I struggle reading the Bible.
Ironically, I found my daily devotions were easier when I wasn’t a pastor. In fact, I was most locked in when I was working at UPS and having my devotions at 3:15am because I had to be at work at 4am. Something about that time became a great routine and I loved reading through the Word. My challenges came when I was a pastor. I either had read that passage for a sermon or enough times to “already know what it said.”
In 2020, I started a reading plan with my friend, Travis. We both are on target to read every day of the year. It has changed from checking the box to really being an important part of my day and routine.
This week, I read a passage that made me stop. “How did I miss this before?” The passage is Amos 8:11 NLT “’The time is surely coming,’ says the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.’” This verse is staggering. The word “hearing” not only means hearing in the traditional sense, but also “to comprehend, understand and obey.”
David C. Grabbe, in his Forerunner Commentary wrote, “This ‘hearing’ is far more than just being aware of words or concepts. It is a hearing that includes focused, careful attention that, taken to its logical conclusion, ends in obedience. The kind of hearing that will be in such short supply is one that causes right action—in fact, the Hebrew word is often translated as ‘obey.’ This famine causes God’s words not to be heard, and the result is that sin and disobedience flourish—which are a reproach to any nation (Proverbs 14:34).”
The words of the Lord will continue to flow but there won’t be a “tuning in” to His voice. There won’t be that “whisper” when in that situation where you don’t know what to do and God gives you the next step or nudge. When someone cries out in pain, frustration or anger, there won’t be the comfort that comes in feeling God’s presence. When seeking wisdom in a situation, we will be left to our own knowledge and intellect. And the big one, when facing each day, each circumstance…each conversation, personality and challenge…there will be no hope in something that is bigger, unlimited and able to more than I can…there will be no hope except in me.
Here is the biggest twist in the whole problem. For some people, they think that is great. The words of the Lord are more of a nuisance. They like being on the own. They like making their own decisions and choices. Even though the words of the Lord flow freely, they will do it their way. Famine? What famine? This actually brings relief and comfort because it allows me to stay exactly where I am in the safety of my own comfort zone and bubble.
For me, I don’t want to live life without the words of the Lord. I am not enough. I start each day asking God to search my heart and bring out anything that isn’t pleasing in his sight. I need those words to search me deeper than I would – I am too easy on myself. I ask God to forgive me of my words, thoughts and actions that go against his will and purpose for me. I need those words of affirmation that came through the price of the cross to allow me to move forward free from sin, guilt and shame. “I forgive you” from the Lord frees me up to do all that.
I invite the Holy Spirit to anoint me anew each day to walk in a fresh anointing from Him. That I would walk in His presence, leading and discernment. I can’t imagine a day where I don’t have that extra level of insight. When others are wondering how did you know or do that, my source is Him.
Finally, I ask for wisdom. All through the Bible, the words of the Lord continue to bring a maturity, intentionality and insight that go beyond the words of man. And this is just starting my day. That doesn’t even touch the countless prayers that go up during the day with others and the ones under my breath with myself. I am constantly talking to God all day long. I desperately need Him.
A day without the words of the Lord is a famine like no other. In hearing about a famine of food or clean water, it is devastating to think someone doesn’t live through it. It’s hard for most of us to imagine not having an abundance of food and water. Now think a famine of God’s Word. Think of His voice missing from your life. There is no alternative to God’s Word, presence or relationship.
What about you? What would your life look like without the words of the Lord speaking into your life? Would it change your attitude? Your actions? For some, what about the opposite? What would you life look like if you invited the words of the Lord into your life? Again, how would that change your attitude or actions. The choice is yours.