One of the signs our Lord Jesus Christ talks about in Matthew 24 is hearing of famines, pestilence and earthquakes – 24:7. These are the things to happen as the Day of Our Lord draws near. It is evident that the Bible has recorded such happenings of famines, pestilences, land sinking down and of land devouring lots of lives, somehow natural, on the other hand as a punishment due to wickedness of the people of that particular time. Today we hear of a number of African countries as being in danger of facing serious famines as already is evident in the countries predicted. My country, Malawi is now on the list after rejoicing at the bumper yields last year. The meteorology services at seeing good rains beginning late October through early November they started predicting a much more bumper harvest this year. It really indicated that way. But to the contrary, many parts of the country especially the lowlands and the Shire valley have experienced the hot deserts rainfall which has survived little grass in the potholes and depressions. As for the earthquakes even the old people of today can’t remember having heard of them happening here, but earth tremors, yes, they have been happening several times even in my life time. Karonga, a district in the north of the country is the one experiencing serious earthquakes killing still an indefinite number of people and leaving thousands homeless. It’s terrible this year. And what I have learnt from the Bible is that where a bad omen befalls a people there is more wickedness God finds than righteousness in that land whereby the people enjoy there living in their wickedness. Funny enough you hear the very wicked people talk of the punishments God puts on people. In mockery they speak this to people that look God-loving saying ‘we shall perish likewise’. With the Bible knowledge in schools, nearly everyone has some knowledge of the Bible’s major stories from creation to revelation whether Christian or not. From the Bible events we have Christmas and Easter that denote the God of Israel that the world may know, fine. But God has hardened their hearts or they may repent and be saved.
I wouldn’t have thought of writing about it but my heart is forced to do it because of some outside force of feeling that people should understand that the past foretold of the present, and the present is for preparation of the future. Governments and non-governmental organizations put disaster preparedness strategies to alleviate the impact of the predicted disasters when they actually occur. What are we doing as individual families of the believing family of God about our physical survival as we look at the prolonging famines? What more with the needy old ones and orphans that are amidst us waking up early rushing to the rubbish bins or other for whatever food item is thrown there; or going about begging in the homes, maize mills or standing by factory kitchens and restaurant sites. It’s not fiction or imagination. It’s a great experience God has put before us this moment. I am living at a busy trading centre that has developed due to presence of the sugar estate and manufacturing company surrounded by villages that depend on the rainfall for our crops. I also cultivate in the village using a water pump when rains fail and during winter cropping. As a believer and a villager too, I can’t find better words to express how hard it is to work within hungry people especially the regular aged with their orphans that come to the gardens seeking piecework not for money only but mostly for food items such as the bananas which are in the garden, or to bring them the food items, say, maize flour, or potatoes because they pick and cook straight away. I don’t say the gardeners manage. That’s famine. Nothing or something in the home but little or nothing too in the fields as it is with the Shire valley. And because it is God striking, most strategies fail too so that we may know He is God who creates by words. ‘There be famine’ and it occurs and He finds it good. He washed away the Egyptians on the Red Sea. It was good for Him. He ordered the sky not to drop any rain for three and a half years during the time of Prophet Elijah not to fall on the land of Israel for the wickedness of the time. It was good for Him. He rained hails of fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, nothing was wrong before God to the destruction of the lives. He also paused harvesting in Canaan several times, the famines which led Abraham, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob, to leave the land at different times for either Egypt or Gerar; yet it pleased God, because he had purposes for doing all these.
Talking about the earthquakes in Malawi today which started on 6th December, 2010 reminds me of the ruins of ancient town of Kursi on the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee we toured of 1st October, 2007. We were told that Kursi was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 and abandoned. The depression itself tells that there could be no one that survived this terrible earthquake. I think that those living that time at seeing that destruction might have said, as we say today,” God is fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy in our sight. The Day of the Lord is at hand”. Imagine, 749 to 2010 is long time taking it at human counting of the years marked by the seasonal cycles and the new moons. While to God it’s nearly only a year and half years taking it from the Biblical counting of a thousand years to one earthly year in the sight of God. If you go to Israel and start visiting the ancient sites, and think of the present generation, you will definitely come to Matthew 24 verse by verse and tell yourself, ‘only believe, Thus says the Lord,’ at wondering how accurate the Bible is. “Not one stone will be left on another…” was the prophecy of Jesus beginning His talk of the signs of the end of the age. So hard was this shake and depressing of the earthquake that sunk such a height of the remains of the 5th century church and monastery at the site of ancient town of Kursi said to have been accidentally discovered after the 1967 war when a road was paved along the eastern bank of the Sea of Galilee. I think somebody survived this earthquake to tell the tale and if he had heard of Jesus’ Matthew 24 telling of the signs of the end time, definitely he must have said it’s fulfilled at his generation period, concluding that Jesus was coming soon. Today people at Karonga and Malawi as whole are talking the same. Even writing songs and poems related to this; and a lot of dubbing preachers talking wise-like. Some like Jonah at Nineveh and some like Thomas because they see. Yes, it should happen this way due to the multiplication of our transgressions for Jesus had said of it that as it was in the time of Noah, so should it be in the end time of the age. Such horrible moments are just the beginning of the birth pains. The end is yet to come. When you face, hear or read about it, say the Lord told me ahead of time; and get prepared all the time you live. Being covenant people of God it’s a must that we purify ourselves from anything that contaminates the body and the spirit. There are numerous records of times of distress in the Bible that should assist us search our hearts time and again in order to understand our present situations. God has a purpose for every situation a nation or people undergo.
Let’s look at the famines again with little narrative. Here we in Malawi are recalling the other famines that occurred in the past. There was a terrible famine in 1949 where a lot of people and animal lives were lost and those who read or heard were reminded of the time of Joseph in Egypt (Gen 47:16-17). Many people lost their property through selling of exchanging for something to eat. Unknown wild roots and fruits were eaten of which many died because of the poison in them. If you look at the famine you will see that it was verging on the close of the 2nd world war within which Israel had become an independent nation again in May, 1948. Talking about the war itself it is incredible for you find that some people fought the war without themselves knowing the cause, rising against a people they had never come into conflict. The purpose was great. Maybe God wanted His people Israel, and the house of Judah see the fulfillment of the promise of their restoration beginning; God restoring their fortunes and having compassion on them.
We have had other minor famines like in 1965, 1983, 1991, 2003 and this year 2010 especially in the Lower Shire valley where they will hardly harvest because there has been a prolonging drought from December through February. This looks greater in our time but is compared lenient to that of 1949. In this cause you find people migrating to other lands to forage for food. At the same time wickedness multiplies; quarrels over land and grazing areas, lasciviousness and promiscuous, deception, crimes, enslavement and many more. Yet God has a purpose for allowing this to happen. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob experienced some of these in one or two famines in Canaan that made them leave the land for Egypt and Gerar. In like manner you find elderly people bowing to able young persons due to hunger just like Esau selling his birthright to Jacob. Similarly a poor nation can sell her rights in the name of foreign investment and globalization. Gradually all the fertile land and major investments become in the hands of foreigners turning the indigenous inhabitants to become their servants.
Abraham, (Gen 12:10-20; 20:1-18) at leaving Canaan for Egypt and Gerar lied that Sarai his wife was his sister for fear of death. Isaac his son, (Gen 26:1-11) at leaving Canaan too for Gerar due to famine also called his wife, Rebecca, his sister for fear of death. See, God at fulfilling Joseph’s dreams, during a fatal famine on all lands of the world, and with Pharaoh’s friendly hand in honour of Joseph his governor for the great plan he had made that Egypt should have food reserves, Jacob (Israel) was brought to Egypt under God’s guidance and care (Gen 46). You see, this famine caused God to remember what He had said to Abraham about his descendants’ enslavement of four hundred years in a land of strangers (Gen 15:13-14). Why I say so is because the end of the majestic reception of Israel by the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time was great misery of oppression by the succeeding Pharaohs. God always has a purpose for allowing dilemma to a people: may be to prepare His servant to be in a better position to serve Him, may be to rescue him from a dreadful act, or to stop him for a while in order to create more faith in Him, or it may be fulfilling a certain promise or prophecy, and what have you.
OK, today we are talking about famine and earthquakes in my country, Malawi, at a time as to the end time of the age, at a time science and technology is most advanced, at a time when multiparty democracy and human rights observance have widely spread calling for international peace, love and prosperity, at a time Africa wishes to have one president of United States of Africa with one currency, oh! Yes, it’s interesting. What’s God’s purpose in Malawi’s food insecurity? We shall know it in the later days. Jesus assured us that all this shall happen upon this generation. When we entered the year 2000 the world woke up proclaiming health for all by 2020 and called it Vision 2020. In famine other jeopardy erupt too such as loss of peace of mind, love and prosperity; outbreak of unknown infectious illnesses adding to the regular ones.
In the earlier famines I have talked of individual families running for their rescue in other lands where food could be found. Then time came when people could not leave but grumble to the leaders for help in time of such troubles. Moses is one example of the leaders that experienced the grumbling of the Israelites when water and food lacked in the wilderness. He cried to God and good water and manna were provided to them. Do all leaders cry to the One True God? (Look at the picture and note how some leaders seek rescue from God.) Surely responses change by ages. The disciples in Acts 11:29 responded differently to the famine prophet Agabus had predicted over the Roman Empire during the reign of Claudius. They gathered gifts while in Antioch and sent them to the believing community in Judea. The disciples from the commencement of their ministry are enforcing the family spirit of sharing that no one should lack something in the believing family of God. Indeed a hand of friendship and openness. I think from this spirit were born charity organizations that put food programmes on the forefront making the Christians jealous for failing to effectively proceed with this spirit to support their own hungry ones. When I see church members grumbling to church leaders, I see Moses in the wilderness and Paul at Antioch, and Pharaoh in Egypt. The leaders can source the gifts for them. The lower Shire valley from 2nd December, 2009 throughout the rain season has not received rainfall that could fill the pits made out of molding bricks. The Shire valley and other affected areas are looking to the government and organizations such as community based and faith organisations to see how they may be assisted in this famine. The same is with the earthquake victims in Karonga district in northern Malawi. But it’s not the end. It is the beginning of birth pains.
God is seeing as well as doing all this. He fulfilled all He had promised Abraham and about his descendants up to Jesus time; and He is fulfilling all He said about Israel and the Church comprising of the Israelites and the gentiles through faith in Jesus Christ. All these calamities are to remind the Church and Israel to be alert and prepare our hearts practically for His second coming. Let’s share our prayers and gifts to the victims elsewhere as we also wait for our turns because we never can tell what fulfillment of the end time pains shall befall us. There are no new creeds and laws other than those we find in the Torah, Prophets, History and Writings of the Old Testament. For instance, Ex.15:26; 23:22; Deu. 11:13; 15:5; Jer.11:6; 1 Sam. 5:6; Ps. 30:2; 103:3; 2 Kn. 20:5; Hos. 11:3; Deu.28:27,58; 2 Chr.7:14. Even of healing our land, bumper harvesting, free from famine and diseases – 2Chr.30:20; Is. 30:26; Ps. 107:20; and many more references that Jesus binds up in saying If we remain in Him and His words remain in us, we ask whatever we wish and it shall be given to us for the glory of the Father that we bear much fruit showing ourselves to be His disciples. Only believe “Thus says the Lord”. All shall come to pass but His words remain everlasting.
Hear the cries of the famine and earthquake victims in the manner of the believers at Antioch that had heard of those in Judea. May God bless you and be watchful not to be yoked together with unbelievers in the walk with Yeshua HaMashiach.
NCHALO BIBLE STUDY AND PRAYER CENTRE
(This article was first published in the third series of Tishrei Journals, Number 9, June 2010)