In our lives feasts are fun events. Families gather. Friends visit. Sharing is a major part of the joy experienced. We cook lavish meals, speak kindly to strangers and desire sweet memories to result. We find the abundance of flavors and favors and focusing on frivolities satisfying to our souls. Thanksgiving, Christmas, family reunions, birthdays and any other excuse can be a wonderful time for such celebrations. Yet there is a feast we do not desire to partake of. There an abundance we would avoid if we understood its cost.
Of all the calamitous situations the Bible brings to bear in all of its accounts, probably none are as painful to review as those involving famines. The first mention is found when Abram was forced to turn toward Egypt to find relief. It is of course difficult for well fed, materially blessed people to understand or even envision the effects of true famine. We can vaguely relate by exercising ourselves to recall the history of the dust bowl of Oklahoma and the Great Depression of the early nineteen hundreds. Or for a very few there may have been a short mission trip into an impoverished country. Still fewer could ever say they have been in an actual situation when food was that scarce.
The images of emaciated children attempting to derive some nutrition for equally pathetic skin and bones mothers bring emotional distress to most people. Clumps of withered grass dotting dry dusty landscapes accompanied by scrawny animals with their heads bowed low adequately complete our visualization of this awful condition. In the days of Isaac, Abraham’s son, There was another famine and in the account of it refers to Abram’s famine as the first. Imagine a world without famine. Apparently this was the case before the flood. This even indicates that when Abraham was born there had not yet been such a calamity. When Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of a seven year famine He revealed the protection of God was coming in advance of the famine.
Famine were used to direct life events in the scriptures. They also appear to have been used as punishment for the sins of nations and to reveal the depths of wickedness people were willing to sink to before crying out to God for deliverance. The prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel contain the lion’s share of references to famine. But the most grievous form found mentioned in Scripture is found in Amos chapter eight: “Behold, the days come, says the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord”.
Jesus referred to the famines in the Old Testament and used examples of famines in His teachings and parables. Famine has an immediate and lasting impact on those who suffer through it. But it is most insidious when it is experienced as the spiritual separation described as the abstinence of fellowship with God or His Word. Although God may indeed use food famine in the future as judgments and chastisements, what greater suffering could a believer experience than to be cut off from the presence of the Word of the living Lord while having the Holy Spirit dwelling within?
Physical strength fades without replenishment of nutrition. Spiritual strength atrophies when denied the reassurance of the comforting words of life. Our brains become clouded and unable to make good decisions when we go very long without water or sustenance. Our minds cease to be rightly associated with the divine plan when we turn from Him to the beggarly elements of this world. There are times and places when we are told to abstain from physical nutrition so we may depend the more upon Him. Nowhere are we instructed to fast from His presence or His instruction. There are events and circumstances where we are directed to reject the authorities appointed over us for His glory. Nowhere is obedience seen as something to be postponed.
Physical famine is difficult. It is not what we look forward to. Spiritual famine is a devastating walk of weakness which takes us further than we would ever desire to go. It denies the promised provision and protection of the only One who can supply every need we know. It glorifies sin and self and Satan himself.
A thousand days without physical food is far more desirable to a minute without Christ. Yet we in frailty of flesh confess our need to be corrected back into the realm of His grace. We need to be constantly reminded of His strength, His righteousness, His Holiness. If we allow the dread of His absence to take hold in our lives, He will not deliver us from the affliction of famine which of necessity must come to drive us home.