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…
There is no sign of the unthankfulness and ungratefulness of the heart of man more striking than the tendency to disparage and forget the commonest mercies, because they are common. It may be that God will teach us the worth of privilege by depriving us of it.
I. THE JUDGMENT DENOUNCED IN THIS TEXT. A famine of "hearing the Word of the Lord." The Gospel of salvation, the Word that bringeth life and peace, is often beautifully figured under the emblem of water, purifying from all uncleanness, and refreshing and reviving the fainting spirit. So the Gospel is often figured under the simple symbol of bread. Jesus said, "I am the living Bread which came down from heaven!" The, bread and water of life signify all the rich blessings of salvation. The famine here threatened is a dearth of the heavenly manna. This famine we may trace in various gradations at different periods of the Church. Trace it in its lighter and less terrible visitations. When God withdraws the living power and influence of His Spirit, so that it does not accompany the Word. Then there is a barrenness, a blight, and a powerlessness in the ministry of the Word, and on the face of the Church. Trace it more manifestly in the corruption or abstraction of the great living doctrines of the Gospel of Christ. The dry morality of a Cicero or a Socrates may usurp the place of the living "truth as it is in Christ Jesus." The same calamity may be inflicted upon a Church or people when the ministry of the Word is entirely suppressed or suspended. Thus it was in the Jewish Church of old, and in the Christian times designated as the "Dark Ages."
II. THE TERRIBLENESS OF THE JUDGMENT THUS DENOUNCED. A natural famine is a fearful visitation. The famine God here threatens is altogether more severe and terrible. The greatness of the calamity is seen because on the faithful ministration of God's Word depends all that is moral, beautiful, great, glorious in a land or in a church. What does our own country owe to the "liberty of prophesying"? We take a higher view when we remind you that the "life is more than meat, and the body than raiment." The soul is lost without the Saviour. It is "by the foolishness of preaching" that it pleases God to "save them that believe." Let the free Gospel be withdrawn, and all would be darkness and death.
III. WHAT MAY BE OCCASIONS THAT PROVOKE THE GREAT GOD TO INFLICT SUCH A CALAMITY AS UPON A CHURCH OR A PEOPLE?
1. Neglect of and indifference to the precious oracles of God.
2. Making the Word of God into an idol. The Bible itself may come between the soul and the God it reveals.
3. Disregard of and forsaking the faithful ministration of the truth.
4. We may make too much of men, and too little of the Master; too much of human wisdom, and too little of Divine.
5. The supplementing and adding to God's Word, as if it were insufficient; or the darkening or perverting it, as though man's interpretation were essential, and the Spirit of God were not His own interpreter.
6. The means and ordinances may be exalted to the depreciation of the "foolishness of the preaching" of the Word of God. God's sacraments do not act as magical charms; the Spirit of God teaches man as a rational and responsible agent.
(Hugh Stowell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: