A plumb line is a string with a weight fastened to the end that helps a builder keep the walls of the structure straight (or “plumb”). It works like a level, revealing if the walls are becoming crooked, and thus vulnerable to collapse.
The prophet Amos used this familiar imagery to help the people of the northern kingdom see that God had a standard that he would use to judge their “straightness”: “I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using the plumb line to see if it was still straight……..The Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line, I will no longer ignore all their sins” (Amos 7: 7-8).
Compared to the “plumb line” of God’s perfect law delivered at Mount Sinai – the standard he expected of his people – the nation of Israel was completely crooked and destined for collapse. Fulfilling God’s promise to destroy the wall that did not measure true to the plumb line, within just a few years the Assyrians defeated the northern kingdom and sent the people into exile.
A plumb line is an unrelenting standard, as is God’s law. And God’s standard has not become lax. “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23). God holds up a plumb line to our lives and asks, “How do you measure up? Are you built straight? I cannot just ignore your sin.” And we have to answer, “We do not measure up. We are hopelessly crooked.”
Into the harsh reality of our catastrophic crookedness, Jesus heroically comes to show us a plumb line – not weighted by the law but by grace. Jesus comes to us and says, “So you don’t measure up? I do! I lived up to God’s standard perfectly. And by grace through faith, I will give you my own perfect record so that when God tests you with his plumb line, instead of condemning you for your crookedness, he’ll bless you for my holiness.”
In the gracious plan of God, the Cross of Jesus has become the plumb line by which our lives are judged. Through the Cross of Christ, we receive mercy instead of condemnation, pardon instead of quilt. Praise God for his mercy and grace!
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Prayer – Jesus, you are the plumb line of God’s righteous standard. Through your work on the cross, you took the condemnation for my crookedness. Through your holiness I can stand up straight. Help me to live in a way that recognizes this freedom we have in you.
Incumbent at St Aidan's Anglican Church,