Amos 7:7-8 (New International Version)
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?” I replied, “A plumb line.” The the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.”
My Grampa Doc was a beloved physician, a prize-winning sailor, skillful hunter, brilliant storyteller, gifted harmonica player, and undefeated arm-wrestler. He was also a master carpenter. I spent many, many hours watching him lovingly create works of art — furniture, toys, whatever was needed — in his jam-packed garage workshop.
If you can imagine a tool, Grampa probably had it somewhere. He had large machines for planing wood, circular saws for quickly ripping long sections, jigsaws and scroll saws for more intricate cutting work. He also had tiny tools: miniature screwdrivers to fix eyeglasses, drill bits so delicate they could be snapped in two if you weren’t careful enough. But the simplest tool in Grampa’s workshop was a pointed weight tied to a long string: a plumb line.
He would use the plumb line to ensure that a piece of furniture was standing perfectly straight. Holding the string, he would allow the weight to fall close to the ground. He would wait until the weight stopped swaying at the bottom of the string — until it was completely still. Then he would compare the perfectly straight string to the furniture. If there was a gap, he would know that his handiwork was not what he had originally intended; there was an imperfection to fix before it would be ready to leave the shop.
In today’s passage, God speaks to the prophet Amos, apprising him of the impending judgment of Israel. God uses the metaphor of a plumb line, telling Amos that God has seen that the people are not “in line” with God’s plan. As painful as it might be — for both created and Creator — a correction would be necessary to help the people return to a healthier path.
What are the “plumb lines” you use in your life?