Up until a few hundred years ago, economics and even the religious establishment kept the Bible out of the hands of the vast majority of people. But today, when it is widely available, its enemies have found new ways to discredit it in people’s eyes or to just make it seem irrelevant.
Today many homes in Western nations have a Bible somewhere, mostly gathering dust. Few read it, and fewer still understand its meaning and apply its principles in everyday life.
1 Cor 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
A RARE AND PRECIOUS BOOK
Before the invention of the printing press, only a very few could own their own copy of even part of the Bible. Some estimate that it took a skilled and rapid writer 10 months to make a copy of it, and a finished and bound copy was worth the price of a landed estate!
Yet Christ told His followers to live by every word of God (Ref. Matthew 4:4). And Paul reminded Christians that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise to salvation, and are given by inspiration of God to teach us, correct us, instruct us and thoroughly equip us for every good work ( Ref. 2 Timothy 3:15-17).
God’s people have always loved God’s Word. They knew God’s Word was truth!
Even if they could not own a copy, Christians throughout the ages found ways to hear it read often and even memorized portions of it.
Consider this vignette from the Middle Ages. Many believe that Peter Waldo was converted about 1160, and translated the Scriptures into French to spread the good news to all who would hear him. This led to persecution, as described in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs:
“Soon the churchmen in the area, who would not explain the Scripture to the people, ordered Waldo to stop his work or face excommunication. Although Waldo ignored their orders, they persecuted his followers so badly that they were all forced to leave… So perfect were they in their knowledge of Scripture that unlettered country men were able to recite the entire book of Job by heart. Others knew the whole New Testament.”
During those times, because of the scarcity of Bibles and the imminent danger to both the Bible and the person carrying one, it seems potential ministers had to memorize a large amount of Scripture, besides being able to explain it.
The struggle continued through the centuries. Consider that when William Tyndale made his English translation of the Bible, it had to be smuggled into England in bales of cloth or barrels of merchandise. The bishop of London tried to gather up all the copies in his area and publicly burned them. Tyndale himself was kidnapped from Antwerp, tied to a stake, strangled and burned in 1536.
It’s hard, in this time when Bibles are so widely available, to imagine what it was like through most of history, but even today a King James Bible is hard to come by or even dangerous to possess in some nations, where conversion to Christianity can be punishable by death.
PROPHESIED FAMINE OF GOD’S WORD
Considering the proliferation of Bibles in hundreds of languages today—it remains the world’s most translated, best selling (applies to King James Only sales) and most freely given book—the warning in Amos 8:11 is surprising.
In the context of the time of the end marked by heavenly signs (Amos 8:9), Amos quotes God foretelling a time of famine—a famine of His Word. “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: ” (Amos 8:11).
Why would this famine come? Because of stealing, injustice, oppression and other sins Amos records. And because the people hadn’t listened to all the previous warnings, had not repented, had “put far off the day of doom” (Amos 6:3). The warning was to people who had not listened to God’s Word.
In the time leading up to Amos’ prophecy, God’s Words had been proclaimed through the preaching of Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Joel and Hosea. Today we have all these as well as the rest of the Bible in printed form. Only but a few of God’s ministers today warn of the consequences of sins and the need for repentance. Like then, today, so few listen.
Amos prophesied during a time of national prosperity, at least for the upper classes of the northern kingdom of Israel. After years of national decline, Jeroboam II seemed to have turned the nation’s fortunes around. But not for long. Perhaps 30 years later Israel would fall to the Assyrians and be taken into captivity from which they have not yet returned.
God’s long patience finally came to an end with ancient Israel, and will again with our modern world. When people ignore His message one too many times, He promises to remove that message, for a time. Isaiah echoes the thought: “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
When will this famine of hearing the Words of the Lord come? We know that it’s already begun; and has been now for some time. And prophetically, it appears to start before the work of the two witnesses who will proclaim God’s Words publicly for three and a half years immediately before Christ’s return (Revelation 11:1-3). How long will it last? This is not stated.
Will it mean all Bibles will be rounded up and burned? This does not seem to be the case, since just having Bibles around doesn’t mean they are read, and many have bible versions that just are not God’s Word. Many have left God’s Word for other versions. The main reason given by most is that the newer versions are easier to understand. This too attributes to the famine of there not being God’s Word near people TO be read.
…and, still there are others that, not only don’t understand, but just simply do not believe.
As Paul said, “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? … So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:14-15, 17, emphasis added). Amos also called it a famine of “hearing the words of the LORD.”
So it does seem God’s Work of proclaiming His words through His ministers, as well as through the mass media, will be shut off, perhaps through economic downturns, halt on mailing out Christian literature, controls in place to lock out Christian media via the internet, persecution, governmental regulations or a combination of these and other factors.
So what happens when God’s Words are not readily available any more? Apparently some of those who rejected them previously will suddenly notice they are missing, and will conduct a fruitless search throughout the land (Ref. Amos 8:12-13). Isn’t that typical of human condition, to be unaware of what we really wanted and needed until it’s gone?
Preparing for the Famine
So what can we do to prepare now for the famine of the Word prophesied to come?
Like Joseph back in ancient Egypt, we need to be doing this now for the continued years of famine. It starts with hearing God’s Words now, leaving the false ministers alone to their own vices; to turn our hearts to studying God’s true Bible, treasuring His Words and obeying them. God calls on all to repent of sin and to live by every Word of God.
But it’s not just about our own salvation. God is calling many now to help spread His Word. That’s part of the mission He gave His Church, to preach His good news to the entire world (Ref. Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).
With the coming famine of God’s Word in mind, His servants today should have the same urgent mind-set that Jesus Christ had in His human ministry. He told His disciples, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” – John 9:4
God has given His Church a job to do—to spread understanding of His Word, to preach the Gospel, to warn the world. And the foundation of that is to study the Bible and understand it ourselves—to prepare ourselves to serve and help those God is calling now and into the future. Let’s do it while there is still time.
“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:…….”
“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
“For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.”
1 Timothy 1:10
“For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;….”
2 Timothy 4:3
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;…”
“Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
“This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;……”
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;…”
“Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”
1 Timothy 4:1
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;…”
Famine: No ministers ministering from the true Word of God, new age Bible versions, lack of attendance of people (means no people ministering to others,), lack of listeners- they are there, but they are not there. False doctrines hinder true Christianity being spoken and heard.
“Let us choose to us judgment: let us know among ourselves what is good.”
The Laodicean Church is already experiencing the famine of God’s word! The Laodiceans do not receive God’s Word today, and they never will until they repent! Instead of receiving new revelation from the living God, they have nothing but spiritual starvation.
Meanwhile, God is flooding His very elect with precious new truths! God Who will I believe, will bless and pour out revelations upon us.
Soon, people will not be able to find any spiritual food! People will be crying out for someone to minister God’s Word to them; but then it will be too late physically. God’s very elect will be in a place of safety. Those who paid attention are going to realize what they didn’t do, and what they should have done. God’s Word will cease being preached (except by the two witnesses).
The last verse in Amos 8 brings this book right up to date. It puts these prophecies right into our time.
“They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beer-sheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again” (Amos 8:14).
Who are these people who fall and never rise up again? That could only refer to people who received God’s spiritual begettal and who then walked away from it!
Prophecy shows that half of the Laodiceans will not repent, and they are going to lose their eternal lives. How dangerous it is to walk away from God.
If you have received God’s Spirit, you must make sure you are right with God. Many people have fallen away and have become bitter against God! We cannot afford to be wrong about this! There are people who have fallen and who will not rise again!