior to Christ’s return, the preaching of God’s Word will cease.

How, then, are we to understand the above-quoted passage in Amos 8:11-12?

God says in that passage that they – the people – will suffer from a famine of HEARING the words of the LORD. This does not necessarily say that the words of the LORD are not going to be preached or taught any more, but, rather, that those people will not be able to HEAR or understand them – they will not recognize them as God’s Word, which is binding on them, and which needs to be obeyed. The people will have allowed their minds or hearts to harden so much that none of God’s words will find entrance into their minds. This would most certainly include those who once knew and understood God’s Word, but who decided to turn their back on God and exchange His words of truth for the lie (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Romans 1:24-26).

Oh yes, they will still wander from sea to sea to find the Word of God, but, confused as they will be, they won’t recognize it. Remember that Christ taught the people, but many were unable to listen to His words. Their hearts were closed, hardened, incapable of accepting the truth. Many were like sheep, scattered, insecure and uncertain, not knowing where to turn.

God warns us not to look at His Word as a source for a big entertainment–like the people did, when they came to Ezekiel, to listen to him (compare Ezekiel 33:30-33). They did not want to learn from him; they did not want to accept the concept that they had to change their lives for the better. They just wanted to be entertained for a while. They wanted to have a “good time in church,” where they would get cozy and warm feelings. However, God wants us to listen carefully to His Word, with the attitude of wanting to learn, and then we must DO what we are taught.

They heard the words, but they did not do them. They did not think that they had to actually obey what they were told. In other words, they heard with their ears, but their minds, their hearts and their spirit did not accept and retain the words of God. Both in the passage in Amos 8:11-12, and in the passage in Ezekiel 33:30-33, the word for “hear” or “hearing” is “shamea” in the Hebrew.

Note how this word “shamea” is used in other passages:

Proverbs 13:1 reads, in the Authorized Version: “A scoffer does not HEAR rebuke.” The New King James Bible says, “… a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” In the Hebrew, the word for “hear” or “listen” is “shamea.” The scoffer hears rebuke with his ears, but he does not heed the rebuke, so that he might change and do what is right.

Isaiah 65:12 states: “… when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear…” Compare also Isaiah 66:4.

So, God DID speak, but the people did not HEAR [“shamea” in the Hebrew]. For them, there was a famine of HEARING the Word of God. But it was their fault. THEY had allowed their hearts to be hardened, so that they would not hear or listen to the Word of God, and repent, and obey.

Jeremiah 6:10 explains: “To whom shall I speak and give warning, That they may hear [“shamea” in the Hebrew]? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, And they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; They have no delight in it.”

Again, God spoke His Word, through Jeremiah and His other servants, but the people would not hear, since they had uncircumcised ears. They did not take any delight in God’s Word.

Jeremiah 7:13 adds: “… I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear [“shamea”], and I called you, but you did not answer.”

God did speak – but the people did not hear. There was not a famine of SPEAKING of the Word of God, but it was a famine of HEARING, or understanding, or abiding by, the Word of God.

In Jeremiah 19:15, God says: “Behold, I will bring on this city and on all her towns all the doom that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their necks that they might not hear [“shamea”] My words.”

God spoke His words — through His servants — but the people stiffened their necks, so that they would not hear or receive them.

Jeremiah 22:21 adds: “I spoke to you in your prosperity, But you said, ‘I will not hear’ [“shamea”]. This has been your manner from your youth, That you did not obey My voice.”

God did SPEAK His words to them – and they heard them with their ears – but not with their minds and hearts. They refused to accept them as God’s words. They refused to obey them.

When calamity came, they did seek the Word of God; they did cry out to God; but He did not answer. Since they had turned their backs on God, God turned His back on them. God had given them His Word, but they refused to receive it. Now, although the Word was still being preached and available–through God’s servants, such as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets–the minds of the people had become so much alienated from God, that they did not recognize any of God’s truth anymore. God says that they broke ALL of His commandments. God gave them over to their perverse minds, and He did not reveal to them the meaning of His Word–He did not show them at that time, where His words could be heard, and what they meant (compare Hosea 4:6). Jeremiah was still preaching, and so was Ezekiel, but most people hated Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and they wanted to see them dead.

The same will happen again in the end time–with global implications. The Word of God will still be preached by God’s Church – the gospel will still be proclaimed as a witness in all the world – but the people will not hear. They will not give attention to it. In their distress, they will seek for God’s Word and deliverance, but – deceived as they will be – they will look for God’s Word in all the wrong places. And there will be, as we read in Matthew 24:11, “many false prophets,” and they will “deceive many.” Unfortunately, this will include many in God’s Church.

We must take this dire warning to heart.

We must be careful that we will not be reckoned among those who will seek the words of God, without being able to find them, as they have shown through their disobedient conduct that they really don’t care for the truth.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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