Here’s the scenario. We sing the last song of our worship time this morning and we all start to go out the front door and we see a car right in front of the church just sitting there facing the lake. There’s a man none of us know sitting behind the wheel and he’s reading a large map. For you youngsters here today, a map is what we used to use before GPS. It was made of paper and could be folded up and put in the glove box of the car. They were pretty handy sometimes.
Anyway, this guy is obviously lost and so engrossed in the map that he doesn’t notice that his foot slips off the brake and the car starts to slowly move forward. We are all standing out front but nobody thinks much about it at this point but then as his car moves forward, he starts to go off in the field across the street. He hits some bumps and his car starts to come back this way a little bit but then we all notice that his car is picking up speed and this guy is still just staring at his map, completely unaware that his car is rolling toward the lake.
At this point, what do you do? Do you holler at him? Do you run up to the car and knock politely on the window? Uh oh, now his car is really picking up speed and you run along next to it banging on the window but he blows you off and tells you he’s too busy to listen to you, all the while trying to read his map as his car is now careening over the boat ramp and you know that in just a second this guy is going to crash into the lake and drown. Now, what do you do?
You would do whatever you had to do, wouldn’t you? You would run up and open his door. Grab him and pull him out or maybe try to hit the brake yourself because you know he is about to die and only you can save him!
Now, here’s the question. Why? Why would you do this for a stranger that you have never met and know nothing about? What’s in it for you? You might even get hurt trying to help him so why would you do it? You would do it because life is precious, right? You know that life is sacred and that person is made by God and loved by Him. He may be a father or somebody’s son or uncle but it doesn’t matter because ultimately you know that he is a human who needs your help whether he knows it or not or wants it or not.
Did you ask to have the job of saving him? No. Are you going around looking for a task like that? Probably not. It’s not something you want to do. It’s pretty scary and you wish he hadn’t put you in that position but he did and because he did what he did, you had to do what you did.
Welcome to the world of the Old Testament prophet. That’s a lot like how it was for them. Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Jonah, Moses, Jeremiah and a bunch more…the list is long; some are better than others at what they were called to do. Some had longer careers than others and some saw more success than others but God called them all to help save a bunch of hard-hearted, stiff-necked people who may or may not listen or respect them.
I’m reminded of Jonah who probably had the worst attitude about it and yet had some of the greatest success in bringing people back to God. He ran farther and farther away from God until he finally, grudgingly obeyed and then spoke basically one sentence and without breaking stride, walked out and the whole country repented.
Jeremiah, on the other hand, preached and prayed and wept for 40 years and never saw a single convert. Prophets were rarely popular people, usually poor and without respect but all true, biblical prophets were called by God to be His spokesmen. That’s what the word means. It’s very similar to what preachers are supposed to be today. We are called by God to be his spokesmen but today we have the full canon of divinely-inspired scripture to go by. In the Old Testament they were living through it and so they spoke what God revealed to them in dreams, visions, angels, and revelations of sight and audible voice.
Today, the office of prophet is a little different and God doesn’t reveal Himself to people like that as much as He used to because we do have the Bible and God has revealed Himself in His Word. All preachers have to do today is proclaim it. But like the Old Testament prophets, preachers today have different levels of ability, different lengths of service and very different levels of so-called success.
We are not always popular or respected and we are usually poor but we can understand when Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Poor old Jeremiah said (20:8-9), “8Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. 9But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”
Turn, if you would please, to the book of Amos. Amos is in between Joel and Obadiah, if that helps. There’s no shame in looking at the front of your Bible to find the page it’s on. You probably don’t hear many sermons preached from any of the prophets. Your quiet time this morning probably did not include any comforting or motivational scripture from the likes of Joel or Haggai and to be honest, most people have not read much of the prophets for several reasons.
First, they’re boring. They don’t apply to us. We don’t understand them or even know most of the places talked about and when we do understand, you have to admit it can be pretty depressing sometimes. I mean, other than that, they’re great, right? Go Nahum!
The problem with that is that they do still apply to us. Sometimes it may seem like they are even written directly to us just like in Amos this morning. We are going to look at Amos 7:7-9 but the book of Amos might well start out, “Dear Christ Fellowship…” or at least, “Dear United States.”
It was written to the people of Israel 750 years before Jesus but it was written at a time when the country was corrupt politically, crime was rampant, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Yet they felt comfortable living how they wanted to live because their superficial religion said that if they just went to church every so often, prayed when they needed something and threw God a bone now and then that was surely good enough.
Does that sound familiar? I hope it doesn’t sound too familiar. I hope that is not a description of you but it is definitely a description of the country we live in. This country is about to go off the moral and spiritual cliff and drown in their sins all the while they are searching for a way through this nasty old world and they are not rushing into the church for help. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
Well, we can complain about it. We can shake our heads in disgust and blame video games, the school system and Democrats. We can do what we have always done and continue to get the results we have been getting but when you get to Heaven, do you want eternal rewards that are “good enough”? Do you want God to bless you a little bit in this life? Or do you want to live a full and abundant life like it says in John 10:10 and be rewarded more than you can ever ask or imagine as it says in Ephesians 3:20?
Now, let me warn you. We just got through with a very intense sermon series on the full armor of God in Ephesians and I’m pretty sure I heard Satan give a relieved sigh when it was over, thinking he could rest a little now that it’s done. Or maybe that was your sigh that I heard because you are tired of Satan attacking you because you have tried to put on that armor every day. Well, he’s not going to like this one either and if you are bored, it is my fault because these prophets have spoken things that certainly still apply to us today and should stir your spirit because their words demand life change for all of us today.
Good grief, I’ve been building it up long enough. Let’s finally dive into the little book of the prophet Amos. God is in the middle of speaking to Amos and showing him visions and telling Amos that the time is up for God’s own chosen people, Israel. They have been disobedient long enough and it is time to face the consequences.
Let’s read Amos 7:7-9.
7This 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. 8And 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."
This is a plumb line. Some people call it a plumb bob. I’m sure there is some kind of electronic device that builders today use to make sure their walls are plumb. There’s probably an app for that. I don’t know but this plumb line simply hangs down straight and one can see, once it quits swinging, if a wall or structure is straight up and down by comparing the wall with the line. That’s important because if a wall is even a little off plumb then gradually it will start to lean and then finally just fall over.
The wall that God is talking about here is the nation of Israel and the plumb line God is using is His Word, which for them, was the Law of Moses. That’s about all of the Bible that was written at this point but that was enough. In fact, it was too much because the people couldn’t follow the law and had, in fact, turned away from it and turned to other gods and other rules and laws that they had made up because God’s rules weren’t any fun. They were hard to follow and not very convenient so they just came up with other rules that sounded good and religious to them and they called themselves very religious.
A little boy ran into where his mother was and excitedly said, “Hey, Mama! I’m eight feet, four inches tall!” His mother said, “Really?” He said, “Yea, I measured it myself with this.” Then he held up one of those little six-inch rulers.
It matters what you compare yourself to, doesn’t it? See, Satan wants you to compare yourself to people in this world, people on TV and in the news. It’s easy to feel pretty good about yourself when you compare yourself to them. “I haven’t killed anybody all day. I hardly ever rob a bank and while I am living with somebody I’m not married to, I haven’t cheated on them in months. So, I would imagine me and God are cool. Right?”
See what I mean? Because right now you are comparing yourself to the fictional person saying those words and you feel better about yourself because of it. Now, the point of this message today is not to make you feel bad about yourself. Not at all. I say all the time that I want to know truth and I think everybody, deep down, wants to know truth and that is the point of this message. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:14, “I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.”
The truth is, my Christian family, that God is looking at your life. Proverbs 5:21 says, “For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.” That ought to scare some of you to death. Others it ought to at least motivate you to think about what God wants and what God expects from His children. The good news is that He has told us in His Word.
Amos had to stand up and point to the Law of Moses as the standard. That was the plumb line that God used back then. In Romans 6, Paul says we are no longer under the Law, but are now under grace. Thank you Lord for that. We are to be like Jesus and do what Jesus said. But…Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
That’s the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. He then goes on to say over and over again, “You have heard it said…” then He would quote part of the Law but then Jesus would go on to say, “but I tell you…” and then He would modify the Law for us today.
Let me give you an example. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”
That sounds pretty bad. But hang on, maybe it gets better. Let me read another one. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Now, wait a minute. I thought this whole “under grace” thing was easier than that. I thought it meant that if I tried real hard and went to church sometimes and didn’t commit the big sins too often that me and God were cool. You know, surely He understands that I’m only human and everybody makes mistakes and everybody sins every day.
Is that what you think? If that is what you think then you don’t know the plumb line that God is using to judge. You don’t know what the Bible says or you don’t care. If you don’t care then it’s probably because you think that because we live under grace then you can do what you want and then just ask God for forgiveness. But, as we learned a couple of weeks ago, sin is actually the very worst thing in this world that can happen to us.
When we sin; when we do anything to displease God, when our life doesn’t match up to God’s plumb line, that puts a barrier between us and God and that’s a very dangerous place to be. So it is imperative that we read, understand, believe and live out what Jesus said in places like the Sermon on the Mount. We need to know what He said about divorce and how to treat our enemies and even about worry.
Let’s go back to the illustration we started with about the guy in the car with the map in front of his face. Imagine for a minute if his foot slipped off the brake and you got to him in plenty of time to warn him but he just looked at you like you were crazy. Maybe he said something to you about how this is the way he prefers to drive; that driving with a map in front of your face is now just an accepted alternative way to drive and you need to just accept people that drive this way and stop being so narrow-minded.
You would think he was crazy, wouldn’t you? Because you don’t have to be a Driver’s Ed teacher to see that this guy is about to crash and burn. Well, that is just what our society is doing to all of us today. Every day we hear that homosexuality is just an alternative lifestyle. It’s not a sin. How dare you! You must hate people to say that. Quit being so narrow-minded. (Use toy blocks to build a leaning wall.)
Every day we are bombarded with messages in the TV shows we watch and the movies we see, the books and magazines we read that sex before marriage is just what people do nowadays. Marriage is what our parents failed at so we just don’t do that anymore. It’s not sin. Marriage is too hard so we do it differently. How is that attitude any different than Israel’s attitude when Amos was preaching to them that they were about to be destroyed?
Every day Satan and the world are telling us as individuals, as a church and as a country that God’s laws and the Bible, as a whole, is old fashioned. It’s antiquated and out of date and nobody really lives that way. Everybody cusses. Everybody gossips. Everybody overeats. Every day Satan says this out-of-plumb wall is really plumb. You are just looking at it wrong.
How much longer do we have as individuals, as a church or especially as a nation before God says, “Enough!”? (Knock down wall.) So, here is what we have to do, starting today. It is time to hold the plumb line of God’s Word up to our own lives and take a good, hard look.
James 1 says, “22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it-they will be blessed in what they do.”
We first have to make sure that we are plumb. We have to be plumb walls before we can do anything else. We need to be plumb as individuals and as a church then we take a stand against the schemes of the devil in this dark world. The problem is, they don’t know they are in darkness. A blind man doesn’t know what it means to see black and white. Nor does this world want to know, most of the time.
Their foot is off the brake and onto the gas and their vision is blinded by what feels good and seems right but Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” I can’t just sit idly by, trying not to hurt people’s feelings and being politically correct when this world that our kids and grandkids are growing up in is so far out of plumb it is about to collapse.
Amos had a word from God. He spoke the truth – it did come true, by the way – but he was obedient to what God told him to do. He went where he was supposed to go. He did what he was supposed to do and he said what he was supposed to say.
What is God telling you to do today? Where does He want you to go? What are you supposed to say? Maybe you need to speak truth to your neighbor. It has to be done in love or don’t do it at all. It pained Amos to say what he did. It was hard but he did it. Where are you supposed to go? What are you supposed to do?
Let’s bow our heads and close our eyes and spend some time asking Him right now. Maybe you don’t have a relationship with God this morning but it can be had through His Son Jesus. Just ask for forgiveness of your sin and turn away from that sin and believe that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. Then your life will be changed and you will live a new life. Do that today.