A Feast of Hearing

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord.”
— Amos 8:11

Amos spoke a word to the Israelites in his day that the Lord would bring upon the land a famine of hearing the word of God.  Reading this verse too quickly can lead to a complete misinterpretation.  It is not that God spoke of a famine of the Word, but a famine of the hearing of the Word.  Many of the themes in Amos underline that fact.  Preaching of the word of God was happening through men such as Amos, Hosea, and Jonah and the Torah was available to them, yet they refused to hear it to the point of conviction and change in their lives.  They failed to act on the need to take care of those around them, to provide for the needy, and help the innocent. They may have been in the presence of the preaching but they were not hearing it nor carrying it out.

Paul tells us through his second letter to Timothy that something similar will happen as time goes on within the church:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” (2 Timothy 4:3)

In a world filled with the Word, we have more avenues to hear preaching than ever before.  We have podcasts, MP3s, Twitter quotes, Facebook commentaries, Youtube teachings, free study programs, Logos, and so on down the line.  But just because the preaching is there does not speak to whether we are truly hearing the Word.  I look at my own walk with Christ and the obedience (or lack thereof) that results and I ask, am I feasting or fasting on the Word of God?  As I look to the Word itself, there are some simple things we can observe in our lives that show that we are feasting or hearing of the Word of God…

1)    What is my diet?  Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy in the midst of His wilderness temptation, “But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”” (Matthew 4:4)  Are we being satiated by the Word that we hear or are we constantly looking for a diet in something else to fill us.  In a spiritual, emotional sense, are we content knowing that the True Word of God is all we need or are we looking for fulfillment in addictions, worldly relationships, worldly success, acknowledgement of man, service for the sake of easing my conscience, false spirituality that believes what it wants about God, or a false religious identity?

2)    Am I hungry for conviction? Paul informed Timothy that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16).  When I attend church on Sunday and when I step into a Bible study or my own private time with God, am I looking for the Word to do its work in my life and, by the power of the Spirit, convict me of righteousness in walking with Christ?  Or, am I looking for someone to tell me how righteous I already am and encourage me that I am fine no matter the state of my life?

3)    What does the Word taste like?  The psalmist declares, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)  When I take in the Word, even if it is convicting, do I find it sweet or bitter?  Is my heart in a place that realizes that all of the Word is meant for my instruction to lead to a more peaceful and fulfilling relationship with Jesus?  Or, do I like to throw out those portions of scripture that may lead to change in my life because they may seem bitter to my flesh?

4)    Is it leading to health in my life?  I had a friend in my dorm in college who existed solely on instant macaroni and cheese, beer, and pizza.  Needless to say, he was not the most fit nor energetic person I ever met.  When we feast on the world, we become slothful, depressed, and lethargic.  When we feast on the Word of Christ, it leads to boldness, energy, and love.  Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16–20).  We know that we are feasting on the Word of God because of what it leads to in our lives… the fruit of love, joy, patience, faithfulness, gentleness, kindness, and self-control.

5)    Do I actually feast?  This may seem like a funny question but in my short life, I have observed that those that merely snack on the Word will not carry it out.  Those that feast on it as a source of life and refreshment will not only be hearers, but doers of the Word.  James writes, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22–25)  Each of us knows if we are snacking or feasting.  Am I sitting down at the table with Christ and truly feasting?

Read through the calling of God to the Israelites to the various feasts.  Read through the parables of Jesus about the marriage feast.  What  you will see is that God does not call us to snacking, He calls us to feast.  My prayer for us this week is that we will not snack on the Word of God as we see fit.  Rather, I pray we would take the invitation to the feast of Jesus seriously and devour all that He has to offer because it “…will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:8)