One of the oddities of famine is that frequently people suffer from famines not because there is not enough food, but that the food does not get to the people who need it. Political famines in recent decades have been far more common than actual famines, leading to a great deal of unnecessary suffering that is the result of political problems rather than agricultural problems. Whether we looking at the periodic suffering in Somalia or the death of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930’s, these were all cases where political failure on the part of a nation’s leadership led to the suffering of ordinary people who could not obtain food that could have been made available to them. If this is true when one looks at food and water, how much more is it true of the food of spiritual instruction?
In the midst of a judgment on Israel, Amos writes the following in Amos 8:11-12: ““Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That 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, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it.” How is it possible for there to be a famine of the word? After all, we live in a time where understanding an insight about God’s word and God’s ways is easily accessible. One can read thousands of websites, from formal churches and ministries to individuals writing blogs (not unlike this one), where one can find books and commentaries and sermon messages and videos that explain aspects of the Word to those who are interested in it. This is not to say that everyone feeds on good spiritual food, only that there is a great deal of such nourishment and feeding available to those who seek after it and who are being drawn to God.
How then, in such circumstances, could a famine of the Word exist? How is it possible, if so many people are sharing biblical insights, that those who would want such a thing could go hungry? As is the case with physical food, the problem with spiritual food is that nourishing people requires certain logistical concerns to be met. There must be people who can provide nourishing spiritual messages based on their knowledge of the Bible and their insights gained by obedience to its commands. Then there must be some way for these teachings to be conveyed and communicated to those who are to read or hear the message, assuming, of course, that the audience itself has a hunger for it. When we are looking at the situation of a famine of the Word, just like any other type of famine, it is important to know where and how the transmission of such truth can fail when there is both a supply and a demand for the Word, but where those who want to feed on God’s word instead are famished and starved of it. How can these distribution networks fail? How is it that one could want to hear the word but be unable to hear it?
There are several ways this may happen. We have already seen in 2020 that in some areas at least, the ability to convey biblical teaching face-to-face has been hindered through adverse regulations as well as an atmosphere of fear concerning the spread of disease that seeks to inhibit the demand for face-to-face instruction. In addition to this, we have seen in 2021 so far that big tech companies which control the access to videos, websites, and other media for teaching have shown an increasing willingness to shut off access to information sources that they do not approve of. And, it must be readily admitted, that teaching the biblical position of various matters of morality is not popular among those who reject such standards and view God’s laws as relics of a barbarous and bigoted past. We can therefore not be certain that the feeding of the word will be able to take place in a way that depends, as it often depends now, on the openness that we have at present to use technology to seek to overcome the limitations of face-to-face meeting. And given that brethren are highly scattered, without the technological infrastructure of phone and internet, a great deal of the feeding on the word that takes place at present would not be possible, and famine conditions would soon follow. What is not clear is what we would be able or willing to do about it.