When I think about the prophet Amos, I always think of three things: justice, righteousness, and the plumb line. Amos has been called the Plumb Line Prophet because he had a vision of God standing by a wall with a plumb line in His hand. In case you’re not familiar with a plumb line, it is simply a weight suspended from a string and is used to determine an exact vertical. It is a reference line used by carpenters to keep their work straight. The plumb line sets the standard and it does not change with the whim of the carpenter. It remains true and all work must line up with it. In Amos’ prophecy, God was using the plumb line to measure Israel’s faithfulness to His Law. Sadly, they did not line up.
Most of Amos’ prophecy is an indictment of the nations, including Israel and Judah, for their sins against Him and one another. All failed to measure up to God’s plumb line, and because He is a God of justice, judgment would fall on the guilty. Israel was singled out because they were His privileged people. He had chosen them, made a covenant with them, delivered them from slavery in Egypt, and given them His Law. His Law was their plumb line, but they had despised it. Theirs’ was a sham religion. They exploited the poor, were ungrateful for God’s mercies, and silenced the prophets from speaking the truth. They worshiped idols and failed to honor God. So He asked them a rhetorical question, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed” (Amos 3:3)? Of course not! When you walk with someone you must walk in the same direction and at the same pace. But Israel had strayed far from God, far from the plumb line of His law. They were not walking with God.
God did not give His law to be a burden to Israel, but to be a blessing -- to enable them to live peaceful, prosperous, happy, and holy lives. But the Book of Judges tells us they did not want to live God’s way. They wanted to do what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6, 21:25), and so that is what they did. They refused to live according to God’s standard, so they had no standard at all. They lived by their own whims.
As I think of that and the sadness and misery that followed in their lives because of their choice to reject God and His Law, it makes me sad for our world today. We live in a secular world and it is increasingly easy for Christians to fall into the secular trap and walk away from God. He has given us His Word in the Bible as a Plumb Line for our lives, to keep us close to Him and enable us to live peaceful, prosperous, happy, and holy lives. But if we don’t read His Word, ponder it in our hearts and minds, and obey it, then we are like the Israelites -- we follow our whims and do what is right in our own eyes. Then we end up suffering the consequences -- if not now, then later.
Just as the prophet Joel proclaimed the day of the LORD, Amos also warns of that day, a day of woe and a day of darkness…, very dark with no brightness in it for those whose hearts have not been found true to God’s plumb line (Amos 5:1-20).
Everyone needs a plumb line in his or her life -- a reference point to keep us on a path of good and not evil (Amos 5:14) and Amos has shown us that God and His Word are our plumb line. In Amos 5:24, God says, “Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like and ever-flowing stream.” Indeed it will. God promises justice, which means judgment of evil, and, on the day of judgment, righteousness will flow and those who have loved God and honored the Plumb Line will have no reason to fear or be ashamed.
May you always find joy in staying true to the Plumb Line.
I have been involved in Disciplers since 1987, as a discussion leader, teacher, writer, and now as director. I am profoundly committed to the stewardship of this ministry which God has entrusted to me for a time. God’s word is the chief joy of my life. I cherish my personal time in the word, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to share His word with you, my fellow disciples in Christ.