“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. And people will stagger from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.”
It seems that there has never been a time as we have today when there are so many Bibles and even so many people reading the Bible. And yet never before has there been such a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. For although so many may hear the words of the Bible there are so few who really hear the word of the Lord. And yet this is just how Jesus said it would be for the multitudes who are on the broad road to destruction. “While seeing (the print on the page) they do not see (the spiritual truth necessary for their salvation), and while hearing (the words of the Bible) they do not hear (the true word of the Lord), nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13). For the seed of the word of God finds no place in their heart to take root and grow up to bear fruit. As Jesus said, to some it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to those who do not have ears to hear, who are foolish virgins with no oil of the Spirit to light the lamp of the word of God, it has not been granted. “For whoever has (understanding), to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him” (Matt 13:11-12). In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them.
This famine of hearing the word of the Lord has come to pass as the early and later rains of the Spirit have been withheld in response to covenant disobedience (Dt 11:13-17, 28:23-24). For this reason the land does not bear its spiritual fruit. Moreover, like locusts the powers of darkness have stripped the trees of the field of every green thing (cf. the book of Joel). In such a time of famine people will eat anything, even wormwood (Prov 5:1-6, 27:7). Still, though, the Lord is full of patience, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9), and of those who will wake up from their slumber it will be said,
Fools (i.e., foolish virgins), because of their rebellious way, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. Their souls abhorred all kinds of (spiritual) food; and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble; He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.
How then can we continue to reject the great mercy and love of God our Savior and so put His patience to the test? For already He says,
All the day long I have spread out My hands to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face.
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
Neither let us suppose that the wrath and indignation of the Lord trail far behind the harlotry of our soul or can only come as a cataclysmic conclusion to a life of ever progressive sin that culminates in the most vile and despicable of behaviors. For a man reaps what he sows, and just as so frequently the sins of men are silent and imperceptible, hidden deep in a heart of unfaithfulness, so often is the judgement of the Lord:
Ephraim is oppressed, crushed in judgement, because he was determined to follow man’s command (instead of the Lord’s). Therefore I am like a moth to Ephraim, and like rottenness to the house of Judah. When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria (they sought help from the world and the things of the world rather than from God) and sent to King Jareb (a fleshly king not unlike so many today who offer their help in exchange for obedience to the commands of men). But he is unable to heal you, or to cure you of your wound.
Therefore may the Father in heaven grant to each one of us a true repentance so we may have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying and come to the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness. For truly, all the horrible pictures of the famine for bread and water we see in our world are but a dim reflection of the far greater famine of hearing the word of the Lord. In this time of spiritual famine may the Lord give us each day our daily bread–that living and abiding Word of God who is our Savior the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven so that one may eat of it and not die. For to those who have eyes to see there is a rider on a black horse holding in his hands a pair of scales. And to those who have ears to hear there is a voice of one saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine” (Rev 6:5-6).