See, I am setting a plumb-line in the midst of my people Israel. -Amos 7:8
Amos was giving some tough news to King Jeroboam of Israel. He was prophesying that God was not pleased with the direction Jeroboam was taking the country - that Jeroboam was not only risking his own death but also a disastrous result for his country.
This Sunday's passage from the book of Amos actually describes the third time Amos received a vision in judgement of Jeroboam and his leaders. The first vision was that locusts would eat all Israel's spring crops. The second vision was that fire would rain down and consume the land of Israel. And this third vision was of God standing by a wall built true with a plumb line, and God saying to Amos that the plumb line would be put into the midst of God's people Israel. Amos saw in this vision that God was finding Jeroboam's faith and leadership lacking - basically that they were in big, big trouble.
The prophet's very challenging task is to speak the truth even when it's risky or may ruffle the feathers of those in power. In this Sunday's reading, Amos is sharing his plumb line vision with Amaziah, the priest in the city of Bethel, who was not the least bit pleased with what he heard. Amaziah told Amos he should leave Judah at once and never prophesy at Bethel again “for it is a king’s sanctuary and a temple of the kingdom.” Amos’ judgment against the king is making him nervous. After all, the holy place at Bethel belonged to the king, and Amaziah's depended on the king being happy to keep his job. Amos' prophecy threatened his livelihood. What Amaziah would have wanted was to hear prophecies that decried his enemies - not his king. Professor Tyler Mayfield wrote in a commentary on this passage:
We are always the most upset at our prophets when they seem to be questioning our own way of life, not when they question the actions of those with whom we disagree.
We all know what it feels like to get 'feedback' from someone suggesting that perhaps we're on the wrong track. And we know how hard it is to swallow our pride and take a good hard look at whether or not what we are doing is really as square and true as we assume it is. In a world as confusing as ours is, it's not always easy to find a reliable plumb line to measure against, but for people of faith, we know that in the midst of life's chaos, there's only one place to go to get an accurate gauge on what we're being called to do in any given moment. Prayer is more important than ever - prayer on your own as well as prayer together with others. It not only helps to keep us close to center, but also helps us to be able to discern the ways that we are being called to speak up or speak out.
Amos was not a professional prophet. Just a guy who got three very important visions and felt he needed to speak up about them. Like him, we, too, are prophets and, if we are listening, will be called at one time or another to speak the truth to power. In order to answer your call, stay close to where the power really is.
Our readings for the Sunday are HERE. Note that in Ordinary Time, we are using "Track 2"