Focal passages: 2 Samuel 21:1-6, 10-14
The agricultural cycle was intricately woven into Israel’s life, so imagine the disruption caused by a three-year famine. In the Bible, famine stories provoke strong emotions of fear, suspense, longing and questioning.
Abraham, Isaac and Joseph were all affected by famines, and the book of Ruth describes God providing in the midst of a famine. In some cases, scripture clearly states that famines were used by God to chastise Israel or other nations (Deuteronomy 28:22-42; 2 Kings 8; Amos 8:11.)
Whether a famine is a trial permitted by God in the course of life in a broken world, or something sent by God in the course of practicing justice and discipline, the example we receive from these stories is to seek God’s favor.
We learn from David’s encounter with the Gibeonites in 2 Samuel 21 that God provides direction and strength when His people face trying times. David “sought the face of the Lord,” and was told that an oath had been broken between God’s people and a neighboring people, and for this reason a famine had been sent. It was not God’s intent to destroy Israel for this sin, rather He was disciplining them with a view toward redemption. The Lord’s reputation of being righteous and just was at stake if He did not act with justice toward all people (Joshua 9:1-15).
Prayer enables God’s people to endure even the most difficult times. Once again the land produces its harvest after addressing the complaints of the Gibeonites. This resolution comes as an answer to many prayers on behalf of the land (2 Samuel 21:14). So then, prayer in the midst of trials should lead us closer to God’s will for our lives, and sustain us while we endure difficult days.
Remember, it is not always the case that trials represent God’s discipline (Matthew 5:11-12; James 1:2), so we must seek the Lord’s face to understand how He may be using trials to sanctify us and glorify Himself.