by Francis Foulkes ©


'He showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside 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 Israel 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." Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, "Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said, "Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land." " And Amaziah said to Amos, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom." ' (7:7-13)

a. The preaching

In the earlier verses of this chapter Amos has preached God's message to Israel through two visions. Now we have a third vision. In it the Lord Himself is standing by a wall like a builder with a plumb line in his hand. A builder uses the plumb line, a long rope with a weight at its end, to make sure that a building is perfectly upright. The plumb line is used when a wall is built. It may be used also to test a wall that is no longer upright, but bulging and dangerous. The people of Israel as a nation were like this. Their national life had been built by the plumb line of God's law. But now it was like a building crooked and rotten, so far from being upright that it was no longer safe, and it needed to be pulled down. It could no longer be straightened. So the word of the Lord through Amos was, 'I will never again pass by them'. Often he had done this, just as He had passed over them in Egypt when judgment came on that country, a fact that they remembered every time they kept the 'Passover' festival. No longer could God pass by. They had rejected His law, and their worship of Him in the 'high places' and in the 'sanctuaries' was not worship from their hearts at all. Therefore Amos said, 'the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste'. Concerning the royal house (or the kingdom itself), he said that the word of the Lord was, 'I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword'. When he saw the two earlier visions, Amos prayed for his people and God answered his prayer. Now it seemed that he could not continue to pray for them. It seemed that Amos was in a position like Jeremiah's in Judah 150 years later, when the Lord said to him, 'Do not pray for the people, or lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I do not hear you' (see Jeremiah 7:16, 11:14 and 14: 11). Why? Because there comes a time in the lives of those who turn away from God when, in spite of all the prayers and pleadings of godly men, they continue to oppose God's will and to reject the way of repentance and forgiveness that is offered to them. Then, as all Scripture shows us, there can only be God's judgment. The messenger of the gospel, therefore, though he is the bringer of good news, must sometimes in love and earnestness bring a warning. It is possible to reject God's mercy; it is possible to put off turning to Him till it is too late and a person cannot turn back to God. This is always a costly message to preach; it was for Amos when it was given to him.

b. The price

In a particular way it was costly for Amos to preach that message. It stirred up against him Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, who was determined to silence him. We can understand that Amaziah would have had no love for Amos after he had spoken out so strongly against the worship of the Bethel sanctuary (see 3:14, 4:4-5 and 5:4-6). But now there was an action that Amaziah could take against Amos. He had spoken about Jeroboam, the king. Amaziah could send a message to Jeroboam to get him to silence Amos, and he himself could threaten this shepherd prophet from Judah that he should not raise his voice in Bethel again. Notice the three things that Amaziah does against Amos.

1. He gives to Jeroboam a false picture of Amos. `Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel.' A conspiracy is when two or more people work together to try to overthrow the government of a country. Had Amos done this? He had made no plans with anyone to overthrow Israel. Some one has said that if he was guilty of any conspiracy, his only fellow-conspirator was God. The prophet had only preached the message that God had given him. Amaziah said that Amos had declared that 'Jeroboam shall die by the sword', but Amos had spoken of 'the house of Jeroboam', Amaziah reported Amos as saying, 'Israel must go into exile away from his land', making everything that the prophet said sound political. Amos had only spoken of what God would do. In fact Amaziah was afraid. 'The land is not able to bear all his words,' he said in his message to Jeroboam. The words of Amos were certainly powerful words, and they would be fulfilled, because they were words from God. Amaziah would gain nothing by opposing them. The only gain would be if he and his people heeded them and turned back to God.

2. Amaziah suggested also that Amos was only prophesying to earn a living for himself. He suggested that he could make money better by going back to his home area of Judah. That was what he meant by saying, 'Go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there'. Amaziah may have looked for money from his work as a priest. In fact he may have feared that he would suffer loss if Amos continued his preaching (compare Acts 16:16-22 and 19:23-28). It is true that some prophets received some payment for the prophecies that they brought to people (see 1 Samuel 9:7-8 and Micah 3:11). But Amos did not want or receive any money for being a prophet. This is very clear from the last few verses of this chapter. He did not wish to earn his living by being a prophet either in Israel or in Judah.

3. Finally, Amaziah threatened Amos. He would be wise to escape back to Judah, because Bethel was 'the king's sanctuary' and 'a temple of the kingdom', a kind of state church. If Amos remained preaching there, King Jeroboam might have taken action against him. Threats have often been used against the messengers of God's word. The first apostles in Jerusalem were told not to `speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus', and they were `threatened', but their only reply was that it was right for them to obey God rather than men, and they continued with their preaching (Acts 4:17-21). We can be sure that Amos did the same.

We may not be called to be prophets like Amos. Our greatest task is to be witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ and to tell the good news of who He is and what He has done. But sometimes God calls us still to speak out for Him, to make His truth and His demands known, to rebuke injustice and corruption and cruelty, even if it brings religious or political or military leaders against us. We have to be very sure that what we say is true, spoken in love, and as God would have us say it. Then, supported by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must be prepared to face being misunderstood, threatened and even persecuted.


Lord, give me courage, however hard it may be, to obey Your word, and to speak Your word in every way You call me to speak it. Take from me the fear of men, and give me strength through the power of Jesus Christ who witnessed to the truth to the end, even though men condemned Him to die on the cross. AMEN.

For further thought and study. 1. We can think of God's plumb line as His word applied to His people, showing how far from His standards their lives were. Consider the ways in which God's word through Amos was like a plumb line; and then consider the ways in which the apostle Paul in Romans 2 shows that God's law (in the commandments or in the conscience) is like a plumb line showing how crooked men's lives are.

2. Consider other examples of men's opposition to the preaching of God's word by the suggestion that it is against the king or ruler of the country. Notice what they said against Jesus Himself in Luke 23:2 and John 19:12, and see also Acts 16:21. How do you think Christians can be, or are, opposed in such ways today?

Notes. 1. The 'high places' mentioned in verse 9 were places of worship like Bethel, Gilgal and Beer-Sheba, but there were probably many others. The difference between 'high places' and sanctuaries' may have been that the 'sanctuaries' were the buildings where worship went on, and the 'high places' included the whole area around them.

2. The name 'seer' was often used for a prophet (see 1 Samuel 9:9) because he was a person who saw visions, or who was given special insight to know the ways of God. Amaziah may have used it to make fun of Amos. Phillips translates verse 12, 'Get out, you silly dreamer'.