A Message for All Ages: “Plumb Line”

The metaphor of a Plumb Line in Amos 7:7 tells us that God is not a distant, uninvolved god, but is right beside us: involved in our lives at every moment.

plumblineReference Scripture: Amos 7:7-17

In this morning’s reading from Amos, we find that Amos uses the concept of a Plumb Line as a metaphor for how God interacts with his people – and all of Creation for that matter.

What is a Plumb Line?

A Plumb line is simply a string with a weight on the end.  As shown in the photo here.  It is used to determine if something is perfectly vertical, or not.  Without a Plumb Line, or something to do the same sort of job, you cannot build a structure of any size, because you will have no way of determining if your walls and pillars or columns are perfectly straight, or leaning.  If they are not perfectly vertical, the structure will be weak and likely to fall down.  The Sumerians, Egyptians and Jews all used Plumb Lines in the construction of buildings of all types, including their temples.  Without them, structures of any size would not be possible.

The thing about a plumb line is that you don’t use it just once.  Measuring a wall once it is complete doesn’t do much good because if the wall is “out of plumb,” then you’d need to tear it down and start over.  Instead, you constantly use the Plumb Line throughout your construction project, to ensure that the wall is “plumb” as you build it.

Likewise, God is constantly beside us, guiding us, measuring our progress, speaking to us, so that we are “plumb” in our own lives.  In Amos’ metaphor, God isn’t a distant, uninvolved god, but a god that is right beside us: involved in our lives at every moment.

Bonus question: So, we know that the Plumb Line is used to make sure walls are built perfectly vertically; but how did the ancients make sure that their foundations, such as the foundation for a temple or pyramid, were perfectly level?  (Because if they weren’t, you’d be in trouble even before the first brick or stone was put in place!)

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Hoping for a Future

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Some thoughts on the tension between Certainty and Hope, inspired by’s book “The Prophetic Imagination”…  

“I have a dream!” said the Preacher.

A dream implies hope: hope for a better life, for redemption, or justification, or perhaps vindication.  Hope is the conviction that the future holds the promise of better things to come, that the future is a better place than the present.

And the Preacher, representing a people who had endured centuries of oppression, terror, bondage, and worse, gave voice to their hopes that hot afternoon, more than 50 years ago.

“I have a dream!” he said.  And yet, the hundreds of thousands who first heard those words had little else but those words.

Hope flourishes in the forgotten corners of human existence, in those places where certainty either does not exist, or where the only certainty to be had is dark and painful.  Hope flourishes where human voices are not given the chance to speak, where human hands are not allowed to build a future for themselves, and quite often where those with power and wealth have done all within their power to eliminate the future.

Stop! …Say that again?  Eliminate the future?

Yes.

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