I was reading about a little boy – a little boy, a little lad, it says, who had 5 barley loaves and 2 small fishes. And I just wondered how he came to have 5 barley loaves? It was more than he would have needed on the journey. It could have been that he was selling them – if he was the baker’s boy. But anyway, he had enough for the Lord to use and feed the thousands. And, I thought he must have kept near the disciples for Andrew to have noticed him – he said to the Lord, “There is a lad here who has 5 barley loaves and 2 small fishes” and we know that as we keep near to the Lord, the provision will never be lacking.
It caused me to think of famine. I know we have been feasting on Royal dainties but we also know that the time of famine will come unless we keep near the Lord all the time. It tells us about famine in the days of Abraham and Abraham went down to Egypt to sojourn there. Sojourn – it says “to remain – to dwell for temporary – a little while – just a little while.” But, as we heard, it didn’t go too well with Abraham and he left Egypt.
Then we read about another famine in the time of Isaac and before Isaac could go down to Egypt, the Lord said to Isaac, “Don’t go down to Egypt. Remain here in this land and I will be with you and I will bless you.”
We read that Isaac dug wells in that land of the Philistines and it says that he sowed and he reaped a 100 fold – he was obedient to the voice of the Lord. And it was also just sojourning – he was never meant to stay amongst the Philistines.
As we have been reading about famine in the time of Joseph’s days, Joseph’s family came down to Egypt where he was and they were fed by Joseph. When we were working in the Free State, one of our farmer friends told us that the government at that time had a plan for famine. Every time there was a very good harvest, they would put away as much as possible in the granaries so that they would not be caught napping in the time of famine. And whenever there was another good harvest, they first used what was put away and then they filled up the granaries again so that there would always be bread – also to feed the neighbouring countries – they called it the Joseph’s Plan. I don’t know whether we have any plans today, but anyway it was a lovely thought to me that such provision was made.
Then we read of other famines – we read of the time in Judges when the Midianites were very busy and they were destroying all that God’s people had and Gideon was alive and awake to thresh wheat near the wine press so that the enemy would not get hold of it and he was called a Mighty Man of Valour because he saw an opportunity of doing something in time of need.
We read of the time of Ruth and Naomi and Elimilech they went down to Moab in time of famine. Also it says to sojourn there. That sojourn was for 10 years and Naomi felt that she was bereft of everything that was precious to her – her husband and her two sons as she said, “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me.” As we know, Ruth had to be found – it was as the only way that Ruth could help – some people and then – Naomi and her husband were going down to Moab but then Ruth came along and as the people said, she was better to Naomi than 10 sons were – wonderful worth was found there in the land of Moab.
In Elijah’s day, there was also a famine and in II Kings 8 we read of another famine. Elisha had come by the home of that faithful woman – it says she was a great woman – she had spoken to her husband about building a little room on the wall for this man of God who passed by often. And they could make use of that room and they could rest there. She was from Shunam and the time came when there was going to be a famine and Elisha warned her and said, “Go where you can find a place to sojourn and stay a little while until the famine is past,” and that famine lasted 7 years. Then she came back.
While we were in Port Elizabeth, one day – I think it was the last day, Saturday – the bread van was late and there was a bit of a hurry-scurry that there would be no bread for the evening meal and the pantry ladies were on the phone, “Where is the bread?” They phoned and said they couldn’t find the place but anyway, they gathered together and put on some tables, a few slices of bread, hoping that the bread van would come in time, and well, they had bread for supper. But so often we don’t realize the need for the bread to be ready at the right time. We were encouraged in Port Elizabeth to be more spiritual and not to be proud – it was said over and over again! Because there is just something in our human natures – we also heard there is nothing wrong with being good at anything but it is very wrong to be proud about it! And there was such a longing in my heart to know how to be spiritual – not holier than thou, but so often it worries me when we come into a home and we talk and we talk about anything but things that we are living for.
We read in Malachi that the people of God came often together and spoke about these things and the Lord heard it. And it was written down as a remembrance. It’s very precious in God’s sight and sometimes when we have been workers together and we have traveled and somehow we have lovely conversations and I thought, “Now, why don’t we always do it!” Because it is such a help – such an encouragement when we feel God is drawing near and if we don’t feel it we are so empty.
In David’s day, there was also a famine and then, the thing that was really in my mind was – David it says, when he was still serving in Saul’s service, it says David behaved himself wisely and more wisely! Now, David’s army was strong and he said to his captain of the host – he said, “Go number Israel for me.” I don’t know – I would not like to judge David, perhaps he was proud but it says 800,000 strong soldiers there were. But anyway, Joab didn’t miss God’s word and he said, “Why does the King delight in this thing? I am always astounded that Joab was the man who told David, “This is not right.” Anyway, it says that God was working also and David did this thing and brought back the number and it was then that David’s heart smote him. He still had that tender conscience and he said, “I have done very foolishly.” Isn’t it so that sometimes we think back of times that we have done things and have said things and we feel that we have done very foolishly. We should have had more of the wisdom of God. I feel the need to pray for more of that wisdom that comes from above. We know what it is like.
Then, I was just thinking of Amos saying, “There will be a time coming when there will be a famine in the land – not a famine for bread but a famine for the Word of God and they will go from north to south and from east to west, without finding it.” I just thought how God has blessed us in these conventions and has drawn so near and has touched us as we heard in a way no one else knows about. But it is for us to go out and do it, not just be a wishful thinker and I just long that God would help us because we have a desire every day just to draw a little nearer – a little closer so that we may keep this spirit with us.
David prayed at one time when he saw the people offering willingly for the temple for Solomon, his son – he prayed to God that he would keep this spirit in the imagination of their hearts. I also long to do this for myself.