“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when 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.
They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.”
This ominous promise given to Israel in the 8th Century BC was a warning of coming judgment from God—judgment not in the form of fire and brimstone from heaven but in a manner that is actually far worse. God promised to send a famine of “hearing the words of the Lord.”
It is the same thing that the Apostle Paul warned Timothy was coming in the perilous times in the New Testament era: “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, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Scripture clearly warns us that there will be times when people who are called by God’s Name will quit listening to the actual words of God and will instead seek guidance and affirmation from other sources—even myths—all the while thinking they are hearing from the Lord.
Such times are expressions of God’s judgment. Such people are deluded and under judgment. What makes this even more tragic and ominous is that Paul tells us there will be teachers aplenty who will serve this benighted passion by reassuring people that the way of error is actually the way of truth.
Such false teachers fill the earth. They are enemies of the cross and their end is destruction (Philippians 3:19-20). Those who follow them will likewise be destroyed.
So, how can God’s people guard against being led astray? How can we stand firm in the evil day?
The words of J.C. Ryle from the 19th century answer these questions in an insightful and straightforward way by calling us to give ourselves to a sincere devotion of the written Word of God. We need to heed this counsel as much today as did believers in his day. May the Lord grant us grace to do so.
You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are round you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always labouring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.
To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.
Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible….Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible….Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?
There are many today, who believe the Bible, yet read it very little. Does your conscience tell you that you are one of these persons?
If so, you are the man that is likely to get little help from the Bible in time of need. Trial is a sifting experience….Your store of Bible consolations may one day run very low.
If so, you are the man that is unlikely to become established in the truth. I shall not be surprised to hear that you are troubled with doubts and questions about assurance, grace, faith, perseverance, etc. The devil is an old and cunning enemy. He can quote Scripture readily enough when he pleases. Now you are not sufficiently ready with your weapons to fight a good fight with him….Your sword is held loosely in your hand.
If so, you are the man that is likely to make mistakes in life. I shall not wonder if I am told that you have problems in your marriage, problems with your children, problems about the conduct of your family and about the company you keep. The world you steer through is full of rocks, shoals and sandbanks. You are not sufficiently familiar either with lighthouses or charts.
If so, you are the man who is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time. It will not surprise me if I hear that one of these clever eloquent men who can make a convincing presentation is leading you into error. You are in need of ballast (truth); no wonder if you are tossed to and fro like a cork on the waves.
All these are uncomfortable situations. I want you to escape them all. Take the advice I offer you today. Do not merely read your Bible a little—but read it a great deal….Remember your many enemies. Be armed!