The book of Amos offers a bleak picture of a future in which there will be a great famine. It is not a famine of bread or water, but a famine of “hearing the Word of God.” Amos indicates that because of Israel’s indifference to the Word of God, the Lord will actually stop talking; He will have nothing to say to His people. In Amos 2:12 the people demanded that the prophets stop prophesying…. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.”In Amos 7:12-13 the King, yielding to the demands of the people, declares to Amos, “O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there. But prophesy not again any more at Bethel; for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court.” We know of course that at the end of the age of the prophets God stopped speaking for a period of over 400 years — and did not speak until He sent the Word – His last Word – His Son, Jesus. Here is a dire warning: When a culture rejects or dismisses the sure Word of Prophecy, or the Word of God, God will withdraw His Word from them.
I have long lamented the growing weakness of the pulpit in America. The preaching has become weak-kneed and spineless (one brother has called it “anemic”). The weakness, or anemic state of preaching in this nation, I now see is the direct result of a wholesale rejection of the Word of God; to such a degree that He is clearly withdrawing His Word and the famine is upon us. It is only today as I reflect upon these matters that I realize that God will often give a rebellious people exactly what they want. (Refer to Romans 1).
In every arena, the people of America have rejected the Word and counsel of God. He has been banned from our schools, our courts, our military. Even in the church, many are “offended” by the Word of the Lord and have demanded a softer, more genial and affirming gospel that doesn’t offend or cause men to feel badly about themselves. Church going folk now demand a more positive message that doesn’t judge or dwell on our sin. Isaiah 4:1-4 prophecies that “seven women will take hold of one man,” and declare to him “we will eat our own bread and wear our own garments; only let us have your name so that the reproach of our sin may be removed.”
I consider this a direct prophetic picture of the apostate church in the last day; a church that despises the “bread of life” Jesus, and his righteousness. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” The Word of God is our bread, but there exist now a “church” that finds that bread distasteful and prefers the wisdom of this world, using the Word of God as a facade of holiness. The righteousness, the holiness of Christ is the garment that should be worn by the Bride of Christ, but there is a “church” that refuses to wear His garments, preferring its own worldly and carnal dress, all the while declaring that the church will no longer look upon the sin of man through the discerning eye of the Scriptures, but now “affirm” all men, regardless of their condition. There is a demand to “remove the reproach” of sin. We have long said that Christ will take a man right where he is found and in whatever condition he is found. The new gospel declares that Christ will also leave a man in whatever condition he is found –there is no longer a need for transformation, for confession of and repentance from sin.
The diluted recipe for preaching in this generation can be directly attributed to our nation’s rejection of the Word of God. Steven Lawson in his book “A Famine in the Land” makes the following observations: As the pulpit goes, so goes the church; so the feeble state of the church can be traced to a famine of the Word of the Lord from contemporary pulpits. In their “new way of doing church,” Lawson notes, “exposition is being replaced by entertainment, preaching by performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics.” And, my friend Joe Lasardo states: “The irony is that the preaching of the cross, which the apostle Paul wrote is supposed to be foolishness to the world (1 Cor 1:18), has become foolishness to the contemporary church as well. Pastors have turned to other means of communication, and the result has been a famine of the Word in our land.”
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has said, “The most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church, it is the greatest need of the world also.”
Biblical preaching allows the Word of God, the Bible, to determine the topic of every sermon. Biblical preaching does not seek out only topics that excite and titillate – and swell the offering bucket. Biblical preaching presents the whole counsel of God and calls upon men to adapt their lives and culture to the view of scripture and does not allow our lives and culture to shape the Word of God around current trends and interpret it based what culture now approves of. Biblical preaching does not “cherry pick” verses that affirm men in their sin when taken out of context, but it is a dagger which pierces the very hardened heart of the sinner and compels him to flee from the shame of his sin and turn to the One who can transform his heart, his conscience, his mind, and his life.
But, because this is the very type of preaching that has dominated the scene for an entire generation – Because lazy and fearful and self-serving preachers have served up entertaining but lifeless drivel in the place of the Word of God; because congregations now drive the preaching rather than the Spirit of God; and because perverted and ignorant men and women have gnashed their teeth and covered their ears at the unvarnished truth of the Word of God – He is removing His Word from the land and a famine is upon us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares that, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
We live in a generation of men and women who frantically run from meeting to meeting, conference to conference desperately looking for a “word” from the Lord. They hunger for some “prophet” to “give them a word.” They wave the infallible, inerrant, unchangeable Word of God in the air as they cry out to a man to give them a “word.” Yet, when some self-appointed “prophet” or “apostle” gives them the “word” for which they clamor they gleefully receive it as from the Lord and never consider opening sacred text in their hand to test that word to determine if it is truly from God. Foolish men and women search the globe for a morsel or crumb from a man while a banquet of rich spiritual life languishes on the coffee table or in the rear window of their automobile. God is speaking, but they cannot hear because there is a famine of hearing the Word of God.
Men are spiritually starving for the Word of God today while pulpits week after week dispense fast food and tasty desserts that provide no sustenance, no strength, and no health. If a child is left to himself, he will shun the broccoli, green beans, and lean meat for ice cream and cake; and no loving parent will allow him to do so. Childish men today shun the healthy bread of the Word of God and indulgent and unfaithful “fathers” in the pulpit dish out happy meals and lollipops while the bones and muscle are crying out for sustenance.
Once again, Biblical preaching must dominate the pulpits of our nation and fearless men of character and integrity must carefully before men present the words in the Bible for exactly what they are – the Word of God.
“Preaching is the public exposition of Scripture by the man sent from God, in which God Himself is present in judgment and in grace.” [John Calvin] “This strikes at the heart of what expository preaching truly is. It is preaching the Bible, explaining the true meaning of the Scripture in a way that conveys divine judgment if it is refused and divine grace if received. In this sense, Calvin argues, God is unusually present in the preaching of His Word. This is the supernatural dynamic of expository preaching. When the Bible speaks, God speaks. – Steven J. Lawson [from his book Famine in the Land].