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God’s Plumb-Line. Amos 7:7-9

16/09/2014

God’s Plumb Line!

Amos 7:7-9 This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8And 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 never again pass by them; 9 the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

DIY; home decorating isn’t my strong point at this time! I tried to decorate a bedroom last year, and while the painting went well, the wallpapering was a disaster. It was just one wall – what’s known nowadays as a ‘feature wall’ – but when it was finished, there was paste over a good section of one of the adjoining painted walls, the edges of the wall looked more than a little ‘ragged’ the strips of paper seemed to have drifted apart in one than more place, and worst of all, the paper was anything but straight! Lamenting to a friend about the wall, he said, “You should have bought a plumb-line! At least then the paper would have been straight!”

That’s exactly what a plumb-line is for, – to make the work straight, or to test existing work, to see if it is standing true. It’s mostly used by builders, bricklayers, who want a finished wall to be properly constructed, to be standing totally straight, and despite the simplicity of its appearance, after all it’s just a weight on a piece of string, the plumb-line is an important safety device. A wall that is off the true vertical plane will be a danger to those who use the building, for it would be seriously weakened and in danger of collapse.

In the book of Amos, God shows the prophet that he is setting a plumb-line to test the faithfulness of his people. He speaks to the prophet and asks him what he sees, and what he sees is a familiar sight. A wall, with the Lord standing beside the wall, holding a plumb-line against that wall, and declaring that the wall is ‘off-plumb.’ God declares that the wall is His people, and that because the wall has failed the test, because it falls well short of what it should be, it must be removed, and a new wall rebuilt. So:

1. The Nature of the Plumb Line.
Before we look at how God has applied the test of the plum-line, we need to recall what God’s true standards are. God’s test of ‘straightness’ – the Bible calls it ‘righteousness’ – it is the LAW. It is summarised in the Ten Commandments, and if a man or woman wants to enjoy fellowship with God both now and in eternity, they must perfectly keep the law, without any fault or failure – not even once. Jesus makes this clear on a number of times in the gospels. Here’s just one example:-

Mark 10:17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother.’” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The man was precise in his keeping of the law. He had made great efforts at keeping the second table of the law, never murdered anyone, stolen anything, never committed adultery – he was the epitome of moral perfection. But there was a problem – he loved his money more than he loved God – money was his idol, he failed to keep the first table of the law, and so while he was a fine moral example, – he still couldn’t fulfil the whole law, he fell short, and in breaking part of the law was guilty of breaking it all.
The problem is of course, when we correctly apply the test of the law, whether that is to ancient Israel or to modern mankind, we ALL fall far short of God’s stated standards; every one of us! That is one of the reasons why God gave the law, to show us how far short we fall from his standards. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

 

2. The Divine Application of the Plum-line.
So now that we have seen God’s perfect standard, – the Law, how does it go with mankind when we are measured against that standard?

  1. God measures-up His ancient people Israel. So in Amos 7, we have a situation. Amos sees the Lord, standing beside a wall, measuring its straightness with a plumbline: Israel falls short, and because God is always just, he rewards Israel in accordance with their works, and those works are rotten. So he decrees justice, – he promises to punish his own people for their sins. Their time of probation is past. I will never again pass by them; the day of judgement has come, and God MUST punish sin. the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
  2. God measures-up modern people too. We too fall far short. Measured against the law, we are well away from the perfect upright righteous moral beings we need to be to be admitted to fellowship with a God who is holy and completely perfect in every respect. 1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. That’s because we are SINNERS – every bit as rebellious as the Israelites of Amos’s day. And like them, there is nothing for us but justice, – getting what we deserve from God, – judgement and eternal punishment. But there is HOPE;
  3. God measured-up His own Son Jesus. There was only one man who ever completely kept the law and fully met God’s standards; only one who when the plumb-line test was applied, was perfectly accurate in righteousness, and that One was Jesus. In fact, God said to him, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matthew 3:17. And having declared the perfection of his own Son, God delivered him up for us, at the cross, to take our sin and our punishment upon himself, so that God’s perfect justice would be fulfilled in Him. Romans 8:32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

Galatians 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
3. Our Response to the Plumb-line.
Realising our own sinfulness, knowing that when God measures us against his perfect standards, that we would fall short, and be under the curse of the law, – be condemned by our own sins to be cast away from the presence of God for ever, and seeing clearly, through the Holy Spirit’s work that Christ has died for sinners, to take the punishment that they deserve, we respond, – by repenting of our sins, and putting our trust in Christ our saviour.

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