Hearing God: The Plumb Line
Behold, the Lord was standing by a vertical wall with a plumb line in His hand.
As young Christian it didn’t take me too long to run into the concept of “The Plumb Line” around church circles. People would say that the Word of God is like a plumb line
for your life. Line your life up with the Bible and it will be a plumb line
to keep focused on what is upright and true. Measure what you do and say against the plumb line
. The plumb line? hmmm… Now what’s that?
A quick look at Mirriam-Webster online dictionary shows you that the definition is “a line (as of cord) that has at one end a weight (as a plumb bob) and is used especially to determine verticality. OK, line (check), weight (check) and verticality! OK, what’s vericality? And what’s it got to do with my new life in Christ?
PLUMB LINE, GRAVITY, PLUMB BOB
The Mirriam – Webster site asks “What made you want to look up plumb line”? Good question, what indeed!?!
Everyone on the site listed, “Bible Study” or Amos 7:7-9! Looks like no one was checking on how to determine vericality… or even perpendicularity! (smile!) They were all checking out the plumb line and what it is with respect to their Christian faith!
Building construction is the main area you’ll find people referring to using a plumb or plumb line. A plumb line is a straight line, that is perfectly vertical. Builders need it so when they build they can be completely sure that nothing is leaning to one side or another. If walls are not vertical, the force of gravity will eventually deform them and may even lead to collapse of the building.
The traditional tool for finding a plumb line is called a plumb bob. It’s incredibly simple and pretty cool looking at the same time! The plumb bob is a pointed weight attached to a string. Check out the pictures in this post.
It insures that things stay perpendicular or at a right angle to perfect horizontal. By holding the plumb bob next to a wall, you can tell if the wall is vertical or not.
THE PLUMB LINE OF SCRIPTURE
It’s easy to see why the picture of a plumb line would be an excellent reference to the Word of God. The plumb line represents the right and true straight line that all “straightness” or “rightness” is measured against. Such a cool concept has two reference verses, both in the Books of OT Minor Prophets. One is found in the book of Amos, chapter 7 and the other is in the book of Zechariah, chapter 4.
7 Then he showed me another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” 9 I answered, “A plumb line.”
And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line.
In Amos we see the prophet describing God as the building inspector and he is examining the wall that has been constructed using the plumb line to see “if it is still straight”. Then He says to Amos, now that I’m finished with this wall I’m going to check my people and see how they measure up to my straight line!
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth.
Again God speaks of building, this time of laying a foundation. Gladness fills the hearts of people when they see the plumb line in the hands of the builder, Zerubbabel. God is looking for those who want what they to do to line up with what God is seeking!
WE NEED A PLUMB LINE WHEN HEARING FROM GOD
When we seek to know the will of God, to hear from God we must ask ourselves what can help us keep in line with truth and what will help us test the veracity of what we hear. It is important to guard ourselves as best we can from falling into subjectivism or just being led by our “feelings”. I submit that the plumb line for our hearing from God is the Word of God. Put what you hear to the test. People who walk around saying, God told me this and God wants me to do that must bring all that they think they hear to God’s Word and measure it against the plumb line, God’s standard, the Bible.
Take for instance a young couple saying that they believe God wants them to live together before marriage to confirm their compatibility or the family who pretends that they don’t really rent a room on their tax return when actually they do or the Christian who puts together political ads that mislead, misrepresent or downright lie about an opponent because they rationalize that it’s OK because it is against a pro-choice anti-pro-life candidate.
On issues of marriage do we look to God’s Word for a definition or do we follow the popular media or succumb to emotional presentations or dubious “scientific” explanations?
I understand that in our society saying “The Bible says” is akin to admitting that you are a bag of fries short of a happy meal. Or that your brain is on hold and you’re saying “don’t confuse me with the facts!” I am convinced and confident that the Word of God stands and is to be our standard. I believe there is a way to understand and present the Word of God in a logical fashion without sacrificing our minds.
However hearing from God and understanding God’s will requires us to commit ourselves to a plumb line; to a standard that is unwavering and true. Only then can we be sure that we are building on a solid foundation and that the house under construction will not collapse from the eventual pull of gravity.
In this way we can keep ourselves from straying from what is right and true. We check all things via the plumb line of God’s Word.
EYES ON THE PLUMB LINE, HEART WITH THE ARCHITECT
[ Witness of the Scripture
the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40
and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.
It is important to remember not to let the plumb line become the end in itself. The plumb bob is the tool and we can become very excellent building inspectors… of our own dwellings and the buildings of others. The Pharisees were great building inspectors. Many years ago I took such pride in being right that I missed the point. I had what you would call a “Be Right” spirit!
The purpose of a wall that is being measured by a plumb line is not straightness. That is not the end of it! The plumb line confirms the strength and veracity of the wall or bridge or house or deck so it can accomplish the purpose for which it was built!
We must be careful to not stop at the inspection but always look past to see the Architect and Author of Life. It is easy to look at the Bible and be filled with wonder at the amazing owner’s manual and become experts at wielding the plumb line. King David spoke often in the Book of Psalms of delighting in the law of the Lord, how perfect and lovely it is. A whole psalm, Ps 119 is dedicated to praising and rejoicing in God’s law.
But it is good to remember that David was said to be a “man after God’s own heart”. Though he loved the Law, his heart delighted and pursued after the Law-Giver. So like David let us grow in knowing Him who is the Grand Architect and Lover of our Souls. And let us be committed to His Word as the plumb line for all we say and do.