Vision Three - The Plumb Line
Introduction: When I was a kid I remember going to a little tourist place where the rules of gravity did not seem to apply. Balls rolled uphill. Floors looked level but did not feel level. The walls seemed straight, but were not. After studying the matter, I determined it was all an optical illusion - nothing was as it seemed. Are we living in an "optical illusion?" Has Satan so twisted our vision that we have trouble seeing matters in their proper light? Our lesson this week is about testing with God's standard. Let's dive in!
- The Plumb Line
- Read Amos 7:7-8. What is "plumb?" Is this a fruit that grows on a tree? Is it a short name for people who work on water and drainage systems? (Being "plumb" is a construction term that refers to being straight up and down. A "plumb line" is a string with a weight on the end. When you hold the string at the top, the weight makes the line hang down straight. Today we use a "level" instead of a plumb line to be sure that when we construct a building the walls are level.)
- In Amos' vision, God is standing with a plumb line by a wall that is level. Why? (God wants to show that the plumb line is accurate and that it has been used to construct a proper wall.)
- God then says He is setting a plumb line in Israel. How would that apply to people instead of walls? What does this mean? (It means that God is going to measure His people against absolute truth. No longer is it a question of what seems right to the person. God is going use a true standard and no longer spare the people.)
- Amos protested when he saw the visions of destruction by locusts and fire. God now says He will "not spare" Israel and Amos does not protest this time. Why not? (God is testing, measuring, His people. How can you expect to be spared from that? While we found Amos protesting the visions of total destruction, he does not protest this test because he had been warning the people about false godliness. (See Amos 5:18, 21-22) God is now going to apply His divine measure to the people to test whether the are what they claim to be. He will find out whether they are real or an "optical illusion.")
- Read Amos 7:9. What are the "high places" that are going to be destroyed? (Idols were set up in the "high places." God is going to destroy the idol worship. The test will reveal whether they trust other gods.)
- The Reaction to Being Measured
- Read Amos 7:10-11. Does the High Priest agree with Amos' vision from God? (No.)
- How does the High Priest describe Amos' words? (He describes them as an attack on the King. They are a conspiracy, they are treason.)
- How would you compare the loyalty of the High Priest to the King and opposed to the High Priest's loyalty to God?
- Why would the High Priest describe as treason God's words about the destruction of idols? (This is an example of twisted thinking. Instead of discussing whether or not Amos is theologically correct, the High Priest just calls it treason. He badly needed a "plumb line" for his thinking.)
- We have previously discussed the potential parallels between the book of Amos and the recent attacks on the United States. I have asked in past lessons whether God allowed these recent events as a "wake up" call for us to turn to Him. The response of our citizens has been to come together in patriotism. On one hand, I love the way we came together, on the other hand, I wonder if all reasoned consideration of "our condition" is being lost in a chorus of "God Bless America." What do you think? Are we in danger of being like this High Priest? We turn God's warnings into an issue of patriotism?
- Some who say the recent attacks are a "wake up" call, point to the sins in our society. Who was God measuring with His plumb line? (Verse 8 tells us the plumb line was set "among my people." It is those who claim to be God's followers that are subject to the test. If this is a wake up call, it is not for "them," but for "us.")
- Our lesson (Wednesday) draws a most peculiar conclusion from the High Priest's complaint to the King that Amos is committing treason. It says this shows "the danger of politics and religion being too intricately mixed." What would you say about mixing religion and politics if the High Priest called on the King to repent - and the King repented?
- What is the real evil here? (The real evil is that "God's man," the High Priest, does not look at this issue in theological terms, he looks at it in political terms.)
- Let's stroll a minute down the path that the lesson suggests we take. If the conclusion to be drawn from Amos is that we must make decisions based on God's Word and not civil law, how would you judge the strident demands for "church-state separation?" Is this a Biblical principle or a principle based on civil law (the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution)? (The argument against accepting aid from the government has no Biblical foundation. God approved of the state providing money to rebuild His temple! 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Nehemiah 2:1-9. On the other hand, Jesus tells the Church it has no proper goal to try to control the government. John 18:36; see Matthew 22:21.)
- Read Amos 7:12-13. How would you put the High Priest's directions to Amos in today's terms? ("Go away, you're bothering us.")
- Who did the High Priest say was in charge? (This is another part of the twisted way the High Priest understood his job. He tells Amos to go away and not reveal the messages from God because the King of Israel is in charge here. How important it is to understand that our direction in life comes from God's word and not from the words of man. If the High Priest did not understand this, little wonder the people did not understand it.)
- Read Amos 7:16-17. What is the "downside" to ignoring God in favor of listening to the King of Israel?
- Our Reaction to Being Measured
- If Amos were speaking to you, how should you react to his message? (You would hopefully want to "measure up" to the plumb line.)
- When you were in school, if the teacher had a test standard, you wanted to know what it was, right? "How long does our paper have to be?" "How many pages do we have to read?" What is God's standard here? What is this "plumb line?" (Read Leviticus 19:2. God tells us to be holy as He is holy. The following verses in Leviticus 19 then go on to describe what God expects. These seem very much like the Ten Commandments.)
- Read Galatians 4:24-25. Doesn't Paul tell us that the "covenant" from Mount Sinai (the Ten Commandments were given from Sinai) bears children who are slaves? Does the plumb line standard of God's Ten Commandments no longer apply? Need we no longer worry about being "holy?"
- Read Exodus 20:1-5. How does God begin His statement of the Ten Commandments? (He begins by drawing their attention to His redemptive activity. God says because I redeemed you, this is what I have in mind for your life. God then goes on to say "no other gods." He asks us to trust Him alone.)
- Let's go back to Galatians for a minute. Read Galatians 5:1,16-18. Jesus died in our place, thus fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law. This is how Jesus set us free from the law. He "took us out of Egypt," he took us out of the inescapable pit of sin and death. But, just as Paul tells us in Galatians not to gratify our sinful desires, so today we have a responsibility to acknowledge what God has already done for us (redemption) by making an effort to live a pure and upright life.)
- Is this effort to live a pure and upright life a matter of being careful about how we behave? (Paul makes this critically important point in Galatians 5:18. We need an attitude change. If we seek for a heart change through the power of the Holy Spirit, then our "Godly attitude" will govern our life and not our concentration on keeping the law. That is our goal - to have the Spirit so change our sinful hearts that we want to do what is right. If we have no interest in living according to God's law, then it is doubtful that we ever accepted God's offer of salvation. That is why God starts the Ten Commandments by saying, "Consider what I did for you." He wants us to want to do His will.)
- Friend, God deeply cares about the behavior of His people. He has a measure, and He applies it to those who claim to be His. Don't be satisfied living an "optical illusion." If you see that your life is not "plumb," will you repent and invite the Holy Spirit to come into your heart today to change your attitude?
- Next Week: Vision Four - Summer Fruit