For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 19

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 323 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


1 Chronicles 13—14; James 1; Amos 8; Luke 3

THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN AMOS 8 that one might usefully reflect on: the whining moans that religious services last too long and cut into time better used for business (8:5); the shady practices that boost profits (8:5b); the rising slavery grounded in economic penury (8:6); the bitter irony of 8:7 (if one remembers that “the Pride of Jacob” is God himself); the apocalyptic language of 8:9 (compare Joel 2:30-31 and Acts 2:19-20); the colorful imagery of the “ripe fruit” (8:1-2). But here I shall focus on verses 11-12: “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. Men will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.’”

This expresses a “use it or lose it” philosophy. The covenant people in Amos’s day are content not to regulate their lives by God’s revelation, and so they will lose it. Whether “the words of the LORD” refers to messages spoken to them through prophets such as Amos, or to the written Word of God (substantial parts of which were already available) makes little difference. The point is that the people who do not devote themselves to the words of God eventually lose them. The loss is catastrophic. The only adequate analogy is a desperate famine.

It is easy to see how this judgment works out in history. For complex historical reasons, France turned on the Huguenots and persecuted them almost out of existence, so the Bible and the Reformation never took hold in France as it did in England. Sometimes the antipathy toward the Bible has arisen from drift, rather than from persecution. In many Western countries, the public sense of morality was until a few decades ago largely tied to the Ten Commandments. Nowadays very few even know what the Ten Commandments are. The result is not freedom and integrity, but a lilting scorn that flaunts its superiority over something no longer even understood, much less respected—and what shall the end of these things be? So many Bibles, so many Bibles—and so little thoughtful reading of them. The next stage is the Bible as source of prooftexts; the stage after that is the Bible as quaint relic; the next, the Bible as antiquarian magic; the next, implacable ignorance—and all the while, a growing hunger for something wise, something stable, something intelligent, something prophetic, something true. And the hunger is not satisfied.

The only answer is the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer in John 17:17.

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