How Do You Measure Up?
“‘Then he showed me another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight.” – Amos 7:7 NLT
A plumb line is a simple construction tool that consists of a string with a weight on the end. It works off of gravity and is used to determine perpendicularity. A carpenter, bricklayer, or construction worker will take the plumb line and hand it next to a wall or other structure to see if it is straight or not. The plumb line establishes the standard for straightness. It becomes the measuring tool for rightness. And in our two chapters today, God Himself uses the image of the plumb line as a way to convey to the people of Israel that He is going to measure their spiritual straightness. God said to Amos, “I will test my people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins” (Amos 7:8b NLT). God has a standard. He has a non-negotiable measuring tool for determining rightness or rightness, and it is not up for debate. We don’t get to decide if we are okay or not. We don’t get to measure ourselves against some arbitrary standard that we establish. It is always the Lord’s standard. God had established Israel to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, set apart for His use (Exodus 19:6), but they had failed to measure up. They were regularly violating the Ten Commandments.
1. They were to worship no other gods, but the one true God
2. They were not to make idols of those other gods
3. They were not to misuse God’s name
4. They were to keep the Sabbath day holy by honoring and keeping it
5. They were to honor their fathers and mothers
6. They must not murder
7. They must not commit adultery
8. They must not steal
9. They must not testify falsely about their neighbor
10. They must not covet
The people of God were guilty of breaking all these commandments. On top of that, they were abusing the poor, growing wealthy off the mistreatment of the needy, and ignoring justice in order to line their own pockets. They were greedy, self-righteous, covetous, idolatrous, lacking in compassion, materialistic, spiritually apathetic, and addicted to pleasure. God said, “I describe the arrogance of Israel!” (Amos 6:8b NLT). They had turned “justice into poison and the sweet fruit of righteousness into bitterness” (Amos 6:12b NLT).
Amos didn’t exactly make a lot of friends with this message. That kind of sermon didn’t resonate then any more than it would today. We don’t like to be scolded. We hate being told that we don’t measure up. Amos was told to go home to Judah and take his prophecies of doom and gloom with him. He was no longer wanted. If he didn’t have anything good to say, he needed to leave. But Amos was speaking the word of God. He was telling the truth. It wasn’t fun to hear, but it was what they needed to hear. Today, we have the written Word of God. It is the plumb line for our lives. It is full of the truth of God and it contains the message of God for His people. Sometimes what we read is condemning and convicting. Sometimes it is encouraging and comforting. But we cannot afford to pick and choose the message we want to hear. We can’t use the Word of God to justify our sins or excuse our inaction. “For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT). The Word of God is powerful, insightful, revealing, convicting, exposing and cleansing. It is the plumb line that measures our rightness. It is a rock-solid standard by which we can determine our spiritual straightness. It reveals to us Jesus, who is the gold standard of righteousness for all men. The fact is, I can no more measure up to the standard of Jesus than the people of Israel could keep the Law of God. But God has given me His Word and the indwelling presence of His Spirit to make it possible for me to become increasingly more like His Son. As I die to my own self-effort and learn to rely more on His power available to me through the Spirit within me, I can be transformed. I can be made straight. I can be brought increasingly more into line with His standard. But I first have to admit that I don’t measure up. I miss the mark. I am crooked and in need of straightening. What about you?
Father, thank You for the plumb line of Your Word. Forgive me for the many times I have chosen to ignore what it reveals about me. I so want to believe that I am OK. I want to see myself as spiritually straight. So when Your Word reveals that I am not, I tend to want to reject it and go with my own standard of righteousness. But that’s not how this works. You are a holy God and You have chosen us to be Your holy people, set apart for Your use and to live lives that bring You glory. Thank You for providing Your Word and the presence of Your Spirit to make it possible for me to line up more and more with Your righteous standard – Your Son. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men