Following the vision of the basket of summer fruit the subsequent judgment oracle reaches its climax with the bleak declaration that Israel ’s rejection of the Word will result in God’s withdrawal of His Word from them. The dismissal of God’s Word in a society often results in His removal of the Word to the detriment of His people (see Ps 74:9, Lam 2:9). In Amos 2:12 we have seen how Israel demanded that the prophets not prophesy, and in 7:12-13, Amaziah, reflecting the desire of the people, reiterated this to Amos. Those who reject the Word cannot expect that it will always be available.
If this is a correct evaluation, perhaps we can attribute the anemic state of preaching in our day to our nation’s rejection of the Word of God. Several theologians and pastors have declared that the famine of which Amos speaks has come upon our nation. Among them, Walter Kaiser has stated, “the famine of the Word continues in massive proportions in most places in North America .” Steven Lawson writes, “a dearth of biblical preaching has left the evangelical movement weak, starving for spiritual truth …” John MacArthur agrees saying that the evidence for this famine is “overwhelming. … Numerous churches,” he continues, “including some of the largest and best-known ones – have relegated the pulpit ministry to second-class status. … Where preaching is still featured, it is rarely biblical preaching.”
As the pulpit goes, so goes the church; so the feeble state of the church can be traced to a famine of the Word of the Lord from contemporary pulpits. In their “new way of doing church,” Lawson notes, “exposition is being replaced by entertainment, preaching by performances, doctrine with drama, and theology with theatrics.” The irony is that the preaching of the cross, which the apostle Paul wrote is supposed to be foolishness to the world (1 Cor 1:18), has become foolishness to the contemporary church as well. Pastors have turned to other means of communication, and the result has been a famine of the Word in our land.
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones stated, “The most urgent need in the Christian church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” The only way that the church is going to be restored is if pastors repent and return to an unwavering commitment to feeding the people the Word of God through persistent biblical preaching and teaching. This was the priority of early church (Acts 2:42), where the apostles doctrine is purposefully listed first in the passage. Jesus launched his public ministry with preaching (Mark 1:14, 38, Luke 4:18). Moved with compassion, Jesus taught the multitude (Mark 6:34). After His resurrection, He continued to teach and preach (Luke 24:27, 44-45, Acts 1:1-9). Jesus commanded that His disciples would continue teaching (Matt 28:19-20), and that his followers would be primarily identified, not as “fellowshipers,” not as “breakers-of-bread,” not even as “prayers,” but as “disciples,” or learners. The apostles continued after the practice they learned from Jesus by preaching and teaching (Acts 2:42, 3:11-26, 4:1-2, 8-12, 19-20, 31,33, 5:20-21, 29-32, 42; 6:2-10; 7:1-53). Preaching and doctrinal devotion was the first duty with which Paul charged Timothy (1 Tim 1:3 – see also 1 Tim 4:6, 11, 13-16; 5:17; 6:17, 20 and 2 Tim 1:13-14; 2:2, 14-15, 24; 4:2).
Biblical preaching must occupy the leading place of influence in the church – it always has, and must continue, or else the church will continue to waste away. Jonathan Edwards declared, “the primary importance of the pastor is to be an expository preacher.” But tragically, most of what passes itself off as preaching today falls far short of the standards set by the early church and Jesus Himself. If the church is going to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, if people are going to be brought to saving faith in Christ, and subsequent growth in Christ, they need the pure milk and strong meat of the Word of God – pastors much preach the message of Scripture, focused on Christ, and full of doctrinal instruction and sound theology.
Where are such pulpits today? The early church intensely hungered for them as the fruit of their genuine conversion. Panting after the Word of God is the usual and certain response of anyone truly born again, just as a baby desires his mother’s milk – he cannot get enough of it. Yet today professing Christians stagger like drunken men from coast to coast looking for “a Word from the Lord,” in every place except where it should be found. Thankfully we can state with assurance that the Word of God is still preached from pulpits in this nation, and hearts that hunger and thirst for such preaching can still find it. Though we may very well be in the midst of judgment through famine, Christ, who is our good shepherd, has not starved His church in this nation. The question is: are you starving yourself by neglecting and abstaining from the full-course meals offered from biblical preaching?
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