Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”
And I said, “A plumb line.”
Then the Lord said:
“Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of My people Israel ; I will not pass by them anymore.
The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.”
God shows Amos another vision, one which will appeal to all of our craftsmen – this time the vision is of God holding a plumb line. A plumb line or plummet is a line from which a weight is suspended and is used as a vertical reference. It is directed exactly toward the earth’s center of gravity, and as such it ensures that new constructions are perfectly upright. It also can be used to reveal whether an existing structure is square. You cannot tell if a structure is built perfectly upright by merely looking at it, but a plumb line will soon reveal its soundness. The plumb line has been used by builders and masons since the days of ancient Egypt .
Unlike the first two visions given to Amos, this vision is not one of complete destruction, but it is rather more ominous. Our text pictures God in two building roles – first as the architect who has designed and built a wall perfectly plumb. Secondly He is a surveyor who has returned with a plumb line to assess the soundness of the wall. The wall represents Israel , and the plumb line, the test which makes her failure official. Unlike the first two visions, this time there is no prayer offered from Amos, and no relenting on the part of God.
We have already seen in the book of Amos how the religious houses, which should have modeled how covenant grace was supposed to operate among the people of God, had instead become shrines of self-will, pride, self-indulgence, and complacency. Though Israel was built big, long and impressively, when it was put to the test – when the plumb line was dropped – it became clear to all observing, how far they had strayed. It’s been said, “beware the wrath of a patient adversary.” Up to this point God has been very patient with Israel, but now judgment was incontrovertible. Amos could no longer intercede because he could see before his eyes just how deserving of judgment Israel was. So God tells him that He will no longer pass by them for the sake of the remnant. The high places and sanctuaries characterized by Bethel , Beersheba , and Gilgal shall be made desolate and laid waste. God will even strike the house of the king.
But what is the plumb line in this vision? Alistair Begg proposes that it is made of two strands – that of Law and Redemption (Deut 7:8-11). Read Leviticus 19 to see what the strand of law requires. In it God demands that our lives display His likeness. God says, “you shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2). That is our plumb line – as Christ said, “be ye perfect.” Such law is a plumb line in the hand of God with which He checks the walls of our lives. It is not until we compare our lives to the plumb line of perfect law that we find just how skewed our lives really are. It must be recognized that against the measure of God’s perfect law, the church will always be skewed. In this way the plumb line leads us to the second strand, that of Redemption.
Christian, be reminded of how Christ is the cornerstone of the church which He is building into a temple of the Holy Spirit out of stones which were once dead, but are now made alive by grace through faith. Read 1 Peter 2:4-10. Christ was measured with a plumb line, and though He was perfect, He was torn down like a badly sagging wall. He was made to pay for what is badly skewed and sagging with the walls of our lives.
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