“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another? And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt; get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die. And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan” — Gen. 42:1-5
Corn in Egypt? IN EGYPT? Yes sir; And famine in Canaan? IN CANAAN? Yes, sir; It is as true as the Word of God.
In chapter 42 of Genesis you may read it for yourself. The granaries and storehouses of Egypt were crammed, crushed, bursting full of rich, golden-ripe corn, while the barns and storehouses of Canaan were grainless and empty, for “the famine was in the land of Canaan!”
The pagan land had plenty, and the Promised Land had poverty.There was corn in Egypt where the preachers tell us there is nothing but fleshpots and stinkpots. There was famine in Canaan where the hymn writers tell us there are rivers of milk and hills of honey.
“O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord.”
Surely God has reversed the order of things here, for He has always taught us to expect corn and the finest of wheat in Canaan and famine and disappointment in Egypt. There must be some powerful reason when God does such a striking, startling thing; moving the whole universe to bring about a state of affairs and conditions of people which is the very antithesis of His eternal purpose and permanent plan for all humankind.
Then why was there corn in Egypt? Simply because there was one man in Egypt who loved God better than his own life, a man who remained true to Almighty God and to honor and honesty, in spite of the inducements of friends and the seductions of foes.
And why was there famine in Canaan? Simply because there were ten men in Canaan whose hatred, treachery, and lies had stolen a young brother’s liberty, broken an old father’s heart, and brought a curse upon an innocent people and a beautiful land.
What a story is this of Joseph and his ten brethren! Twenty years after their dastardly deed against their brother and father, they said, “We are true men” — ten of the biggest liars in the country; I am prepared to believe that they had forgotten their terrible sin! but forgotten sins are not forgiven sins, and so God had to move the whole earth to bring their guilt home to them.
From experience and observation, I am bound to say that history is repeating itself today. There is no more apt description of the state of affairs in church and world at this present time than this: there is corn in Egypt and famine in Canaan.
People are finding more reality and earnestness in the world than in the church. Men and women are finding more sympathy and sincerity in secret societies than they can find in the church. And hosts of people are enjoying a fellowship in clubs that the church might and ought to have given them.
When they go to church, they get nothing to eat, for the famine is sore in Canaan. When they go anywhere else in the world, they can always find corn, for there is corn in Egypt.
There are better men in Egypt today than there are in Canaan. There are men in the world who have a higher code of ethics than many who profess to be Christians.
I would rather be a Joseph in Egypt than one of his brethren in Canaan. I would rather be a Daniel in Babylon than a Pharisee in Jerusalem.
1. There is a famine of power in Canaan today. You can see that in the dearth of real conversions and in the barrenness of so-called revival campaigns.
There is nothing more pitiable in evangelistic circles today than the subterfuges to which we evangelists are driven to make a show in the flesh by way of statistics. The presence and power the Holy Spirit are so seldom demonstrated in our midst that only the willfully blind will deny our utter helplessness and powerlessness in these days.
Lots of good people confuse authority and power. Some men have authority to do mighty things but they they lack the power to do things. Other men have the power to do things, and they do them, but they have no authority for what they do.
Jesus Christ had authority and power. Every true preacher of the Gospel speaks with authority when he speaks as the oracle of God, but not every true preacher has power to do the things the Authority says ought to be done.
There is a famine of power in Canaan! And worst of all, we have become so used to our powerlessness that lots of things we have introduced into evangelistic work are nothing short of substitutes for the Holy Spirit.
2. There is a famine of love in Canaan today. So many of us are fighting for the faith of our fathers that we are forgetting the love of our brothers. The popery of sectarianism has raised up so many religious Mussolinis that you must be careful not to offend them. If without knowing it you do offend, there are no extenuating circumstances for you, there is no love to cover your sins! And some of the bitterest sects I’ve ever known were the sects that said they were not sects. I tell you, bretheren, we must be careful.
Does it really matter what we call ourselves if we form ourselves into cliques, parties, and companies? Is it right to dissipate our strength fighting about our opinions when our principIes are all the same? If I belong to Christ, though do not belong to your company, you ought to love me, and I ought to love you. Oh, the bitterness of fundamentalist to fundamentalist! Oh, the disloyalty among the very friends of Jesus Christ! Love makes us like God, for God is love; It is because there is a famine of love in Canaan that we are so unlike God and so like those who do not know God.
3. There is a famine of prayer in Canaan today. We are powerless and loveless prayerless. We will discuss prayer, read about prayer, attend lectures and conferences abpout prayer, but we will not pray. We will preach, sing, play, work, give, but we will not pray.
The only absolute constructive work that we Christians can do is to pray. Prayer can harm nothing but sin and nobody but Satan. The Devil will permit us to do most anything without hindrance, even preaching, teaching, singing, or reading; but if we go to pray, he will battle with us for every inch of knee-drill ground.
Real prayer is never perfunctory; it is always strenuous. It is never easy to the flesh, and a thousand excuses can always be found for doing anything else but praying. Men must always pray and never lose heart, for much is ill-done, more is over-done, but most is undone because prayer is not well-done. Prayer is the forgotten secret of the servants of God. There is a famine of prayer in Canaan.
If you wish to know the popularity of the church, go to the morning service. If you wish to popularity of the preacher, go to the evening service. But if you wish to know the popularity of Christ, go to the prayer meeting.
And what are we going to do about it, brethren? Just this. Let us get down on our faces before God and confess our sins and pray without ceasing that we may qualify to be empowered of the Holy Ghost.
And now — may God grant unto you all His shelter for safe hiding, His truth for sure guiding, His love for rich providing.
After John McNeill, a Scotchman, had pastored in Edinburgh and London, D. L. Moody convinced him that his true ministry was evangelism. So for 16 years he had an evangelistic ministry around the world, part of the time with Moody, the other times conducting his own crusades. Then he came to America and pastored several churches, including Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles — l926-28. He died in l933 in Edinburgh, Scotland.