We don’t have a chance. Somebody’s measuring us our entire life – from birth to death. Our first measurements start in the womb and don’t stop until we’re in the grave. People measure everything – our height and weight at birth – whether we’re a boy or a girl – the color of our hair and eyes – when we start walking and talking. Then people start measuring us against others. We have more hair or less hair than our older brothers or sisters. We’re taller or shorter than our cousins. We talked before or later than the neighbors’ kids. When does all this measuring stop? It doesn’t. We learn how to measure things early in life. We learn numbers and letters and shapes and sizes. We learn about length and width, depth and height, and how far things are from each other. We learn about money and how to buy things with it. We’re always learning about measurements.
Where did measuring things begin? As far as I can see, it started with God. God thought it was important that people knew He created the heavens and the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. God thought it was important that people knew what He created on each of the six days. God thought it was important to know how long people lived in the early days of the human race. He thought it was important to know how many years it took Noah to build the ark and the exact size of the ark. God thought it was important that people knew Noah brought seven of every clean animal and two of every unclean animal into the ark. God thought it was important that people knew the number of days the rain fell on the earth and how long the flood waters prevailed on the earth. The Bible is filled with measurements of all kinds. Measuring things and people is an important part of life – and our relationship with God.
So, how am I doing? How do I measure up in God’s eyes? The answer to that question is in God’s Word. He doesn’t keep His methods of measurement a secret. God made sure that we can all know how we’re doing. It’s obvious from God’s measuring tools that Adam and Eve did not measure up. They sinned against Him and God removed them from the Garden of Eden. That was just the beginning of their problems – and our problems.
Correct measurement is important to God. This is what He told Moses to tell the people of Israel before they went into the Promised Land – “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light. You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 25:13-16) God’s measurements are always accurate – always fair. His Holiness and Perfection demand that.
We learn a lot about God’s measurement through His relationship with ancient Israel. God promised the people of Israel great success in life depending on how they measured up to His Word. As we know from studying the Old Testament, Israel didn’t do so well. The people failed almost constantly. Study the history of Israel from when God’s people left Egypt, through the desert and into the Promised Land, and you’ll find people who did not measure up most of the time. But they were God’s chosen people, so He kept working with them. However, even God’s patience can come to an end. An example of that is what He told Amos to prophecy in the 8th Century B.C. to the Kingdom of Israel:
“Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made 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: ‘Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore. The high places of Isaac shall be desolate, And the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste. I will rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam.” Amos 7:7-9
God used the picture of an ancient measuring tool – the plumb line – to help Amos understand what He was going to do to Israel because of their continual sinning against Him. Ancient builders in Egypt and other countries used a weight (usually with a pointed tip at the bottom) suspended by a string to make sure they were building according to “perfect upright.” They used God’s creation of gravity as a measurement of “vertical.” God used a spiritual plumb line with Israel and found them wanting. Their “standing” with God was not good. God used the Assyrian Army to bring about Israel’s defeat and humiliation several years after Amos prophesied.
One of the keys to understanding how Amos’ prophecy against Israel thousands of years ago impacts us today is to see God’s Nature and Character in action. The God we call Father is also the God of Israel. As Paul taught Timothy – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) God sent Amos on a prophetic mission to Israel, then inspired him to write what God said and how Israel responded to His Word in the Book of Amos. It is profitable to us for doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness. Understanding Amos will help us be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Book of Amos has many insights to what God wants from the people who are called by His Name. He wants them to be loving, kind, forgiving and generous to the poor and needy. He pronounced judgement on Israel beginning in the 2nd Chapter of Amos and didn’t hold back. God, speaking through Amos, told Israel exactly where they stood with Him. Here’s a little of what God said:
“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because they sell the righteous for silver, And the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, And pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, To defile My holy name. They lie down by every altar on clothes taken in pledge, And drink the wine of the condemned in the house of their god.” Amos 2:6-9
The fact that God punished Israel for its sins against Him is not what’s remarkable to me. It’s what He said to the people of Israel later:
“For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live; But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing. Seek the LORD and live, Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, And devour it, With no one to quench it in Bethel” Amos 5:4-6
I’m amazed that after decades of sin and rebellion, God would still offer forgiveness to Israel. God’s love and devotion to His people is what impacts my heart and mind. I stand in amazement at His Grace.
The plumb line God told Amos about in Chapter 7 was the ancient method of determining a “straight” line vertically. Buildings needed to be “plumbed” in order to stand for long periods of time against the ravages of weather and use. God told Amos that He was going to “plumb” the people of Israel. He was not going to pass them by for judgement any longer. This idea of a “straight” measurement comes up many times in Scripture. The way of the Lord is always straight – never crooked.
“Lead me, O LORD, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face.” Psalm 5:8
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth” Isaiah 40:3-4
“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
The importance of straight lines and straight paths didn’t end with the last prophet of the Old Testament. It continued to be a primary message in the New Testament as well, which makes sense since the Nature and Character of God do not change. John the Baptist was the first prophet God had sent to Israel since Malachi about 400 years earlier. What did John preach? The same Message God had given the prophets who came before him.
“As it is written in the Prophets: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You. The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’ John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Mark 1:2-4
“And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:3-6
God’s plumb line is still straight after all these years. It is His Eternal Word. When I read it, I wonder, “How am I doing?” We’ll always hear God’s answer “if” we listen.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”