In our text from Amos, we see a judgment placed on the people of Israel, and it is not pretty! After God had saved Israel from Egypt and had brought them into the Promised Land, Israel gradually strayed further and further from God over hundreds of years. The more God called to Israel to keep them from sin and destruction, the more Israel rebelled against God. It is at this point in Israel’s history where Amos speaks, where God decides that it is time to send a famine through Israel: not of bread and water, but of His Word. Israel will not listen, so God will stop speaking.
This may not seem like a big deal, especially since Israel did not listen to God anyway. But what Israel will soon realize, and what we must realize also, is that the presence of God’s Word is tantamount to God’s presence, and that it is God’s presence that sustains His people. Rejecting God’s Word is equivalent to rejecting God’s presence. And without God’s presence, Israel destines herself for a spiritual famine.
In the Ancient Near East, people who had not stored up supplies of food during a time of abundance would go hungry and thirsty when the time of famine came. In the same way, Israel throughout its history, had an abundance of God’s Word because God was with them. Yet, instead of storing up God’s Word in their lives, they rejected God’s Word over and over again.
This leads to today’s reading from Amos, where God declares there will be a famine of His Word, and the result will be Israel’s people fainting from their spiritual thirst. The old and the young, those who put their hopes in false gods or in the ways of the world, all who reject God’s Word and consequently reject God’s presence will fall.
This passage is a stern warning to Israel that their waywardness from God will lead to their fall, because it is the Word of the Lord that is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. It is a warning to anyone who reads today and continues to reject God’s Word that their path leads to destruction, just like that of Israel.
But this passage is also an invitation for us to receive God’s Word that is readily available around us and to store it up in our hearts, that God’s Word may overflow in our lives. For it is His Word that fills us. It is His Word that sustains us. It is His Word that saves us in the wilderness that is our world.
We may be tempted like the people of Israel to seek worldly things to fill us (possessions, achievements, people, pleasures, etc.), yet these temporal things can never fill our souls, which are eternal. But if we store up God’s Word, which is forever, then we will begin to see that God’s Word, and in effect God’s presence, is all we need. We will never be without in any situation because we never go without God’s Word; because we have God’s Word stored up in our hearts.
Let us take every opportunity to store more of God’s Word in our hearts, seeking His Word and His presence to fill us.