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The Plumb Line

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THE PLUMB LINE

ALL OF US FREQUENTLY COMPARE OURSELVES FAVORABLY WITH SOMEONE ELSE. WE ALL THINK OF SOMEONE WHOM WE CONSIDER TO BE LESS MATURE, LESS COMPETENT, OR LESS ABLE THAN WE ARE. THAT PERSON IS A GREAT COMFORT TO US BECAUSE HE OR SHE ENABLES US TO KEEP OUR SELF-IMAGE INTACT BY SAYING, “WELL, AT LEAST I’M NOT LIKE SO-AND-SO.” THE ONLY PROBLEM WITH DETERMINING OUR SELF-WORTH BY COMPARING OURSELVES WITH OTHERS IS THAT WE ARE USING THE WRONG MEASURING STICK.

A LITTLE BOY CAME UP TO HIS MOTHER ONE DAY AND SAID TO HER, “MOTHER, GUESS WHAT! I’M EIGHT FEET, FOUR INCHES TALL!” HIS MOTHER, GREATLY SURPRISED, INQUIRED INTO THE MATTER AND FOUND HE WAS USING A SIX-INCH RULER TO MEASURE A “FOOT.” THE BOY WAS ACTUALLY ONLY A FEW INCHES OVER FOUR FEET. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WE DO. WE MEASURE OURSELVES BY ONE ANOTHER, AN IMPERFECT PROTOTYPE, RATHER THAN BY THE STANDARD OF THE WORD OF GOD.

THIS MORNING I AM ASKING US TO THINK ABOUT OUR STANDARD OF HOLINESS. AS INDIVIDUALS DO WE COMPARE OURSELVES TO THOSE WHOM WE CONSIDER TO BE LESS RIGHTEOUS THAN WE ARE? AS A CHURCH DO WE COMPARE OUR MINISTRY WITH THAT OF THE CHURCH DOWN THE ROAD? IF WE ARE MAKING SUCH MISTAKEN COMPARISONS IN OUR CHRISTIAN WALK, THEN HOPEFULLY THIS MORNING WE WILL DISCOVER THE TRUE STANDARD BY WHICH GOD COMPARES US.


READ AMOS 7:7-9

AMOS SAW THE LORD “STANDING ON A WALL.” THE WALL IS NOT IDENTIFIED, BUT IT CAN BE ONLY ONE WALL – THE WALL OF ISRAEL’S CAPITAL CITY, SAMARIA. THE WALL AT SAMARIA SYMBOLIZED ISRAEL AS A NATION. AMOS TELLS US THAT THIS WALL “HAD BEEN MADE WITH A PLUMB LINE,” OR HAD BEEN BUILT TRUE TO PLUMB. IN OTHER WORDS, THE WALL HAD BEEN BUILT STRAIGHT. THE WALL WAS BUILT PROPERLY AND IT STOOD STRAIGHT AND DID NOT LEAN OR SAG IN ANY DIRECTION.

SYMBOLICALLY, THIS MEANS THAT ISRAEL HAD BEEN RIGHTLY AND PROPERLY ESTABLISHED AS A NATION. THE LORD HAD GIVEN HIS PEOPLE THE PUREST ORDINANCES, STATUES, AND REGULATIONS FOR CHURCH, STATE, AND SOCIETY. EVERYTHING WAS IN HOLY ORDER. EVERYTHING WAS DIRECTED TO ITS PROPER GOAL, WHICH WAS THE GLORY OF GOD. WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR ISRAEL IN THE OLD TESTAMENT HE ALSO DOES FOR THE CHURCH IN THE NEW TESTAMENT PERIOD. HE HAS BUILT HER SQUARELY AND SOLIDLY ON THE FOUNDATION OF JESUS CHRIST CRUCIFIED AND RESURRECTED.

IN THE VISION, AMOS SAW THE LORD AT THE WALL. HE HAD A PLUMB LINE IN HIS HAND. WHAT IS A PLUMB LINE? ROY HONEYCUTT TELLS US, “THE PLUMB LINE WAS SIMPLY A STRING WITH A WEIGHT FASTENED TO ONE END. WHEN THE STRING WAS HELD UP TO A WALL, THE WEIGHT CAUSED IT TO HANG IN AN ABSOLUTELY VERTICAL POSITION. ONE COULD TELL BY THIS METHOD WHETHER OR NOT A WALL WAS LEANING, WHETHER IT WAS SAFE OR DANGEROUS.” PAGE KELLEY GIVES US THE REASON THAT WALLS WERE MEASURED BY A PLUMB LINE. HE SAYS, “STONE WALLS, BUILT WITH LITTLE OR NO MORTAR, WOULD SLOWLY SHIFT AND SETTLE UNTIL THEY WERE BADLY OUT OF LINE.”

IF YOU HAVE EVER SEEN AN OLD CEMETERY ON A HILLSIDE, THEN YOU MIGHT NOTICE THAT SOME OF THE TOMBSTONES ARE LEANING. AT A CAMP THAT MY MOTHER-IN-LAW DIRECTS, THE CABINS ARE BUILT ON POLES ON A HILLSIDE. IN ONE OR TWO OF THE OLDER CABINS THE POLES ARE LEANING DOWN HILL. THE HEAD CAMP DIRECTOR CALLS THIS THE BALD KNOB CREEP. IT’S WHERE THE SOIL SLIDES DOWN THE HILLSIDE OVER TIME AND PUSHES OVER ANYTHING NOT PLANTED IN THE BEDROCK. RECENTLY ONE OF THE CABINS, WHICH HAD SEVERELY LEANING POLES, TOPPLED OVER. WALLS CAN ALSO TOPPLE OVER IF LEFT UNATTENDED. KELLY SAYS, “SINCE IT WAS DANGEROUS TO LEAVE SUCH WALLS STANDING, THEY HAD TO BE DEMOLISHED OR ELSE REBUILT.” FOR THE FUTURE SAFETY OF THE PEOPLE A LEANING WALL WOULD HAVE BEEN TORN DOWN.

THE LORD SAID TO AMOS, “BEHOLD, I AM SETTING A PLUMB LINE IN THE MIDST OF MY PEOPLE ISRAEL” (V. 8). AMOS KNEW WHAT THIS MEANT: JUST AS A WALL WAS BUILT WITH A PLUMB LINE AND LATER CHECKED WITH A PLUMB LINE, SO THE LORD BUILT AND WAS NOW CHECKING ON ISRAEL WITH A PLUMB LINE. HONEYCUTT TELLS US THAT GOD, “WOULD FIRST SET AN ABSOLUTE STANDARD ALONGSIDE ISRAEL’S DEEDS. THEN HE WOULD DETERMINE HIS ACTION BY HER CONFORMITY OR LACK OF CONFORMITY TO THAT DIVINE STANDARD.”

THE PLUMB LINE, OR THE DIVINE STANDARD, CAN REPRESENT ONLY ONE THING – THE LAW. THE LORD HAD ARRIVED ON THE SCENE WITH A PLUMB LINE IN HIS HAND; HE WAS PLANNING TO CHECK ISRAEL AGAINST THE PLUMB LINE OF HIS LAW. WOULD HE FIND ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE WALL? WOULD ISRAEL MEASURE UP? AMOS KNEW THE ANSWER ALL TOO WELL. HE KNEW THE LACK OF JUSTICE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS IN ISRAEL; HE KNEW THAT ISRAEL’S WORSHIP WAS ALL SHOW AND NOT AT ALL HEART-FELT. ISRAEL HAD BEEN BUILT ON THE FOUNDATION OF GOD’S LAW, BUT SHE HAD ALLOWED THE DIRT AND FILTH OF THE WORLD TO PUSH HER OVER TO TOPPLE DOWN THE SLIPPERY SLOPE OF SIN.

WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF THE LORD WERE TO VISIT YOU AND ME WITH A PLUMB LINE IN HIS HAND? ARE YOU AND I LIVING UP TO OUR CALLING TO SERVE THE LORD IN ALL OF LIFE? ARE WE WHAT THE LORD WANTS US TO BE – THE SALT OF THE EARTH, AND A CITY SET ON A HILL? COULD IT BE THAT WE TOO NEED TO BE PULLED DOWN? HOW DOES THE CHURCH MEASURE UP TO THE LORD’S PLUMB LINE? WHEN THE LORD CHECKS US OUT, WILL HE FIND LITTLE OR A GREAT DEAL OF LOVE AMONG US? WILL HE FIND A PEOPLE WHO CARE FOR AND SUPPORT EACH OTHER?

WHEN THE LORD EXAMINES US, WILL HE FIND SELFISHNESS AND GREED? WILL HE FIND MATERIALISM, WORLDLINESS, JEALOUSY, LUST, OR QUARRELING? OR, WILL HE FIND A CHURCH FILLED WITH A PASSION FOR THE LORD AND THE THINGS OF THE LORD? WILL HE FIND A CHURCH THAT IS HOLY AND PURE IN ALL THINGS? WILL HE FIND A CHURCH THAT IS ALWAYS TRUE TO HIS WORD?

“BEHOLD,” SAYS THE LORD, “I AM SETTING A PLUMB LINE IN THE MIDST OF MY PEOPLE” (V. 7). THERE’S NO USE HOPING THAT HE WILL FORGET TO LOOK IN SOME NOOK OR CRANNY OF OUR LIVES, OUR MARRIAGES, OUR HOMES, OR OUR CHURCH. THERE IS NO USE HOPING THAT SOMETHING MIGHT ESCAPE HIS ATTENTION. EVERYTHING WILL BE CHECKED VERY CAREFULLY AGAINST THE PLUMB LINE OF HIS PERFECT LAW. OUR LIVES WILL BE MEASURED AGAINST GOD’S STANDARD.

IN VERSE 9 THE LORD SAYS, “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.” ACCORDING TO AMOS HERE, DEVASTATION WILL FALL UPON THE RELIGIOUS STRUCTURES OF ISRAEL AFTER GOD CHECKS THEM AGAINST THE PLUMB LINE OF HIS LAW. “HIGH PLACES” AND “SANCTUARIES” INCLUDE ALL THE RELIGIOUS SITES IN THE NATION. THE HIGH PLACE WAS AN ALTAR ON A HILL IN THE OPEN COUNTRY. MANY HAD BEEN IN CONTINUOUS USE SINCE THE TIMES OF ABRAHAM, ISAAC, AND JACOB. THEY WERE THE OFFICIAL RELIGIOUS CENTERS OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM ESTABLISHED BY KING JEROBOAM AT BETHEL AND DAN. THESE WILL ALL BE DESTROYED AFTER THE LORD SETS UP HIS PLUMB LINE.

WHEN WE TURN TO AMOS CHAPTER FIVE WE SEE THAT GOD NOT ONLY HAS NO USE FOR THE ISRAELITE RELIGIOUS CENTERS OF WORSHIP, BUT HE HAS NO USE FOR ISRAEL’S RELIGIOUS PRACTICES AND CEREMONIES EITHER. WHEN MEASURED AGAINST HIS PLUMB LINE, THEY TOO ARE FOUND LACKING. THE LORD SAID IN AMOS 5:21-24, “I HATE, I DESPISE YOUR FEAST DAYS, AND I DO NOT SAVOR YOUR SACRED ASSEMBLIES. THOUGH YOU OFFER ME BURNT OFFERINGS AND YOUR GRAIN OFFERINGS, I WILL NOT ACCEPT THEM, NOR WILL I REGARD YOUR FATTENED PEACE OFFERINGS. TAKE AWAY FROM ME THE NOISE OF YOUR SONGS, FOR I WILL NOT HEAR THE MELODY OF YOUR STRINGED INSTRUMENTS. BUT LET JUSTICE RUN DOWN LIKE WATER, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS LIKE A MIGHTY STREAM.” GOD HAD NO USE FOR ISRAEL’S RELIGION BECAUSE, AS ALREADY SAID IT WAS ALL SHOW AND NOT AT ALL HEART-FELT.

GOD HAS SET HIS PLUMB LINE IN OUR MIDST TODAY. HE HAS SHOWN US HIS STANDARD OF EXCELLENCE. THE STANDARD OF EXCELLENCE BY WHICH GOD, THE GREAT CARPENTER, MEASURES US IS BY HIS SON, JESUS CHRIST, WHO IS DESCRIBED AS THE CARPENTER’S SON IN MATTHEW 13:55. JESUS IS NOT ONLY THE SON OF JOSEPH THE CARPENTER, BUT HE IS THE SON OF THE GREAT CARPENTER WHO IS HIS FATHER IN HEAVEN. JESUS IS THE STANDARD BY WHICH WE WILL ALL BE JUDGED. HE IS THE WORD OF GOD, ACCORDING TO JOHN 1:14, REVEALING THAT HE IS THE LAW. JESUS TOLD US, “I HAVE NOT COME TO DESTROY THE LAW, BUT TO FULFILL THE LAW.”

JESUS CHRIST IS ALSO THE ROCK, AND IF WE ARE NOT BUILT FIRMLY ON HIM THEN WE ARE GOING TO BE PUSHED OVER, AND WHEN WE COME BEFORE GOD IN THE JUDGEMENT HE WILL TEAR US DOWN AND DESTROY US. IF GOD WERE TO COMPARE OUR LIVES WITH THE PLUMB LINE OF THE PERFECT LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST HOW WOULD WE HOLD UP? IF WE KNOW CHRIST AS SAVIOR AND HAVE NOT FALLEN AND FOLLOWED THE WAYS OF THE WORLD AGAIN, WE WILL DO WELL, BECAUSE WE ARE MADE PERFECT IN CHRIST.

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