When I was fifteen years old and disillusioned with church, God spoke to me through Mount Rainier. The mountain seemed to be saying, “There’s more to life than what you can see and feel and touch. The supernatural is real.” That mental picture of Mount Rainier speaking about God’s existence helped me navigate my tumultuous high school years. God speaks to the prophet Amos in a mental picture too: a plumb line.
Early in Amos, the prophet proclaims God’s judgment on Israel because the people “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth” (2:7) and “crush the needy” (4:1). Amos expresses God’s desire: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (5:24).
While he faithfully proclaims God’s judgment on Israel, Amos also argues with God, saying that this small nation needs God’s care and support, not God’s judgment of locusts and fire. Amos describes God’s reply, beginning with the picture of a plumb line, a tool used in construction to make sure walls are perfectly vertical. The picture of the plumb line implies that God is evaluating Israel against the standard of justice and righteousness that Amos has mentioned throughout his prophecy. Is Israel bearing the fruit that God desires?
No! Israel’s walls are crooked, and Amos speaks that truth. The high priest tells him to be silent, but Amos cannot. Amos, like many other prophets described in the Hebrew scriptures, has a strong call to speak God’s truth to the people of Israel (7:14-15). God’s words of judgment in Amos 7:16-17 reinforce the significance of this picture of the plumb line God gives Amos.
God of the plumb line, straighten the walls of our lives. Help us embrace your call to justice and righteousness. Guide us into your truth and your values. Amen.
Amos is a farmer called by God to deliver a message to Jeroboam, the king of Israel (the northern kingdom in the divided monarchy). Because the king has not listened to the warnings from God, judgment will come. The psalmist also warns of judgment, in this case for those who oppress the weak and needy and fail to protect them from the wicked. Such heartless people will surely be brought low by God. The opening to the letter to the Colossians is a prayer of thanksgiving for their faith in Christ and the spiritual fruit they are producing in the world. The parable in the Gospel reading challenges our human tendency to ignore need. Jesus teaches that mercy should overcome any reason we might find to harden our hearts.
Read Amos 7:7-17. Look for God’s plumb line in the world. In what ways is the ground you stand on askew?
Read Psalm 82. If you sit on the council of the Most High, how does this change your perspective on the world?
Read Colossians 1:1-14. Prayers of mere words are just the beginning of prayer. To what prayerful actions do your prayerful words call you?
Read Luke 10:25-37. The author writes, “Even those trying to be faithful walk askew.” Consider how you live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.
Respond by posting a prayer.