“See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by. . . The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.” (Amos 7:8; 8:11)
A plumb line is a string with a weight attached to one end. When it dangles freely, an exact vertical can be determined. Without adjusting for the vertical, the wall becomes increasingly off-centre and unstable. This allegory was applied to Israel by the prophet Amos as a warning against apostasy. The interesting fact about a crooked wall is that it starts small, but by the time it gets to the top, even the untrained eye can see that it’s leaning.
When we measure our behaviour against our own standards, it’s easy to be just a “little bit off.” We make allowances for conduct that is in the “gray zone” because we trust ourselves not to cross the line. It’s similar to the indictment against the Israelites during the time of the Judges: “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” After a few generations, no one remembers the original cultural norms. Sexual taboos or the use of four letter words are obvious casualties, but even church going has devolved to the point where few see it as important.
When the bar is so low, we can all declare, “I’m a good person.” Yet, God has a far-higher standard, and his plumb line is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. We no longer have any excuse for “fudging” when we measure against his words. Once we recognize that “there is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10) , the sooner we will understand the magnificent grace of God in sending Jesus as atonement for our sins. Before the plumb line of the cross, no one can stand.
“LORD, forgive us for excusing our own actions. We know what is right because you made it clear in your word. You know our secret thoughts and actions; nothing surprises you. We cannot justify ourselves. Thank you that by confessing our sins, we can receive forgiveness. Give us the power to overcome the weights that hold us back.” Amen.
Mindi Oaten’s painting “Measures Injustice” is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.