God gave Amos three visions of discipline against Israel. The first two, locusts and fire, were overwhelming to the prophet, and he pleaded for the Lord’s mercy. “O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!” The response of the Almighty was favorable to these entreaties. “The Lord relented concerning this: ‘It shall not be,’ said the Lord.”
The third vision was quite different. Amos saw a “plumb line,” a tool used by a builder to help him make sure that every wall is built straight in order to be more stable for years to come. What was the meaning of this final vision? The Lord was providing a guiding voice for Israel. Amos himself served as a warning to the people in his day. Would they heed the message of the Word of the Lord, or would they all face the devastation of imminent loss and dislocation?
There can be little doubt that Israel’s governing authorities were not eager to turn away from sin. One religious leader insisted that it was time for Amos to return home to Judah. The Lord’s ambassador was not dwelling among the northern tribes according to his own plan or desire. God had sent him away from his home in order to bring divine oracles to those who did not want to repent. Israel’s rejection of Amos would bring great trouble to many families, including that of the false priest who was very sure that the Lord’s messenger was the big problem. The entire nation would face a devastating sanction from Jehovah: “Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.”
Every true prophet of God throughout the history of the Jews raised a heavenly standard for people who were facing danger because of their disobedience. The coming Messiah would be the ultimate “plumb line” of holiness for God’s people. More than that, Jesus would also suffer the consequences for the disobedience of the Lord’s chosen flock. God was well aware that all of His children were far “too small” to face His anger. Our only hope has always been that the Almighty would provide a way for us to receive His mercy. Centuries before the coming of our Savior, Amos had interceded for God’s people when he asked the Lord to “forgive” them. Our cries for pardon have found the best divine reply in the death of Jesus for sinners. In Him we have not only the true Man of perfect obedience, but also the Author of our secure hope to receive eternal life, not through our own keeping of the Law, but through the grace of God that is ours because our debt has been paid.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Sovereign Lord, You have displayed to us the serious consequences of the rebellion of men. Even within Your church we could never face the discipline that we rightly deserve as a consequence of our sin. Set Your Son as a plumb line among Your people. He is the standard of all righteousness. Help us to regard Him in all His holy beauty, and to consider the glory of His work as our Substitute. This one great King has given His life for us, and yet He lives. He has brought the Word of truth to us. He was a most unexpected prophet, and His words and actions were the fullest expression of truth ever known among men. Shall we ignore Him, and die as if we were strangers to the covenant of grace? Have mercy, O Lord.