A Famine of God’s Word

May 26, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

The story of Elijah is sparse of details, but rich in implications. Take, for example, Elijah’s introduction, or the lack thereof. 1 Kings 16 ends with a very bleak outlook for the northern kingdom of Israel: blatant idolatry and complete disregard for the Word of God. 1 Kings 17 opens with the statement that “Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab…” We receive no introduction to this incredibly bold prophet and we know nothing of the arrangement of Elijah’s appearance before Ahab. He just shows up and speaks.

The drought and famine Elijah pronounces before Ahab was God’s judgment on Ahab’s idolatrous ways. That’s not explicit in 1 Kings 17, but we know God promised such a judgment in Deuteronomy 11:16-17, “Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and he will shut up the heavens, so that there will be no rain, and the land will yield no fruit, and you will perish quickly off the good land that the LORD is giving you.”

Then God gives the curious command to Elijah to “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith” (17:3). Many suspect that God gives this direction in order to protect his prophet from the vengeful Ahab and his wife, Jezebel. The text doesn’t say. Perhaps, though, Elijah’s exile to a deserted location is another form of judgment on the nation of Israel for her idolatrous ways. God is removing the revelation and proclamation of his Word from among his wayward people.

A century after Elijah, the prophet Amos speaks of this kind of judgment from the Lord: “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” (8:11).

This type of judgment, a famine of hearing the words of God, seems almost unthinkable today with the proliferation of Bibles. But hearing the Word of God is more than just owning a Bible. The creedal confession of the Old Testament Israelites begins with this call to “hear”: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deu 6:4). To hear the Word of God is to be instructed by the Word of God and trust in the Word of God.

God imposed such a famine during Elijah’s time in order to accent how horrendous their idolatry was. They not only suffered the physical implications of the drought, but they also suffered the spiritual dryness of lacking the life-giving Word of God in their lives.

How about you? I’m sure you own a Bible, or two. You may even have access to the Bible on your phone. But do you hear the Word of God in your life? Are you instructed by it and do you trust in His faithful Word? When we neglect the Word of God, we impose upon ourselves a spiritual famine. A famine with symptoms like unsettled discontentment, lack of joy, hopelessness in the face of trouble, and experiential distance from God. One of the lessons from Elijah’s ministry is that we should not neglect God’s Word. Renew your commitment to God’s Word, and allow its life-giving power to bring healing into your soul.


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