“This is what he showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built 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, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by; the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste, and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.” (Amos 7:7 – 9)
Things were not straight and upright in Israel. God had taken the measure of Israel and saw where they had deviated from the Lord God’s commands. The Lord God has established several prophets to warn the people of Israel and Judah where they had gone astray, what they need to do to return to the center of faith and belief, and what the consequences were for their straying away. But just like the leaders in Israel did not want to heed the prophets, neither did they want the prophets to bother them and remind them of the shortcomings in then and the people they governed.
“Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.'” (Verses 10 – 11)
Do not think, beloved reader, just because someone has named themselves or has been named by others as a priest or religious leader that they are right with God. Sometimes the voice and wisdom of the Divine comes from unlikely and nontraditional places.
“And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’ “ (Verses 12 – 15)
In the other Old Testament passage, David has brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and is doing some serious celebrating. The daughter of Saul, who had fallen for David because of his prowess in battle, could not understand his religious fervor. In Amos’s time religious fervor had morphed into worship that was pleasing to the human spirit but did not attend to worshiping Yahweh. And the writer of the book of Amos says that Amos was to call Israel and its leaders to task over this. And to warn them of the consequences. So at odd angles was worship that even the priests had it wrong.
But . . . . . I am wondering if the writer of the book of Amos was viewing the Divine from a crooked angle. This view of the Divine does not seem to line up with the view of the Divine as a merciful God that we see in the New Testament and as portrayed by Jesus. All of Israel is to go into exile? All are to be made to suffer? A plumb line, beloved reader, show the straight connection to what is above and below. The connection is straight and does not waver or stray. That is what Israel was expected to do – not stray. But Yahweh is seeming to stray from the covenant of protection that was promised. And where does politics and the relationship with other nations come in? What if it was politics and the avarice and desire for power that caused the nations surrounding Israel and Judah to evade and make it captive?
Beloved reader, I wish I could lead you out of this quandary and quagmire. I wish I could say, “behold, this is what its deeper meaning is.” What I can say is this, and maybe it will be enough. When we are in right relationship with the Divine, our relationships with others should be correct. If we do not see others as friends and a part of the family of God, then we must take upon ourselves the consequences of that wrong relationship. Maybe the writers from that time were not in the position to see the truth of that. But we are. Or, we must be. If not, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of past generations. And to suffer as they survived – at the hands of each other. Remember, beloved reader, the Divine desires shalom for all of creation and humanity. That is the standard of the Divine. May you live up to it. Shalom & Selah!