Summary: Amos is called by God to stand amongst and to show the error of our ways
We have just heard a passage from the book of Amos. I always try to imagine what the person was like. I find it fascinating to try to conjure up an image of the person in the passage. I believe that Amos is best described as a man of God. He was a man whose life was spent serving God and his life style reflected this. Yet he was no mighty high priest, just a person who tended to his sheep and his sycamore fig trees. He was a contented man who was happy to worship God in his own way. For him life was spent in the fields without a real care in the world. Then suddenly God came to Amos in a vision and told him to take a message to the people of Israel and so all of his life changed quickly. The message which he had to take was “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” In this book, which was written some 750 years B.C. Amos caused the Israelites to look back at what they had become and to realise how far away from God they had moved, and that they needed to come back to God.
In our reading we find Amos having a vision, which is in three parts. It is a vision, which sees the foretold destruction of the people of Israel. It is God punishing them for their sinful ways. The first punishment is a threat of an invasion of locust. The second is the threat of fire destroying the earth and the third is of God standing beside a wall with a plumb line in his hand testing it’s accuracy and uprightness. On the first two parts of the vision Amos prays to God not to send the locusts and fire upon the earth and indeed God relents. But the third part is a different matter entirely. God is determined that his people should be brought into line. The measuring device that he uses is a plumb line. It was a device that was used by all people who built any kind of structure, it was recognised by people across the land. They knew it was an instrument of accuracy. This is why God chose it to measure his people by.
If we are to build any kind of structure that is to stand firm for many years we have to ensure that firstly it has a good foundation and secondly that the walls that are raised up are straight and in line. If the wall is leaning or is fixed on a base that is always moving then it will not stand for very long. It will become weak and very soon it will fall down. Now some people are very good at getting the foundations right and others are poor. Some can raise it up so far then suddenly go all wrong. I am afraid that I fall into the latter description. I am not what you would call a successful D.I.Y. enthusiast. If I take 6 screws out of something then I always manage to put it back together again using only 5 screws. I always seem to have one left over. If there is a right way and a wrong way of doing something then I will find the wrong way. So you see I don’t find it easy when it comes to D.I.Y. I want to have an extension built onto my home and my wife asks why don’t you build it yourself. My answer is because I want it to stand up for many years to come.
Israel - the wall. Israel had been founded by God as a wall or rampart. This was to support his sanctuary. Israel was special and had a very important role to perform. The people of Israel had to be a leading light to the rest of the world so that they could be seen by others to be steadfast in all that they did. They were the chosen people. This role was performed for many years and it was performed well. But now the time had come when God was standing by the wall and in his hand was a plumb line, which he was using to measure Israel’s uprightness. The people of Israel were being brought to trial. They had strayed from the ways of God, they had sinned and now the wall that had been so upright and erect was beginning to lean and had to be put right. God was there to see that it was put back into line. If it had to be pulled down and started again then so be it. He was standing by it and this alone denotes his firmness and determination to make it right again. In the first two visions he had relented and changed his mind but this was an issue on which he stood firm and would not be swayed. He would make them his chosen people again. He had something to measure them by and they either fitted or they didn’t. They would be destroyed if they did not fit the measure, their possessions would be scattered and lost forever. But if they turned back to God then they would be saved. Amos was going to be that plumb line which would be set amongst the people. He was to be the one that would go amongst them and prophesy. He would be calling on them to see how far they were really leaning over away from true plumb.