The Wall Within

Amos 7:7-10

He showed me:  Behold the Lord was standing by 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, “Behold I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel.  I will never again pass by them; 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.”

We pray.

Thank you Lord for bringing us in safety to this new day.                                    Strengthen us that we are not overcome by adversity, temptation or prosperity.  And in all that we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose.                                     We pray in the name of your Son.  Amen

The Wall Within

 Nestled deep within the bowels of the old testament is a short,                       eight chapter book written by the renegade prophet, Amos.  He was             one of the early ones even though he never declared himself a                        prophet. He didn’t come from a priestly tribe or family.  He was                         a man of the earth, a shepherd and a trimmer of trees. And he was                      a man of fearless faith which is probably why God picked him                                to leave his village south of Jerusalem and travel north to the kingdom         of Israel.

In Judah where Amos lived, people took their religion seriously.  They lived frugal lives and worked hard.  In the northern kingdom of Israel, people took their religion less seriously.  Under the rule of Jeroboam, they had grown financially prosperous; they felt privileged and  entitled.  Instead of using their gifts to help others, they exploited and discarded the poor and needy.  God abhorred their meaningless  and shallow piety. He was fed up with their blatant immorality and disregard of justice; and He held them responsible for the mistreatment of others.

So, who do you call when it’s time to preach harsh words in a smooth season?  God called Amos.

Amos took his job seriously.  He was unsophisticated, not easily impressed, and tough.  He pulled no punches.   So terrifying were his words, that the King’s own priest Amaziah pleaded, you’ve got to leave here. The people cannot tolerate what you are saying.

His plea did not deter Amos.  Chapters one through six of his book were filled with indictments against Israel and their neighbors.  He cited family violence, torture, murder, sexual exploitation, rejection of God’s law, lies, hypocrisy, mistreatment of the poor, immorality, sexual exploitation of women, and repression of the prophets.  For these atrocities, all citizens would suffer military defeats, destruction of the land, slaughter, torture, famine and exile. 

Chapter seven continued with five visions in each one of which God employs a symbol of the destruction to come, “Thus the Lord God showed me.”

Our scripture for today is the third of the five predictions. God asks Amos, what do you see?  Amos answered, a plumb line.  For those of you familiar with construction you know about this ancient tool still found in the toolboxes of professional builders and amateur DIY folks. If you want a strong wall, you want a wall that is straight up and down; perfectly perpendicular to its foundation. To achieve that, you employ a plumb line.  It’s a simple yet ingenious tool, consisting of a long cord.  At one end, there is a ring to hold or attach to a nail; at the other end a pointed weight, or bob.   The point at which the bob rests is where the stud is secured.  Only when the wall is straight or plumbed correctly will it be strong enough to withstand environmental strain and demands.

 In this prediction, God tells Amos that he is going to use the plumb line to build a strong wall between his people and himself.  The wall would serve to block his presence from them forever. Now, I am quite sure God knew he did not have to build a wall to accomplish that end.  His people had already done that!  Add to that, God historically had shown himself much more adept at tearing down walls, than building walls.  Think about the infamous walls of Jericho! 

 God knew that when his people had hardened their heart against others, they had hardened their heart against Him.  You see, it is our behaviors that are the building blocks of a wall within us that distances us from God. How many times do we hear folks say they don’t feel the presence of God in their life anymore, as though it’s God’s fault, as though God had wandered away. Amos would counter that idea with blunt questions, “What have you been doing?  How are you treating your loved ones, your neighbors, or strangers in need?  How’s your worship and prayer life going?

 There are those who wonder why we still bother to read and study these ancient texts.  If you are one of them, consider the relevance of Amos’s words to our society today.  To do so, we must read between the lines if we are courageous enough to do so.  If not, skip down to the last couple paragraphs.  Otherwise, here it is.

As long as we persecute minorities, immigrants, the homeless, poor and powerless, we are indicted.

As long as our newspapers are filled with stories of neglect, family abuse, violence and murder, we are indicted.  

As long as an angry man with a military assault rifle is allowed to walk down the street into a school, church, store, or gathering of any kind to murder indiscriminately, we are indicted.

As long as people get away with treating each other in disrespectful, hurtful, critical ways, we are indicted. 

As long as we discriminate against groups of people, oppressing them because of gender, age, nationality, color, or lifestyle, we are indicted.  

As long as we take our religion casually, placing it low on our list of priorities, and crassly behaving in ways that contradict our professed belief and that rain down shame and disrespect upon our church, we are indicted.

As long as hate, prejudice, and disregard for others are so woven into our culture that it is part of our identity, – and we remain silent, we are indicted.

 We are indicted just as clearly as were the early Hebrew citizens of Israel and surrounding communities. And like them, we too will suffer for the sins of our society.  We too will be left standing on the dark side of the wall, separating us from God.

For us though, it is not the end of the story.  Amos doesn’t leave us there, nor does God. God won’t allow us to wander lost in darkness despite the indictments leveled against us.  He didn’t do it to the kingdom of Israel, and he won’t do it to us.  Instead he calls us to examine our soul, to pray for strength and direction, to change the course of our life and ultimately the course of our society.  To do that, we must begin by tearing down the walls within us, the walls we built.

Speaking through Amos in the last few verses of his book, God promises that when we do so, He will raise up the fallen broken house of his people and rebuild it. We are the broken house; we will be raised up and rebuilt to live fully in the presence of God. Even creation will be restored “Behold the days are coming when the mountains will drip with sweet wine and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

When that happens, no wall can separate us from God.  The only wall in our life now is constructed of building blocks of love to protect and guide us to the light.  We won’t know the route God has in mind for us.  What we do know is that He has provided us the way to get there.  We just place our hand on His wall, turn our face forward and move.  Some of us will move quickly, others more slowly; whatever the pace, our progress will be sure.  The path may be uneven with pits and stones, but we won’t fall as long as we are supported by the wall.  When we get tired, we lean against it.  It’ll hold us; it’s strong, perfectly plumbed.  Just keep moving, secure in the knowledge that as long as we depend on the wall God made, we will not go off course.  We will not be overcome by adversity, temptation or prosperity.  We will not lose our way.

Once there, we will enter into the kingdom of light secure in the presence of God, free of fear.  We will live in a land where mountains drip with sweet wine and the valleys yield plenteous gardens.  We will share in the bountiful harvest of God’s love, never again left to stand alone, indicted and lost on the dark side of the wall.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We pray, Thank you Lord for bringing us safely to this new day.                               Strengthen us so that we are not overcome by adversity, temptation or prosperity.  And always, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose.                         We pray in the name of your Son.  Amen

The Wall Within

 Nestled deep within the bowels of the old testament is a short,                       eight chapter book written by the renegade prophet, Amos.  He was             one of the early ones even though he never declared himself a                        prophet. He didn’t come from a priestly tribe or family.  He was                        a man of the earth, a shepherd and a trimmer of trees. And he was                 a man of fearless faith which is probably why God picked him                       to leave his village south of Jerusalem and travel north to the            kingdom of Israel.

In Judah where Amos lived, people took their religion seriously.  They lived frugal lives and worked hard.  In the northern kingdom of Israel, people took their religion less seriously.  Under the rule of Jeroboam,    they had grown financially prosperous; they felt privileged and              entitled.  Instead of using their gifts to help others, they exploited          and discarded the poor and needy.  God abhorred their meaningless        and shallow piety. He was fed up with their blatant immorality and disregard of justice; and He held them responsible for the                    mistreatment of others.

So, who do you call when it’s time to preach harsh words in a smooth season?  God called Amos.

Amos took his job seriously.  He was unsophisticated, not easily impressed, and tough.  He pulled no punches.   So terrifying were his words, that the King’s own priest Amaziah pleaded, you’ve got to leave here. The people cannot tolerate what you are saying.  

His plea did not deter Amos.  Chapters one through six of his book were filled with indictments against Israel and their neighbors. To name a few, he cited family violence, torture, murder, sexual exploitation, rejection of God’s law, lies, hypocrisy, mistreatment of the poor, immorality, sexual exploitation of women, and repression of the prophets.  For these atrocities, all citizens would suffer as a result military defeats, destruction of the land, slaughter, torture, famine and exile. 

Chapter seven continued with five visions in each one of which God employs a symbol of the destruction to come, “Thurs the Lord God showed me.”

Our scripture for today is the third of five predictions. God asks Amos, what do you see?  Amos answered, a plumb line.  For those of you familiar with construction you know about this ancient tool still found in the toolboxes of professional builders and amateur DIY folks. If you want a strong wall, you want a wall that is straight up and down; perfectly perpendicular to its foundation. To achieve that, you employ a plumb line.  It’s a simple yet ingenious tool, consisting of a long cord.  At one end, there is a ring to hold or attach to a nail; at the other end a pointed weight, or bob.   The point at which the bob rests is where the stud is secured.  Only when the wall is straight or plumbed correctly will it be strong enough to withstand environmental strain and demands.

In this prediction, God tells Amos that he is going to use the plumb line to build a strong wall between his people and himself.  The wall would serve to block his presence from them forever. Now, I am quite sure God knew he did not have to build a wall to accomplish that end.  His people had already done that!  Add to that, God historically had shown himself much more adept at tearing down walls, than building walls.  Think about the infamous walls of Jericho! 

 God knew that when his people had hardened their heart against others, they had hardened their heart against Him.  You see, it is our behaviors that are the building blocks of a wall within us that distances us from God. How many times do we hear folks say they don’t feel the presence of God in their life anymore, as though it’s God’s fault, as though God had wandered away. Amos would counter that idea with blunt questions, “What have you been doing?  How are you treating your loved ones, your neighbors, or strangers in need?  How’s your worship and prayer life going?    

There are those who wonder why we still bother to read and study these ancient texts.  If you are one of them, consider the relevance of Amos’s words to our society today.  To do so, we must read between the lines if we are courageous enough to do so.  If not, skip down to the last couple paragraphs.  Otherwise, here it is. 

As long as we persecute minorities, immigrants, the homeless, poor and powerless, we are indicted. 

As long as our newspapers are filled with stories of neglect, family abuse, violence and murder, we are indicted.  

As long as an angry man with a military assault rifle is allowed to walk down the street into a school, church, store, or gathering of any kind to murder indiscriminately, we are indicted.

As long as people treat each other in disrespectful, hurtful, critical ways, we are indicted. 

As long as we discriminate against groups of people, oppressing them because of gender, age, nationality, color, or lifestyle, we are indicted.  

As long as we take our religion casually, placing it low on our list of priorities, and crassly behaving in ways that contradict our professed belief and that rain down shame and disrespect upon our church, we are indicted.

As long as hate, prejudice, and disregard for others are so woven into our culture that it is part of our identity, – and we remain silent, we are indicted.

 We are indicted just as clearly as were the early Hebrew citizens of Israel and surrounding communities. And like them, we too will suffer for the sins of our society.  We too will be left standing on the dark side of the wall, separating us from God.

For us though, it is not the end of the story. Amos doesn’t leave us there, nor does God. God won’t allow us to wander lost in darkness despite the indictments leveled against us.  He didn’t do it to the kingdom of Israel, and he won’t do it to us.  Instead he calls us to examine our soul, to pray for strength and direction, to change the course of our life and ultimately the course of our society.  To do that, we must begin by tearing down the walls within us, the walls we built.

Speaking through Amos in the last few verses of his book, God promises that when we do so, He will raise up the fallen broken house of his people and rebuild it. We are the broken house; we will be raised up and rebuilt to live fully in the presence of God. Even creation will be restored “Behold the days are coming when the mountains will drip with sweet wine and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit.”

When that happens, no wall can separate us from God.  The only wall in our life now is constructed of building blocks of love to protect and guide us to the light.  We won’t know the route God has in mind for us.  What we do know is that He has provided us the way to get there.  We just place our hand on the wall, turn our face forward and move.  Some of us will move quickly, others more slowly; whatever the pace, our progress will be sure.  The path may be uneven with pits and holes, but we won’t fall as long as we are supported by the wall.  When we get tired, we lean against it.  It’ll hold us; it’s strong, perfectly plumbed.  Just keep moving, secure in the knowledge that as long as we depend on the wall God made, we will not go off course.  We will not be overcome by adversity, temptation or prosperity.  We will not lose our way.

Once there, we will enter into the kingdom of light secure in the presence of God, free of fear, indictments and punishments.  We will live in a land where mountains drip with sweet wine and the valleys yield plenteous gardens.  We will share in the bountiful harvest of God’s love, never again left to stand alone, indicted and lost on the dark side of the wall.

Amen

 

 

 

 

One thought on “The Wall Within”

  1. Dear Carol,
    This is beautifully written! The reading from Amos is a tough one and although these texts are over two thousand years old, we do well to heed the words of the prophet. Our God is not a vengeful God, but one day God’s people will be protected and vindicated. May we travel the Way of Love, asking God for the strength to stay on course!

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