Reading in the Old Testament can be unsettling sometimes. You can be reading along about sin, judgment, and destruction that happened 3,000 years ago and feeling glad you don’t live in those times, and then suddenly you feel a little uncomfortable because this 3,000-year-old story sounds a little too much like the United States of America today. We know we have issues with corporate greed or abortion or exploitation of children around us now, but it gets awkward when we start reading what God said about these kinds of sins back then. We’re pretty comfortable with the thought that God no longer punishes entire nations like He did in the Old Testament, but you sure don’t get that comforting thought from reading the old prophets.
The verse that did this for me during the past week comes from the prophet Amos:
“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:” (Amos 8:11, KJV)
We read stories in the Bible where God used a famine to get people’s attention when they weren’t following Him (remember Elijah and King Ahab?), but this sounds like something different. What is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord?
Historically, we could say this verse foretells the “Silent Years” between the Old and New Testaments—several centuries that sort of disappear because they aren’t mentioned in the Bible. There are some great stories in history that show God was still taking care of His people during that time, but there seems to have been very few times where God communicated directly with anyone. This view would be great for explaining that verse and still keeping us comfortably separated from those people back there.
I really think, though, that the famine Amos described was not in the speaking, but in the hearing. God would have been happy to speak to people (and perhaps was trying to), but the real famine was that they wouldn’t listen. A few verses earlier Amos tells how the people would celebrate the Sabbaths and worship at religious feasts, but all they could think about was when those days would be over so they could go back to their businesses and continue their practices of cheating people and taking advantage of the poor. They didn’t want to listen to God, because they knew they would have to change their ways.
Does that sound more like us? Almost everyone likes to celebrate Christmas, but most people sort of hurry past the part about the baby in the manger. And don’t even bother with the question of why He came; that’s too disruptive of our holiday spirit. What about when we go to church, but our minds are busy with Monday’s job assignment or home improvement projects or (dare I say it?) our next hunting trip? I’ll confess that it can be tough to pay attention to reading my Bible when I’d rather be reading the 2012 Oregon Big Game Regulations. Yep, that sounds like America today, and we’re going to have to work on finding the right priorities for our planning and dreaming and celebrating if we want to hear God speak. I suspect we’ll need to be willing to change our ways, too.
This trail of thought has led me around to the purpose of Faith in the Field. Straight from the main page of the website, the vision is “to introduce people to Christ through the glory of His creation!” In light of that verse in Amos, it’s an opportunity to fight the famine. To use the avenue of our shared love for the outdoors to remind people that God is real, God is relevant, and what He says matters. To provide an opportunity for hunting buddies to share what they’ve learned about God when the topic might seem a little awkward. To get kids together with mentors who can demonstrate that knowing God and hearing Him is an essential part of navigating life. To encourage fathers to deliberately invest in their children’s lives and encourage them to hear God as well. And perhaps to remind that solo guy somewhere on a ridge in the Eagle Caps to stop and bow his head, acknowledge his Creator, and listen for more than just the bugle of another bull.
Keep listening, my friends.