There were many times throughout the Old Testament when the people of God failed to live up to what God desired and their failure often related to their outright turning from God to idols. That had been the case specifically with Israel, the Northern Kingdom, when Amos the prophet and herdsman from Tekoa in Judah prophesied concerning Israel. In the prophesy the Lord said to Amos, “Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel” (Amos 7:8). Just exactly what was the Lord saying to Amos and Israel? A plumbline then and now serves the purpose of determining verticality. The weight on the end of the line will naturally be pulled by gravity in a directly vertical and so that natural and correct standard can be used to insure that a wall or building is constructed in the proper manner. The plumbline is the standard that is to be trusted and used to guide in construction. That illustration used by God to the prophet Amos still serves as an important spiritual lesson even today.
Just as the plumbline was the standard in construction so it is that the Word of God is the standard for spiritual construction. Israel was not living according to the Law of Moses, which was the plumbline or the standard. At the beginning of the era of the divided kingdom, as Israel separated from Judah because a separate nation, Jeroboam knew that the people would want to go back to Jerusalem in Judah to fulfill the Law of Moses, but he did not want them to return so he changed many things. “And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David, if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem…whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem, behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:26,28). The plumbline of God, the will of God, was being set up against the words of Jeroboam and what had happened in Israel in the years to follow.
The plumbline of the Word of God, the New Testament, is still set and is the standard for what the church should be and do, and for what each individual Christian should be and do. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). “And whatever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). God still has a plumbline and that is his Word. Just as in the days of Amos there were those that wanted to build spiritually with no regard for God’s plumbline, so it is in this century. Some forsake the plumbline of God, the Word, in this present age for a worldly version of Christianity, for human traditions and opinions, and for simply doing what they want to do. The result will be the same today as it was during the days of Amos in that turning from God’s plumbline, or authority, always brings about a spiritual separation from God and destruction. Israel was not willing to submit to the will of God and so Amos said, “Israel will surely be led away captive out of their own land” (Amos 7:11), and it came about. Let us learn well from the example of Amos, God’s plumbline, and Israel.