7:7 This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. 8 And the LORD said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; 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.” 10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'” 12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” 14 Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15 and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ [NRSV]
My first experience with the concept of a plumb line was watching one of our parsonage homes being built. I was in kindergarten and completely impressed with the earth movers, cement trucks and piles of building supplies. Each day we would visit the site to see the progress. Early in the process a group of fellows came out and placed a large yellow tripod in the middle of the site where the house was going and they began to all around carrying a tall yard stick. They hammered stakes in the ground and tied strings around the stakes where the corners of the house would later stand. It began to rain and they left. After the rain my dad and I went back to look at the work. He attention was diverted to with one of the trustees. I saw how the water had made the stakes loose and the strings a bit droopy. So I found a rock and knock the stakes in good and tight again and straitened the strings to they looked nice and tight. For some reason those men had to come back the next day and start all over..
The first time I bought a chalk line to measure tiles for a floor. I did not a buy the chalk to go with the plumb device. My assumption was that the chalk was only used to maintain the life of the line inside the plumb and since it was new I could probably save a couple dollars and buy the chalk later. We got read to measure of the sections in the floor and I pulled out my brand new plumb line. It was shiny chrome with a easy grip crank and a weighted hook on the end. The foreman at our mission trip seemed impressed that this young fellow has brought the proper tools for the job and asked me to snap a few lines. Honestly, I had no idea what he meant. Obviously I had never use this tool before. But it seemed reasonable that i needed to pull out the string and give it a snap in the place we needed to measure. As we started the task he commented that he had never seen one with white chalk on the line. I replied, this is a new one and it didn’t need any of that old-school chalk. He directed from a distance and we pulled the string tight and i pulled back the string and POP! I snapped my first line. It left no mark, of course, I tried again, with a good snap, I though it was simple to get the slack out of the line. I grabbed my pencil and started marking a pencil line along the string. The forman ran over and said, what in the world are you doing. I said, I’m drawing a line. After he snapped the line and saw no chalk his began to howl with laughter. The good news was he had a container of chalk, and I got my first lesson in drawing lines for construction. The chalk left the mark of where the line had been drawn.
The prophet Amos had been a landscape engineer and an animal care technician by trade and suddenly God places him as a prophet with a building project and new tools. Namely the plumb line. It is a very ancient tool. We look structures built thousands of years ago with perfectly straight lines and alignments with celestial bodies and precise measure of seasons and we know the plumb line has been around for a long, long time.
The flexibility of the string, the adaptabilty of the strings length, the weight of the point, gives an ancient awareness of the effects of gravity and the perspectives of distance, space and trigonometry, long before these forces and principles were given science and definition. The tools that measure what we do not fully understand but can trust their accuracy are at the heart of the prophet’s message and authority.
Amos was the first to affirm that it was not his words, but God’s words. It was God’s leading and motivation and not his experience nor his idea. Much like Noah’s rainbow was a sign set in the sky to remind God of God’s promise. Amos’s plumb line is a chalked marker for God not to forget. Q: Does God have a memory problem? No.
It is an assurance for us, that God does not forget us. But here is the question. With the struggles in our homes, the wars and famines of the world, the ebbs and dips of economy and politics, they cancers in our bodies and in our social contracts and behaviors… it is easy for us to look around and ask, “What is God right now? Has God forgotten Us?”
The answer is in the prophet himself. We don’t know a great deal about Amos, but we know he is willing to listen, trust and speak God’s mind rather than his own.
Who is willing to remind our leaders what is Godly? Truth, Integrity, Trust, Compassion, Justice, Mercy, Care for the Widow and the Orphan.
Amos was a messenger to the kings and the people. Where is the voice of Amos today? Some would say it is dangerous to mix politics and faith. But I would suggest that Amos is a clear demarkation in the structures of both politics and worship that calls for God to be remembered, revered and respected.
God’s words to Amos is this, “We cannot not claim ignorance nor apathy any more than God can.” If you have not voted early, what are your waiting for. It’s not appropriate for me to tell you who to vote for, but if the voice of God is not repeated by God’s people, then WHO will remind us? God has not forgotten.
Who among us will speak up with Amos and point out the lines of justice, righteous, mercy, justice, purpose and even love.
Who will our children listen to about respecting piers, marriage, and family?
Who will our youth turn to what they face failures, trials and questions?
Who will our adults turn to when we are lulled to believe someone else will lead, speak or go?
Who will our families and households trust when faithless folks promise prosperity, happiness and success?
Amos’ witness has remained over two thousand years, and his actions still remind us, but he is one voice. What are you doing with your voice, your witness? your faith?
God has a standard and the world around us has forgotten it, not God. Who will speak up? Who will keep silent?
I’m not able said Amos, God said, ” Go point out my heart and truth, and go now.” Who is with me?