Sunday July 14

Scriptures:

Psalm 82

A Plea for Justice

God has taken his place in the divine council;
    in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
    and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
    maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
    they walk around in darkness;
    all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

I say, “You are gods,
    children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
    and fall like any prince.”

Rise up, O God, judge the earth;
    for all the nations belong to you!

Amos 7:7-17

This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said,

“See, I am setting a plumb line
    in the midst of my people Israel;
    I will never again pass them by;
the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,
    and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,
    and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.”

 “Being Plumb”

I like Jesus am the son of a carpenter.  This does not add to my sense of righteousness, only my understanding of many of the illustrations in the Word.  This is because I am familiar with the tools and terminologies within that ancient born trade.  One of those tools which always fascinated me is the plumb bob.  I am fascinated by it because of its funny name and its simple construction.  It is perhaps one of the simplest yet important building tools in the ancient world and therefore human history.  Often called a plumb line, as it is here in Amos, it consists of a pointed weight tied to the end of long string which can be lowered beside a structure, typically a wall, to measure whether it is true vertical.  This was important; especially in the integrity of tall walls like those in fortresses and temples.  The plumb line could also be used to determine center and, when attached to a triangle, the angle of a slope.  Though it was and still is a simple tool, it is also very versatile.

Because of the plumb line’s ability to check for trueness, it is very fitting that God uses it as an illustration of His ability to measure the “trueness” of the people of Israel.  The people under a corrupt king had strayed from the straight path of righteousness and were heeding false prophesy and practicing idolatry; among other unrighteous behaviors and practices.  This is why Amos was sent in.  He was not a traditional prophet or even a professional one; he was simply a faithful, practical, and plainspoken farmer who had the courage to follow God’s call on his life.  Instead of God sending a “suit and tie” preacher from First Church to carry His message, God sent an overall wearing farmer from the local country store to do it.  Of course, Amos being a practical man would have a better understanding of the message he was carrying than any well-bred clergyman.  God needed a simple man to carry a simple message; straighten up or perish.

If one reads Amos, they quickly realize it is perhaps the first real treatise on social holiness and justice.  The people of Israel, especially its capital Samaria, were corrupt and sinful.  If they had the verses of Psalm 82 before them, they were not heeding their warning.  They favored wealth and fame over hard work and honesty.  They were not unlike many in America today who seem to think those with money and power are better than those without.  They would feel right at home in today’s society where pro athletes and media types are emulated and the “everyman type” is often ignored.  Of course, as you might imagine, it was even worse than this.  The wealthy and powerful were mistreating the poor in very uncivilized ways and God had had enough of their behavior.  This is why God sent Amos to chastise them and worn them to change their “crooked” ways.

This is an important message for us today as we see the way our society works.  The “American Dream” can quickly become a nightmare as we are drawn in by the lure of wealth and power.  This can lead to “crooked” ways which destroy lives and futures of both the victims and the perpetrators.  Our prisons are full of those who not only committed street crimes but so-called “white-collar” crimes all in pursuit of a “better” life filled with wealth and privilege.  Don’t think for a moment that Martha Stewart and Bernie Madoff aren’t on the same list as our local drug dealers and thieves.  The nature of different crimes does not separate them in spirit; theft is theft and destroying lives is destroying lives, no matter the method or social class of the offender.  

This brings us to the point of this discussion; how do we measure up when God holds the plumb line beside of us?  Are we straight or do we have crooked walls and/or leaning towers in our lives?  God tests us and measures us by the same standards He used on Ancient Israel and on everyone else.  This is not to say we spend our time stealing, cheating, or participating in other illegal behaviors.  However, it does beg the question of how we stack up morally in our personal lives?  Our public lives?  Are we straight, moral, righteous; or are our ways crooked and leaning?  Do we “give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute;
Rescue the weak and the needy?”  Are we “being plumb” in our thoughts and deeds?

Pastor Mark Templeton

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