Series: Shepherds Roar
Message: Mean People
Preacher: Japhet De Oliveira
Reflection: Nathan Brown
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jess Lee
Live Beyond: Art Preuss
Live Purpose: Kyle Smith
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Amos 7-8 in the New Living Translation (NLT). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: There’s probably an app for it these days, but the plumb line is one of the oldest pieces of measuring technology. It is simply a weight on a string—although often made with more precision and sometimes more artistry than that—a plumb line measures the verticality of a wall or similar structure. And for all our technological advances, this basic building tool and measuring technology still works just fine.
Coming after the exchange between God and Amos that seemed to pre-empt God’s harshest judgments, God showed Amos a vision of a plumb line, measuring the straightness of a wall (see Amos 7:7–8). After Amos’ resistance, God seemed to be making the point that His judgments are not arbitrary or based on a whim. God’s judgments and justice are based on pre-existing measures—and particularly so in the experience and history of the people of Israel.
Even as he delivered these messages of judgment, Amos used language that reminded the people of their special status as the people of God. They were people of the covenant God had made with their ancestors when He promised in turn that the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would become a great nation. They were the people He had rescued from slavery and brought to the promised land that they could call their own. This was a special relationship.
There was history between God and the people—and it was this history of God’s gracious favor and the laws God had given to them that they were being judged against. Their faithlessness toward God and toward their own people were not trivial matters. Coupled with the repeated entreaties from prophets for personal and social repentance, they were a stubborn rejection of God and their relationship with Him.
This was the plumb line that would measure and judge the people. And, God pointed out to Amos, they would fail any reasonable test. Which was something God could not continue to ignore indefinitely (see Amos 7:8). The judgment was fair and the punishment was deserved.
Recalibrate: How would you explain to someone who has questions about faith that God judges and will judge fairly?
Respond: Pray these words: “God, may we learn to trust judgment to You, even as we seek to build and shape our lives with You.”
Research: We often think of judgment or justice in terms of balancing scales—and we do see this imagery in the Bible (see, for example, Daniel 5:27). But why might a plumb line be a better image for the biblical view of judgment?
Remember: “The Lord used his name, the Pride of Jacob, to make a promise. He said, ‘I will never forget what these people did’” (Amos 8:7, ICB).
Nathan Brown is a writer and book editor at Signs Publishing Company, near Melbourne, Australia. Nathan is author/editor of 16 books, including two this year—Of Falafels and Following Jesus and For the Least of These.
Run your finger along your child’s spine. See if your little one can do the same with you. When your spine is out of alignment it can be instantly painful or it can slowly pull your whole body out of shape. Do some stretches that stretch out your spine with your little one. Reach up tall as high as you can go. Then kneel down with your arms stretched out on the floor in front of you. Sitting up, make circles with your wrists, and then with your ankles. You were made to move without pain and without causing pain. Pray, “Jesus, help us today to give you our pain so we don’t give it to others, in your name Jesus.”
Do you have a favorite superhero? What is their superpower? My favorite superhero when I was younger was Batman because he was always protecting others. Batman may not have been able to turn invisible or see through walls but he was super smart and used this ability to protect others. Do you know we can be just like Batman? We don’t need a superpower to stand up for others when someone is being mean to them, sometimes all it takes is to stand beside the person and let them know they are not alone or ask them if they want to play with you.
A few years ago, I had the task of rebuilding a fence that had been knocked over by the wind. I used several tools on that project and one of them was a plumb line. The purpose of a plumb line is to determine if the boards are actually upright. Any slight angle would tell me that the fence needed to be adjusted. I understand that we are from perfect. However, Jesus has instructed us that we are to be light and salt to the earth.
Let’s get real: Do people know recognize you as a Christian by what you do or say other than the fact that you go to church?
Have you ever found yourself wrestling with God? As we read Amos 7 it is almost as Amos and God are in a wrestling match. “Don’t do it, God!” “I won’t!” “Will it happen?” “It won’t!” It may look like God is going back and forth in this passage. One minute He is going to rain fire, the next He isn’t. What I see when I look at this text is a relationship. God is in a relationship with His people, therefore God allows them to wrestle with Him. It isn’t about us winning or God losing; rather I think it is about God allowing us to be part of the process. In your life, are you wrestling with God about anything? How does wrestling with God bring you peace when the outcomes of life do not go your way?
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jess Lee is an education consultant for the New South Wales Adventist education system. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and attends Kellyville Church.
Art Preuss pastors in Massachusetts at the Springfield, Florence, and Warren Adventist churches and serves in the U. S. Air Force Reserve as a chaplain.
Kyle Smith is the associate pastor of youth and family ministries at New Haven Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas.