In an effort to understand what hunger feels like some folks have committed themselves to fasting for twenty-four hours. That this is a major challenge in our affluent culture says a lot in itself! Nevertheless, we can commend the effort to try and understand “what hunger feels like,” even though the uncomfortable feeling we get from missing a couple of meals is not really hunger.
There is a much more serious famine in our land, one with much greater consequences, deadly consequences, eternal consequences. That’s the famine the Prophet Amos spoke about:
"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord GOD, "when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. (Amos 8:11-12)
Throughout the history of Israel and Judah, there were long periods of silence from God. Some of those periods of silence occurred during times of prosperity, as in the reign of King Uzziah of Judah. The people didn’t seem to care. They were prosperous, things were going well. As the two kingdoms sank deeper into idolatry and its consequent evil behavior, God sent prophets to call them to repentance. But time was running out for both Israel and Judah. After Amos, only one prophet, Hosea, would speak for God to the northern tribes. Then in 722 B.C. Shalmanezer, King of Assyria, would carry them away into exile. As for Judah, after the prophecy of Malachi, the people would languish over 400 years in spiritual famine until God sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the promised Messiah.
Now we Christians live in the light of the New Covenant, with the full revelation of God in the Person of His Son (Hebrews 1:2) and the guidance of His Holy Spirit through His completed Word. So is there a famine of the Word of God today? Apparently there is. And as in ages past, it is self-induced. As the ancient Israelites rejected or carelessly neglected God’s Word, even so professing Christians today are neglecting the completed Bible.
Recent surveys have revealed that even regular church attenders spend very little time, if any, each week reading God’s Word. A small minority have actually read through the entire Bible even once. As for pastors, while most say they refer to the Bible in their sermons and include Bible reading in the worship service, it is evident that very few expound the Bible clearly in context and make practical application to their congregations. Alistair Begg gave several reasons for the decline in expository preaching:
I. A lack of confidence in the Bible.
II. Fighting the wrong battles
III. Using the wrong role models: e.g. business, psychology.
(From “What Happened to Expository Preaching?” The Pastor’s Study, Vol. II)
While few would admit it, many pastors lack faith in the Holy Spirit to change lives through God's Word. Expository preaching lets the Word of God speak for itself by drawing attention to the timeless principles God revealed and applied to His people down through the ages. The Holy Spirit uses “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) to work where only God can work – in the heart!
F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) saw the same lack of expository preaching in his day, and he urged pastors to preach expositorily. His book Expository Preaching Plans and Methods is still well worth reading today, and it’s available in print or on Kindle.
One major reason the average Christian doesn’t read the Bible is because he or she has no idea of the richness of its progressive revelation and the practical wisdom revealed there. Creating a hunger for the Word is a large part of the pastor’s job.
There certainly is a famine of hearing the words of the LORD today. And the effects of this famine are evident in the weakness of spiritually emaciated Christians in our churches.