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…
It is a characteristic principle of Divine warnings, that the woes which they denounce upon guilty men generally consist in the mere withdrawal of abused privileges, and the desertion of men to gain their own ends in their own ways. There needs nothing for man's everlasting ruin, but that God should let him alone. If God exercise no positive energy of His grace to rescue him from destruction, all is done that need be done to make this destruction sure, and without a remedy. As a practical illustration of this principle, you find the Scriptures warning men of their dangers in an unconverted state, under the simple idea and shape of destitution and want. God departs from them, leaves them, hides His face from them, lets them alone; and they thus gain the punishment which their guilt deserves, as the harvest of their own sowing and the fruit of their own planting. This principle forms the point upon which the warning of our present text is rested. Famine, with all its attendant, multiform evils, is the simple result of continued want and deprivation. If God withholds His rain and His snow from heaven, all the horrors of famine come upon man without any direct effort or act on his part to confirm or increase it. So God proclaims to sinful men the result of their negligence of His grace and contempt of the spiritual mercies which have been long continued to them in vain. He will withdraw all direct spiritual interposition and leave them to the barrenness of their own nature.
I. THE EVILS OF SPIRITUAL FAMINE. The Lord treats it as a curse and a punishment. Man lives not by bread only, but by the words which proceed out of the mouth of the Lord. Man's real life is fed by communications of Divine grace. Take from the soul of man its heavenly nourishment, and you leave it a prey to the gnawing of eternal want, and the mere vessel of eternal wrath and anguish. The full evils of this spiritual famine this world cannot. display, nor can man, in his present state, apprehend them.
II. THE FACTS WHICH CONSTITUTE A SPIRITUAL FAMINE. These are facts of man's experience here. To constitute such a famine there is, sometimes, an entire removal from a people of all the ordinances and privileges of the Gospel, that only life-giving Word of God, Or there is found a withdrawal from a community who still retain the name, if not the external form of Christianity, the preaching of the Gospel in its peculiar truths. Or, though the truth of God be still proclaimed, there is no power communicated from above to carry it with life-giving efficacy to the souls of men.
III. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH LEAD TO THIS SPIRITUAL FAMINE. Some of these are on the side of the preacher of the Word. There may be; in the pulpit, a hiding of the light of the Gospel; or a spirit of sectarian division and controversy. Or a conformity among professing Christians to the course of this world. An unbelieving rejection of the spiritual claims of the Gospel, and a misimprovement of the mercies which a Saviour bestows, lead a people with certainty to this famine of the Word of the Lord. The habit of unmoved and heartless hearing of the Gospel prepares the way for the certain loss of all the blessings which the Gospel gives. And a neglect of the appointed ordinances and institutions of the Gospel leads to the same result.
IV. THE WAY IN WHICH THE EVILS OF SPIRITUAL FAMINE MAY BE AVERTED. Prize highly the faithful dispensation of the Word of God. And pray for the success of the Word of God. Its great object is the conversion of the ungodly, and the restoration of this fallen world to God. Let this object, in all its magnitude and importance, be kept before you.
(T. S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
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: