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Crucifixion is probably the most violent and painful death ever devised for man to perpetrate on another man
Yet the most horrible way to die is probably starvation
To have what would otherwise be a healthy body and to simply waste away to nothing over weeks and months is an agonizing way to die
Death by starvation can happen in as little as three weeks or take as long as seventy days.
First the body uses up all of the glucose for energy.
Then the fats are broken down and used.
After that comes the proteins - tissues necessary for strong muscles and bones are broken down in and effort to maintain essential bodily functions.
The victims become apathetic and listless.
Their skin becomes flaky, their hair changes color and their abdomen swells from massive edema (swelling of the body due to fluid buildup in the tissue).
In the history of the world there have been massive catastrophic famines
In the 1840’s disease struck the potato crop in Ireland causing food shortages on a tremendous scale that lasted until 1853 and resulted in 1.5 million deaths.
In 1921 following years of war and revolution famine swept the newly formed Soviet Union resulting in more than 5 million deaths
In China in the 1950’s and early 60’s government takeovers of private farmland and mismanagement of crops led to famine of an apocalyptic nature that left 43 million dead by the year 1962.
Yet as bad as physical famines may be - of greater danger to a nation and an individual is the experience of a spiritual famine.
Another side symptom of starvation is dehydration - being separated from the meat of the Word of God and the life-giving fountain of life.
We live in a world that is in the midst of a catastrophic Spiritual famine.
In Belgium a professor at a Catholic University was fired this year because he taught his students that abortion is murder.
In Canada, Trinity Western University law school has lost it’s accreditation because they have a sexual ethics policy that only allows for relations between heterosexual married couples.
Here in the United States, Cornell University, as well as other schools, has removed nativity scenes, angels, crosses and mistletoe from campus decorations.
And unfortunately it has even infected the church.
In churches across the nation men are starting their teaching from points outside the Bible.
Tonight we’re going to look at Amos 8 and we’re going to see that the same factors that led to a spiritual famine in the days of Amos are prevalent in our world today.
Turn in your Bibles to Amos 8 - we’ll be working our way through the whole chapter
Read Amos 8:1-14
The Coming of the Famine
Amos 8:1-3
Behold - three times in this vision explanation Amos says behold, now hear this - wake up and pay attention.
Throughout the book Amos has repeatedly plead with the Israelites to wake up, to hear the words of the Lord - he is trying to call them out of their spiritual lethargy and get them moving again.
Amos is shown a basket of summer fruit, fruit that had grown rich and juicy through hours of sunlight and nourishment.
Fruit isn’t put in a basket unless it is ripe for picking.
The fruit symbolizes the nation of Israel that is ripe for destruction.
Amos uses a play on words here to drive his point home - in Hebrew the word for summer fruit and the word for end sound very similar - Amos is engaging in some word play to drive home his point that their time is at an end.
The patience of God - who is long in patience - had run out.
No longer would He relent from the judgement that the actions of the Israelites had stored up for them
He says that the songs of the palace, or most likely the temple, would turn to wailings.
The songs of the temple would have been festive and worshipful in nature but Amos here says that on that day - meaning the day of judgement that is coming for the nation - their songs would turn to wailing
Being in a house of four children I’m used to hearing wailing - and there is a significant difference between the fake wail of “I just need attention” and the guttural wail that cries out in pain
The wailing that Amos is alluding to here is the shrill, painful, guttural wail of utter loss and destruction.
It is the wail of a parent who has just lost a child, or of a husband or wife who just lost a spouse.
It is the cry that says the whole world is ending.
God declares that these wailings will be for the number of corpses that lie in and around the temple.
It is a difficult proposition to try to describe the horrors of war that I have never experienced myself and yet remain sensitive to the fact that some of you may have seen things I would never want to see.
I use these illustrations to give us a picture of how bad things would be for the Israelites but if, as I read this, the description becomes too much for anyone simply raise a hand and I will move on without finishing the quote.
This is a description of what life was like in the trenches of World War 1 - the closest situation to our day that I could think of to describe what Amos is saying in verse 3:
Out in no-man’s-land, ‘the sun swelled up the dead with gas and often turned them blue, almost navy blue.
Then, when the gas escaped, the bodies dried up like mummies and were frozen in their death positions... sitting bodies, kneeling bodies, bodies in almost every position, though most lay on their bellies or on their backs.
‘The crows pecked out the eyes and rats lived on bodies that lay in abandoned dugouts.
These rats were very large and quite fearless, their familiarity with the dead having made them contemptuous of the living.
One night one fell on my face in a dugout and bit me.
‘Where we fought several times over the same ground bodies became incorporated in the material of the trenches themselves.’
He remembered in one place accidentally digging through corpses of Frenchmen killed and buried in 1915.
‘They were putrid, with the consistency of Camembert cheese.
I once fell and put my hand right through the belly of a man.
It was days before I got the smell out of my nails.’
At one stage his battalion had to deal with a thousand rotting corpses, which ‘came to pieces in your hands.
As you lifted a body by the arms and leg, the torso detached.
'Even worse was that each one was crawling with maggots and covered inches deep with a black fur of flies which flew up into your face, mouth, eyes and nostrils.’
And then the silence - after the horrors of war the silence would be deafening - much like we will see the silence resulting from the ensuing famine will be deafening
The Creator of the Famine
Amos 8:11-12; Amos 3:6
Again God says through Amos - behold the days are coming
This is certain - there will be relenting from this famine happening
Famines are not foreign to the nation of Israel
Abraham - Genesis 12
Joseph - Genesis 42
Elijah - 1 Kings 17
All of these were sovereignly orchestrated by God for His purposes
This may sound harsh - but think for a moment on the beauty of the sovereignty of God
This last Sunday we looked at Luke 2 and the census decreed that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem
Think about how much had to happen for that census to take place - it’s not like today when there would be a mass mailing or more likely a facebook post
But in those days there would have had to be a decree carried out across the world by messengers by ship and then each monarch or governor would have to send out the news to the countryside
And then all those people would have to travel from wherever they were living to the town where they would be censused.
And all of that so that Mary would be there in that stable - more likely a birthing cave for sheep - on that special night so our Savior could be born
And the thing is we cannot have that sovereignty without the other - He can’t only be sovereign over the good events and not be sovereign over the bad
Amos 3:6 If a calamity occurs in a city has not the Lord done it?
He is either sovereign over all or He is sovereign over nothing
And it is He who will bring this famine on the land
The 18th century evangelist George Whitefield once said this:
AS 1 God can send a nation or people no greater blessing than to give them faithful, sincere, and upright ministers, so the greatest curse that God can possibly send upon a people in this world is to give them over to blind, unregenerate, carnal, lukewarm, and unskilful guides.
And yet, in all ages, we find that there have been many wolves in sheep’s clothing, many that daubed with untempered mortar, that prophesied smoother things than God did allow.
As it was formerly, so it is now; there are many that corrupt the Word of God and deal deceitfully with it.
Men we live in a day where this curse resides on our land
Just this last week a great man of God, Dr. R.C. Sproul passed away - he may not have been exactly aligned with us theologically but he was a gifted expositor who stood strong for the faith, for the truths of justification and the inerrancy of the Bible when many are not.
And men like him, Chuck Smith, Dr. John MacArthur are becoming fewer in number as the spiritual appetite for the true Word diminishes
That is another side affect of starvation - the loss of the ability to handle solid food in quantities necessary to sustain life
Spiritually we would rather just skim the surface or stick to simple concepts rather than hear the truth - just talk about the love and grace of God but don’t ever talk about sin or conviction because that might make me feel bad.
The people will stagger from sea to sea and from the north to the east seeking the Word of the Lord
People will search all four compass points to try and hear a word from God and yet will not be able to find Him
The phrase sea to sea would generally be used to encompass the whole earth but here mean the Dead Sea to the south of Israel and the Mediterranean Sea to the west - the inclusion of North and East round out the compass
The Lord had sent prophet after prophet to His people and they had rejected all of them and now would experience a spiritual famine and silence from the Lord
But why?
Why did this famine take place - the explanations bookend the event
The Cause of the Famine
Amos 8:4-10; Amos 8:13-14; 2 Timothy 3:2-5; Amos 4:2; Amos 6:4
Amos addresses the aristocracy again saying listen up you who trample the needy and do away with the humble
These men and women were falsely religious - giving a show of being Godly but only going through the motions until they could get back to their true desire of making money
Paul gave a perfect description of them in 2 Timothy 3:2-5
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