Thus he shewed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more. — Amos 7:7-8
Have you ever seen a plumbline used? It is a common tool on a construction project. Basically, it is a weight on the end of a string. When that weight is suspended and hangs free, it becomes an accurate vertical reference and will indicate whether or not a wall is perpendicular (plumb).
Our church in Portland, Oregon, is octagon shaped, with eight concrete columns supporting the massive wooden beams that form the roof framework. When construction began, the project superintendent spent days surveying the building site. It was vital to locate the exact point for the center of the building. Later a scaffold was erected to support a plumbline. The point on the weight of that plumbline was aimed directly at what would be the center of the church. Every measurement was in reference to that point, and those measurements were checked and rechecked.
God told Amos that He was going to set a plumbline in Israel. He was going to give them a point of reference so they would understand how far they had gone from His righteousness. That plumbline would establish why judgment would come.
Today, God’s Word can be a plumbline for our lives. We can look in the Bible and see how our spiritual structures measure up. Are the walls plumb? Are we building according to His design? If we have honest, open hearts, the Bible is the reference point: it will show us where we stand in God’s sight. God wants people to be right with Him. He wants any sin or any behavior that is “crooked” to be removed immediately. He wants us to live so our lives glorify Him.
God applies His plumbline to our hearts in many ways. Maybe you have had the experience of reading a Bible passage that spoke to your heart, helping you to understand that God wanted deeper consecrations from you. That’s the plumbline. Perhaps you have sat in a church service and felt that the sermon was meant for you. Maybe through what was said you understood that God wanted you to make an apology to someone. That’s the plumbline. As we pay attention to God’s plumbline, and make corrections that He points out to us, we can be assured of a plumb spiritual structure that will endure.
At the beginning of chapter 6, God condemned both Judah (Zion) and Israel (Samaria); however, Israel was the primary target. The people thought they were secure, but God pointed to other cities that had been destroyed because of their wickedness. God wanted Israel to understand that they would not escape His judgment.
Amos 6:4-6 showed the extent of Israel’s extravagance and self-indulgence. Ivory was a symbol of wealth because of its rarity and high cost, and they used it in their beds. They also ate tender and costly meat (lambs and calves), drank large amounts of wine, and lived in luxurious houses (Amos 6:8, 11). God knew their wealth had been obtained at the expense of the poor and needy.
The people’s worship was insincere. They wanted to believe that their meaningless sacrifices pleased God. However, God preferred right living and wanted them to abandon the empty rituals in which He took no pleasure. Through Amos, God expressed His anger at their lifestyle and disregard for His laws. He prophesied that they would one day be afraid to even mention His name for fear of incurring further punishment (Amos 6:10).
God unveiled the future to Amos through five visions: grasshoppers, fire, a plumbline, a basket of summer fruit, and finally, God Himself. The first vision of impending judgment (Amos 7:1-3) was of grasshoppers and the second was of fire (which may have meant extreme drought). Both times, Amos prayed for Israel to be spared, and God agreed.
The third vision, the plumbline, depicted the accuracy of God’s judgment. God was indicating that He would see if the people were crooked and, if they were, He would punish them. The people were not true and straight because they worshiped false gods, and had gone far from God’s righteous standards. This revelation showed that Israel’s hope was exhausted and judgment would come, so Amos did not intercede after the third vision.
Amos 7:10-15 records a conflict between Amos and the priest Amaziah. Amaziah was concerned about his position, not about God’s message. He accused Amos of conspiring against Jeroboam II, Israel’s king, and suggested that he return to Judah to prophesy. Amaziah did not mind if the truth was preached as long as it did not impact him. Amos responded by saying who he was, and that he was there at God’s command. He proceeded to prophesy about Amaziah and his family, as well as the nation of Israel.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The reasons for the judgment of Israel
C. Future judgment sure
2. Judgment delineated
c. The second woe (6:1-14)
(1) Warning of social corruptness (6:1-6)
(2) Warning of distress and captivity (6:7-14)
IV. The visions of judgment upon Israel
A. The vision of locust plague (7:1-3)
1. The revelation of Jehovah (7:1)
2. The prayer of Amos (7:2)
3. The change of plans (7:3)
B. The vision of devouring fire (7:4-6)
1. The revelation of Jehovah (7:4)
2. The prayer of Amos (7:5)
3. The change of plans (7:6)
C. The vision of the plumb line (7:7-9)
1. The revelation of Jehovah (7:7)
2. The interpretation by Jehovah (7:8-9)
D. Historical parenthesis: Amaziah’s reaction (7:10-17)
1. Amaziah’s rebuke (7:10-13)
a. Before Jeroboam (7:10-11)
b. To Amos (7:12-13)
2. Amos’ reply (7:14-17)
a. His source of authority (7:14-15)
(1) His calling (7:14)
(2) His function (7:15)
b. His prophecy to Amaziah (7:16-17)
God’s Word is the plumbline by which we can measure our lives according to His standards. His measurement is always accurate. It is better for us to remove any crooked way immediately, than to receive God’s judgment.