“[God] He asked me, “Amos, what do you see?” “A plumb line,” I answered. Then he said, “I am using it to show that my people are like a wall that is out of line.” Amos 7:8.
There are two things we need to consider – the image of a plumb line (probably little used these days) and the Irish Crooner, Val Doonican. I bet you’re wondering why and who on earth is Val Doonican?!
The plumb line – at least the one I remember – was a device that allowed one to know if a wall was straight and true. One could be made very easily out of string and a pencil with the weighted end of the string being hung from a height. From there one could see if one’s line of wallpaper had been hung correctly or if it was off-centre. Equally so, in the building trade, plumb lines would be used to make sure the wall which was being built whether of a building or just a wall was straight. If it was off by even a small margin, then it would most probably collapse through time.
The late Val Doonican was known for his humourous Irish ditties but he was also a well established singer who’s song “Walk tall, walk straight and look the world right in the eye” reached No. 3 in the UK charts.
Both these images – the builders’ device and the song – reflect our lives with God.
Amos is a minor prophet, yet being a prophet, he used imagery to convey God’s message to his listeners, the Israelites. In chapters 7 and 8 of the book, Amos relates four visions he has of how God would deal with the unrepentant with this vision of the plumb line being one of them. The Israelites were a fickle lot. They repeatedly distressed God through their disobedience and idolatry. Quite often they repented yet their repentance never lasted very long before they returned to more worldly ways and practices. They were often out of line (or step) with God.
When one is out of line (or step) then it’s difficult to look anybody straight in the eye. Only those whose lives are beyond reproach can do so. We are unable to look God in the eye as we are fallible humans who are sinful. It is only by Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross that we are able to traverse the chasm between ourselves and God. Jesus acts as a bridge between the two.
Our body language changes when we tell lies, we are unable to look straight at others and keeping the truth from others weighs heavily on our shoulders. If this is the case when we are not honest with our fellow humans, think what it feels like when we are dishonest with God! No wonder there is an old hymn which begins with the words “Come, let us to the Lord our God with contrite hearts return……” When we finally face up to our sinful nature and how it has held us back from God’s love and peace, then we become honest with ourselves, with others and most especially with God. Is your life straight and true like a plumb line with God? Are you walking straight and tall, looking ahead to eternity with God today?
Lord, we don’t like being wrong. It hurts our pride and goes against the grain to admit we’ve made a mistake. We prefer to blame somebody else, to look for an excuse that justifies our actions, but though we may fool ourselves, we can never fool you. Forgive us, Lord, for those times we have shifted the blame on to others. Forgive us for hiding behind falsehoods and half-truths, letting excuses become so much part of us that we no longer realise we are making them. Teach us to act wisely and with integrity; and we go wrong, give us courage to admit it and humility to accept our dependence on our unfailing grace. Amen.
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