Read Amos 7
Locusts, Fire and a Plumb Line
7 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king’s share had been harvested and just as the late crops were coming up. 2 When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
3 So the Lord relented.
“This will not happen,” the Lord said.
4 This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: The Sovereign Lord was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. 5 Then I cried out, “Sovereign Lord, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!”
6 So the Lord relented.
“This will not happen either,” the Sovereign Lord said.
7 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. 8 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.
9 “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed
and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined;
with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam.”
Amos and Amaziah
10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent a message to Jeroboam king of Israel: “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel. The land cannot bear all his words. 11 For this is what Amos is saying:
“‘Jeroboam will die by the sword,
and Israel will surely go into exile,
away from their native land.’”
12 Then Amaziah said to Amos, “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Earn your bread there and do your prophesying there. 13 Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
14 Amos answered Amaziah, “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. 15 But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ 16 Now then, hear the word of the Lord. You say,
“‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.’
17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says:
“‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city,
and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword.
Your land will be measured and divided up,
and you yourself will die in a pagan country.
And Israel will surely go into exile,
away from their native land.’”
This chapter is clear: God doesn’t wink at sin. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were God’s chosen people. They had a covenant, an agreement or promise made between two parties; there were blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. In Exodus 19:5, God states, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” But during Amos’s time, these chosen people of God were stuck in sin. The poor were cheated and idolatry was rampant, so God appointed His prophet, Amos, to chastise Israel for these sins.
In Amos 7, three prophetic visions of judgment are described: locusts, fire, and a plumb line. A plumb line is a weight suspended on a string hung from the top of a wall and is used to test a wall’s vertical trueness. Amos’s vision helps us understand that God had measured the people and found them failing to live up to their privileged status as His people. Rather than walking truly and upright, they walked crookedly. Israel (“Jacob”) was called to be holy (Ex 19:6) but gave only lip service to the covenant. The people winked at sin, and God’s wrath was brewing. Judgment and punishment were imminent. This theme of punishment for wickedness continues in the New Testament, where Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7).
To be clear, Christians are not saved by doing good deeds. Rather, we are saved by grace (Eph 2:8), and although God’s grace is free, it’s not cheap because it cost Jesus His life. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor during World War II, wrote about this “cheap grace” and explains that discipleship costs us our lives. As saved people, God calls us to conduct ourselves in a manner “worthy of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). That is to say, we are to be people of good moral character, as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). Fortunately, if we stumble, Scripture tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Throughout the Old Testament, we find God longing for His chosen people to be in a right relationship with Him. When they inevitably fell astray, His judgment would capture their attention again, and the resulting repentance pleased Him. Today, God longs to be in a right relationship with all people, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus is the new covenant between God and all humanity. God promises that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved (Romans 10:9)!
- What sins are you currently “winking” at? Are you buying into “cheap grace”?
- Are you being authentic and transparent with others about the struggles in your life?
- In your life, how has God used a past mess to communicate a message of grace and hope?
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