The big deal of a plumb line


I heard a good sermon last Sunday as I was with my family in Michigan. It was good not because the preacher was remarkably outstanding, although he seems to be a good communicator. It was good not because he stirred us to both laughter and tears, although we did chuckle a couple of times.

The sermon was good for one reason, and that was because he brought an old, old story from the Old Testament and planted it right into our hearts and lives as we find ourselves in our present reality here in 2021.

The old, old story from the Old Testament is not a familiar one to most people I would suppose. The text, and remember that in preaching the text is the Scripture foundation from the Bible and not a short note keyed into a message from your phone, the text was from the prophet Amos in chapter seven.

God has given Amos a very difficult assignment. Amos is to go to the king of Israel and give His message of warning about the doom and punishment He was going to bring because of the sinfulness and faithlessness of the king and the people. What makes it even more difficult is that Amos is not even a formerly real prophet, but only a sheep herder and a tree trimmer. That’s a good sermon for another time, that God uses very ordinary people to do His extra-ordinary work.

So, God shows up in some recognizable way to Amos and He is standing beside a straight-up, properly measured, perfectly vertical wall. He’s holding in His hand a plumb line. Amos knows exactly what a plumb line is.

A plumb line was and still is a string tied to a plumb bob, which is a weight, usually with a pointed tip on the bottom, and together is used as a true vertical reference line, or plumb line. It was used in ancient days as we use it still today, to build walls, particularly brick walls, that are straight-up, properly measured, and perfectly vertical.

God tells Amos that He is sending him to the king and the people as a plumb line. Amos was to be God’s Measure, bringing God’s Word as the Truth by which the king and the people should set their faith and morals and way of life.

Of course, the first thing this plumb line would do would be to show the off-line, poorly measured, non-vertical morals and life ways that were leading the king and the people away from God and toward the path of destruction on which they were headed.

And, of course, upon receiving the Word of God, which showed their waywardness and dangerous direction, the king and the people gave what is the natural human response. They rose up against Amos. They denied their faults. They got angry with Amos and God and laughed at the thought that they were moving so far off God’s Measure and God’s Way. They just kept doing what they wanted to do and ignored what God was calling them to do.

Well, judgment came, the righteous judgment of God that is rightfully His to bring. God didn’t hate His people. He loved His people and gave them His Plumb Line, His Word, to call them to the good life He wanted them to have. He continued to love them and call them by His Word, and eventually even gave His own Son to become the path back to goodness and righteousness.

What made this a good sermon was the intentional attention to the specifics of this old, old story, and most importantly that the preacher brought the Truth of it right into our hearts and lives here in 2021.

Here’s the deal, the big deal. Here in 2021, there are so many people, both in high places and those living ordinary lives, both non-church people and church people, who are living lives that are off-Plumb with God’s Word and God’s Way. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that their way is better than God’s Way. In many instances they have convinced themselves that they aren’t that far off from God’s Center. They have convinced themselves that God’s Word is ancient, outdated, and not relevant to today’s world.

Pick any of the hot topics of our world today and you’ll hear people declaring that it’s a new day, a new way, a new freedom to do as they want, with no ancient Biblical Truth that can stop them. You’ll even hear those people picking and choosing parts of God’s Word and Truth to defend their off-Plumb agendas and actions.

What God told Amos is what He is still telling us who are holding onto God’s Truth and True-Vertical as revealed in His Word. And that is that we are the plumb lines of our world. We are the ones holding God’s eternal Truth as revealed in Holy Scripture, holding God’s Plumb Line against the leaning and distorted agendas and movements so prevalent in our world today.

Will we be loved and revered and accepted by those whose lives look so crooked up against God’s Plumb Line? No, of course not. Amos certainly was not, but he answered God’s call. We certainly are not, but we are not deterred because we know it is God’s Truth we hold and God’s Perfect Vertical we stand for.

Nikolai F.S. Grundvig put it this way in a hymn,

“God’s Word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever;

To spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor.

Through life it guides our way; in death it is our stay.

Lord, grant while time shall last Your Church may hold it fast

Throughout all generations.”

Amen to that!

[Kollmeyer, a Fayette County resident for 35 years, is Pastor Emeritus at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Follow Pastor Scott Ness and this great church at Kollmeyer is also Interim Pastor at Word of God Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg. Find his weekly video recorded sermons at]