Text: Amos 8:11-12

The COVID-19 global outbreak has caused supply chains around the world to be disrupted. Farmers who have harvested their food are unable to transport their food to those who need them. Thus, they are forced to destroy the products which they cannot sell. Could this be the result of famine in diverse places? We will see.

On the other hand, the disruption in supply chains has also created concern that there will be a famine of medicines. With increasing numbers suffering from COVID-19, there is naturally a greater need and demand for medicine. However, with countries under lockdown, securing medical supplies have become a challenge. Will there be a famine of medicines? Again, time will tell.

However, the worst type of famine is not that of food, water or medicine. Rather, it is the famine of Words. To put it more specifically, it is the lack of hearing of the Word of God, that will be most disastrous for anyone.

We read about such a famine of Words in Amos 8:11-12, “Behold, the days come, saith 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: 12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)

The children of Israel had persisted in their rejection of the Word of God. Due to their hardness of heart, the LORD determined that they should go into exile. This was fulfilled with the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. During the exile, some will come to realisation that the Scriptures was the most precious heritage they had. However, it will be too late. They will now try to find opportunities to learn God’s Word, but there will be none!

This famine of Words is the worst type of famine because it pertains to the soul. A lack of physical food affects our bodily functions. However, if one is well-fed with spiritual food, both his body and soul will be saved, and he will bear a good witness for Christ. Though he may end up in the grave from hunger, yet he will be safe in the arms of Jesus in heaven, as a possessor of eternal life. One day, he will be risen from the dead with a glorified body and will live eternally in the New Jerusalem. On the other hand, if there is no spiritual food, the soul will die. How will one know Christ if there is no faithful proclamation of the truth? All physical food and nutrients be in vain. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)

Thankfully, during this pandemic, we are still able to hear the preaching of God’s Word due to technology. We now have the means to live-stream worship services, fellowship group meetings and prayer meetings. We were also able to distribute pre-recorded videos for the edification of the saints. Had this pandemic occurred years earlier, things would have been a lot harder.

Nevertheless, is it still possible to have a famine of hearing God’s Word despite technology? Yes, when there is a lack of faithful and accurate preaching and teaching of the truth. There can be a proliferation of online “Christian” material, but if these resources twist and corrupt the Scripture, they would in fact promote a false Christ. People will end up being poisoned, rather than fed. This was the case of the Northern Kingdom, who had many “teachers” that were charlatans. Thus, Hosea laments that God’s people were destroyed by a lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). This is the tragedy of the famine of Words.

Sadly, as the days go by, we see Christianity weakening in good and proper teaching. This is in line with God’s prophecy that there will be a great falling away during the end times (2 Thess. 2:3). This period of COVID-19 has seen much proliferation of material that in fact does harm to the body of Christ. One such practice has been a cheapening and abuse of the Lord’s Supper over telecommunications. Instead of encouraging people to partake of the sacrament with good understanding, we have those who teach people to partake of the Lord’s Supper on their own frivolously. More on this, God being willing, next week.

It is therefore important that the church must have good and proper teaching of the Scriptures. The Sunday School ministry is critical. All teachers must be faithful and able expositors of God’s Word. Let none assume the task of teaching easily, for the issue before us is a matter of life and death. In addition, all whom the Lord has called to teach, should also be much involved first in the study of God’s Word. This period of enforced retreat will be a good time for that.

On our part, let us be much thankful for the provision of faithful teaching and preaching. Thankfully in Singapore, this is still readily available. A famine of food and medicine may come, but there is no reason to fear for the Lord will take care of us. We should be more concerned if there would be a famine of Words. May the Lord spare us from such a famine.

Yours affectionately
Pastor Clement Chew

Weekly Devotion 26/4/2020
by Pr James Tan

“Buy the truth, and sell it not; Also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23

The first emphasis of this proverb is on the truth. It is THE truth, the one and only truth that matters in this world. We live in a world which is filled with fake news, as we often see in forwarded WhatsApp messages. Often, many would forward it without even checking if it is truth or error against official sources. In contrast, the Truth of God’s Word contains no error, and it is definite. It is God’s revealed will to us. When we no longer find a need to study it, when the learning of it becomes a mere ritual, we have lost sight of how precious it is. We are quicker to believe and spread what we read on WhatsApp than what God reveals to us!

Hence, the proverb tells us to “buy the truth”. Goods are bought casually today, with the wave of a card, the click of a button. Likewise, things are also easily sold off or discarded. The proverb talks about a careful transaction, where the cost is measured, and the Truth is bought with the idea that it will be kept for life, to “sell it not”. Remember the merchant who sold all that he had for the pearl of great price! (Matt 13:45-46) This should be our attitude towards the learning of God’s Word. The word here is a command! It is something that we must buy!

The Bible, is not a supermarket, or an online shop where we browse, pick and choose what we want, removing things from our cart when we do not feel like buying it. Some might think that all we need is the Gospel and salvation, and all other doctrines and practices are just “optional”. The Sunday service is the bare minimum that I need to have. Would we consider buying a car, without the brakes and all its safety equipment? This “pick and choose” idea is a dangerous attitude for the Christian to have, and it accounts for why some backslide, or fall away.

Hopefully, we might find this circuit-breaker period as a good time to “attend” more services and fellowships online. Without needing to commute all over the island, there is one less excuse! Or is there a deeper problem, where there is no desire or need to pray together, or fellowship, or to listen and to “buy” the truth?

Perhaps, we have chosen and bought mammon, sin and the world instead, with our time and efforts! This would be the opposite of “sell it not”. The Truth is seen to be unnecessary, or perhaps it is too painful to swallow, and it is sold away. Instead, opportunities and other “commitments”, are seen to be more valuable and precious than God’s Truth. This is where our testimony for Christ, bought by His own blood, is sold off for our own pleasure.

Wisdom, instruction and understanding comes from God’s Truth. Without it, we are left foolish, disobedient and ignorant, holding onto our precious earthly possessions. Even in this circuit-breaker mode, may we have the right focus, to grow in God’s Truth all the more!