The Uses of Adversity
Amos 8:11
Behold, the days come, said the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water…

If adversity tried and sifted men, prosperity tried and sifted them much more. Where adversity slew its thousands, prosperity slew its tens of thousands. Poets and moralists had dwelt on the sweet uses of adversity: the misuses and abuses of prosperity would furnish a far more eloquent theme. Adversity was a bitter medicine, but it was in vain to think that health could be preserved unless it were administered at one time or another. And as it was with individuals, so was it also with large masses of men. The severest trial to the morality of a people was a long period of prosperity; the most efficient instrument in the purification of a people was the sharp attack of adversity. Such at least was the lesson enforced upon Israel in the days of Amos the prophet. Never since the secession of the ten tribes had the material welfare of the nation been greater. Under two vigorous monarchs it had recovered from all its recent disasters, and had attained to somewhat of its pristine greatness. The reigning sovereign, the second Jeroboam, had largely extended the frontiers by foreign conquests; his armies had everywhere been victorious; there was wealth and plenty at home. King and people alike might well have congratulated themselves on the present condition of the nation. It was just at this crisis that the prophet Amos appeared on the scene. But though it was in a season of unexampled prosperity, the prosperity of Israel was not the burden of his message; though the armies of Jeroboam had been signally triumphant, he poured out no congratulations over these triumphs. His whole prophecy was one prolonged wail, one unbroken elegy, the funeral dirge of a dying religion, a falling dynasty, and an expiring kingdom. For prosperity was then doing its work. Luxury, revelry, and pleasure were rampant; commercial morality was low, petty frauds in trade were rife; the laws were administered for the advantage of the powerful; the poor were ground down by the tyranny of the rich. A stern moralist might have found much to lament and denounce in the vices of the age; a far-sighted politician, drawing upon long experience, might have discerned from these elements of social disorder the symptoms of a disease which, if not arrested in time, would lead to the ultimate ruin of the state. But the prophet, with a keener eye and a wider range of wisdom, firmly and unhesitatingly pronounced the result — in the very midst of the triumph of armies, in the very flush of successful self-complacency, he announced the catastrophe as imminent — "It shall come to pass, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear sky; and I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor of thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord." Prosperity had carried away the hearts of Israel from the true religion of their God, and it needed the deep uses of desolation and captivity to chasten them and call them back. For, first, the worship of Israel had degenerated into a religion of political expediency, a religion of conventional life; it had adapted itself to the exigencies, ay, and to the vices, of the age. It looked complacently upon the luxury, the oppression, the indolence, the carelessness, the dishonesty which prevailed on all hands; it had no word of hope, no thought of remedy for the startling social evils of the time; the overflowing wealth here, the grinding poverty there. Secondly, the religion of Israel was formal and material; it was not thought of except in an outward and material sense in the days of prosperity; and when in their captivity and heavy trials their hearts turned to it seeking solace, instead of finding comfort and help, they saw only a vague and indistinct shadow.. The experience of Israel was the experience of all who worshipped after Israel's manner. In the moment of trial they sought the Word of God, and could not find it. They did not seek their Father's presence when their course was smooth and even, and in their hour of danger it was withdrawn from their eyes. Whatever some men might say, their factories, their workshops, their shipping, and their coalpits, even their museums and their lecture rooms, could not supply the deepest wants of men. The highest instincts of their nature were left hungering still. The church therefore rose up as a local centre, round which the spiritual affections and life of the neighbourhood gathered. God grant that a blessing might rest upon their work that day.

(Bishop Lightfoot.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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:

WEB: Behold, the days come," says the Lord Yahweh, "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 Yahweh.

The Dreadful Consequences of Spiritual Famine
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