This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”   Amos 7:7-8 (NIV, 1978)

Judgment was coming to the people of Israel because of their wickedness, but this was not a new occurrence in this tumultuous relationship between God and the people He had called to be His own. From the moment they were delivered from their captivity in Egypt, they began to suffer from one of the worst cases of chronic forgetfulness known to mankind. It was by God’s hand they had been set free from Pharaoh’s slavery, kept safe in their wandering in the wilderness, and brought victoriously into the land of milk and honey. But, centuries afterward, they continued to take God’s miraculous deliverance for granted and had to be disciplined to the brink of destruction time and time again in order to repent and return to Him. 

The genius of the Holy Spirit gives us an illustration that is as relevant now as it was when it was written almost 900 years before Jesus was born. The Lord spoke to Amos through a simple word picture found commonplace in the construction field. The Lord is seen standing next to a wall that had been correctly built. Was it because the best stones or the best builders were used? We don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the wall was deemed perfect or “plumb” because a plumb line had been used to determine its verticality. A string suspended from the top of the wall and weighted at the bottom by a pointed metal weight never fails to provide a line that is perfectly vertical. Why? Because gravity does not change, nor is it affected by lack of skill or the quality of materials.

The message of the plumb line need not be lost on this generation. As our culture continues in its quest to create God in its own image, even those of us who may be appalled at what we see are often guilty of being complacent or apathetic in our response.

The plumb line reminds me that God looks for that which is perfect and straight and in alignment with the standard He has established—a standard which remains unaffected by public opinion or the best of human understanding.

Gravity holds the plumb line true just as grace holds the believer in moments of wavering and wandering. As God judges a wall, so too will He judge us for the standard we uphold, and judgement can be painful. That concept will only make sense to those of us who have learned the true meaning of “amazing grace”—the hard way!