Staying Alive In The Famine Of The Word

I’ve been seeking to pay closer attention to the larger context of Bible passages, and it paid off this morning when in a time of prayer I read Psalm 33.

I noticed that it starts out with a call to rejoice in the LORD, and to praise Him “on an instrument of ten strings.”  The number ten in Scripture usually signifies trouble and testing.  “Ye shall have tribulation ten days…” (Rev. 2.10).  Some people—like this psalmist—love to praise the Lord so much that even their troubles become an instrument on which they praise Him.  They say, “Give me that thing; I can make a tune on that!”

Then in verse four I noticed why the psalmist was rejoicing.

For the word of the LORD is right; and all His works are done in truth (in faithfulness).

The psalmist is rejoicing in the Lord and praising Him because of His Word.  In all His troubles he had something solid to stand on, something reliable, something faithful and sure in a fickle unstable unfriendly world.

Then he says this:

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.

This is the verse that stood out for me this morning.  “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”  Notice this—“the word of the LORD… the breath of His mouth.”  Have you ever tried to speak holding your breath?  It can’t be done.  The words you speak are carried by your breath.  The word of God by which He created the Heavens and all the host of them was a word from His mouth, a word borne by His breath—His Spirit.  It was a living creative word.  And so the psalmist continues:

Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

This is why the psalmist was rejoicing.  In the creation right before his eyes he had evidence that God’s word—the kind of word that His breath impels—is right.  What God says is done; what God commands stands fast.

Now the reason why I said it paid off to read the verses of this psalm in their larger context.  Toward the end of the psalm are these verses:

Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy;
To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

Considering the context of the psalm, he is not talking about literal famine.  As grievous as that is in our world there is a greater more serious issue—the famine of hearing the words of the Lord.  For, “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Mt. 4.4).

It’s quite familiar these days, but let’s remind ourselves of that prophecy in Amos once again.

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:
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).

We are in that famine right now, fellow Christian.  These days it’s very difficult to hear the kind of word that is a living word—the kind of word that is borne by the His Breath and proceedeth from His mouth—the kind of indispensible word we need this day for our daily bread.

But the psalmist rejoices.  He has the promise—and God’s word is right.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy;
To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

“Behold,” he says.  Do we see this?  What a comfort to see this—His eye is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy.  He will deliver us from the state of death that so many around us live comfortably in—for the moment.  He will keep us alive in famine.

How does He do this?  As long as things are going okay in our lives it doesn’t seem all that important to be hearing a living word from God.    As long as we are prospering in peace we do quite nicely, thank you.  It doesn’t matter to us that we are not hearing from God.

But when things start to unravel–maybe we are not quite there yet, but we are going to be– and when people get desperate… and get thinking… and become aware they are out of touch with God, and run to the church on the corner and go away to look elsewhere (for sadly all too often His living word can’t be found in the church on the corner anymore) they will end up running here and there frantically to find a word from Him.

And will not find it.

Let this perilous neglect not be our testimony.  Let us be numbered among those who fear Him, who recognize continually our need for His lovingkindness and mercy—and seek Him earnestly today for the daily bread that keeps us alive.

We have the promise of the psalmist– who proclaims that the word of the Lord is right– that we shall find it.

2 responses »

  1. A very good word, Allan!

    Something the Lord has been making very real to me of late is another profound aspect of “the Bread of Life” that transcends the truth that we are to “go to Him for our daily bread” namely to “get a Word” which sustains us, is that the Lord Jesus said, “I AM the bread of life.” He said this to those who looked to Him expecting the Lord to give them food, and the Lord told them, “I AM the bread of life.” This means that He is not only the One who GIVES the bread of life, but He IS the Bread of Life ITSELF. The Giver and the gift are one. He is not only the Giver, but also the gift of God. Scripturally, bread means satisfaction. The Bible uses hunger to express man’s dissatisfaction. In order to solve man’s physical dissatisfaction, man must have bread. Whether or not God’s children have the strength to go on depends upon whether they are satisfied within. Today if we feel satisfied within, we have strength. We cannot say that we do not have life, but we can at times be without strength. Satisfaction gives us strength. Satisfaction enables us to walk. Satisfaction makes us “feel well”.

    The Lord Jesus said, “I AM the bread of life.” The Lord gives life, and He also sustains life. Many think that the bread is just an hour’s prayer or an hour of reading the Bible; they do not realize that the bread IS the Lord Jesus HIMSELF. I am not saying that prayer or reading the Bible is useless, but I need to remember that the Lord Jesus said, “I AM the bread of life.” The Bread of Life is simply HIMSELF. Many times God’s people are not satisfied because they do not realize that Christ IS the bread of life, and He dwells within them. We often meet hungry people, those who are not satisfied with “spiritual things”. They are not satisfied with this, and they are not satisfied with that. Others have been dealt with by God and therefore they live before God humbly and fearfully. They have touched the Lord and eaten to the full. They are satisfied before God, and THIS satisfaction (Himself being their Bread from Heaven) is their power.

    May you be encouraged by this word.


    • Hi Tim, your comment reminded me of something I read recently in “Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret.” He had written a letter to someone in which he referred to this same verse: “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (Jn. 6.35). Taylor emphasized that all too often Christians view this as a one-time thing– something they did in the past; they came to Jesus, believed in Jesus. But in this verse Jesus has in mind a continual thing– coming to Him daily and continually anticipating that He Himself will be the bread we need for today; believing on Him to meet our thirst and never being disappointed. I feel convicted writing this statement, for I know what it’s like to live in a dry and thirsty land where no water is. That’s to be expected, but why do I forget His promise, that humbly coming to Him in my present need, believing on Him, I shall never hunger, never thirst? This was the “spiritual secret” Taylor discovered. He found the grace to believe the Lord for this, and found it to be true. Thus he entered into a beautiful rest of faith.

      …Thanks for the comment, Tim.



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