The Lion of Judah and the Plumb line

The book of Amos is about a simple man that God used to deliver a powerful message. Amos was a shepherd and took care of fig trees. God chose to send Amos to warn the Northern region of Israel and the Southern region of Judah to restore the nation of Israel.

He starts out this warning by addressing the judgement God was bringing on their enemies, the surrounding regions of Israel.

Damascus-which is in Syria; Gaza-which is Palestine; Tyre-found in western Lebanon; Edom, Ammon and Moab-which are all in present day Jordan

They had done some pretty terrible things: took captives and sold them, killing by the sword with rage and anger, ripping open the pregnant women of Gilead among other things…

Then he addresses Judah of the South and Israel of the North. The lion had ROARED!!!!! “Hear this word the LORD has spoken against you, O people of Israel-against the whole family I brought out of Egypt: (Amos 3:1)……”Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria; see the great unrest within her and the oppression among her people. They do not know how to do right, declares the LORD, who hoard plunder and loot in their fortressess. Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: An enemy will overrun the land; he will pull down your strongholds and plunder your fortress” (Amos 3:9-11)

They had started worshipping idols and false gods. Their king, Jeroboam II, had led them astray. He followed in the footsteps of his father, and placed golden calves in designated places to bring sacrifices that became their temple, instead of letting them worship at Solomon’s temple. He wanted to keep them divided through religious differences so that they would not unite and become one under one ruler. King Jeroboam II had delivered them from the King of Aram and the Arameans, where they had been under great tyranny. They became very prosperous economically after this, but became very “complacent and secure” (Amos 6:1) “You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph” (Amos 6:4-6).

They were, “trampling the needy and doing away with the poor of the land” (Amos 8:4). With wheat in the marketplace they were “skimping the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales” (Amos 8:5). “You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts” (Amos 5:12). “You have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness-” (Amos 6:12).

God sent a famine, withheld rain, struck the gardens with blight and mildew, sent locust and plagues and death.  After every attempt to turn their hearts he repeats the same line…”yet you have not returned to me” (See Amos 4:6-11).

“You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god-which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will send you into exile beyond Damascus, says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty” (Amos 5:26-27).

“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream!” -Amos 6:24

Amos had visions of locust, and fire. Amos had interceded on Israel’s behalf and the LORD listened to Amos and relented. Then he had a vision of a plumb line. “The high places of Isaac will be destroyed and the sanctuaries of Israel will be ruined; with my sword I will rise against the house of Jeroboam” (Amos 7:9).

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel then sends a message to King Jeroboam, “Amos is raising a conspiracy against you in the very heart of Israel” (Amos 7:10). He then twist Amos’ words and tells him to leave. Amos also had a vison of ripe fruit. “The time is right for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer” (Amos 8:2).

“The days are coming, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I will send a famine through the land-not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11).

“Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? Surely, the eyes of the Sovereign LORD are on the sinful kingdom. I will destroy it from the face of the earth-yet I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob, declares the LORD” (Amos 9:8).

“For I will give the command, and I will SHAKE the house of Israel among all the nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, and not a pebble will reach the ground” (Amos 9:9).

HERE IS THE HOPE-THE PROMISE OF RESTORATION!!!!!

“In that day, I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair it broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name, declares the LORD who will do these things. The days are coming, declares the LORD, when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them, says the LORD your God” -Amos 9:11-15

In the book of Mark we read in chapter 12 where Jesus has spent all day answering questions by the Pharisees. They then asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important? The most important one, answered Jesus, is this: Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all of your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).

“Well said, teacher’, the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices’. When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions” (Mark 12:29-34).

Then Jesus continues his teaching in the temple courts. He asks, “How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:

“The Lord said to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” David himself halls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”

Right here, Jesus is revealing that he is the Christ, but the Pharisees could not pick up on this because they did not have spiritual eyes. They only had worldly eyes. They were looking for a worldly king like David to come and save them. Unlike Peter, who recognized Jesus as God’s son, because God had revealed it to him, “You are the Christ, son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:17).

“The large crowd listened to him with delight. As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at the banquets. They devour widow’s houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely” (Mark 12:37-40).

THE WIDOW’S OFFERING

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).

Can I just say, that I do believe I have been reading this passage wrong my entire life! Our biblical text breaks up these teaching points, but they really read together like an entire flow of teaching. First with the greatest commandment to love God first and then our neighbor being more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Next, making the point of the Pharisees having a world view and not having spiritual eyes. Then, teaching to watch out for them with mentioning how they devour widows houses before moving on to the widow’s mite story and then talking about how every stone of the temple would be thrown down!

I’ve always interpreted the widow’s mite as the emphasis on her sacrifice and how God loves a cheerful giver. Also, that God is pleased with her gift even though it is small. I don’t think those thoughts are wrong, but…….with the flow of the text and just mentioning devouring the homes of the widows….it does NOT say how she felt about the offering. We do not know that she was cheerful. After reading this over multiple times I came to the conclusion that the focus is really on the offering of the teachers of the law equaling less than 2 mites! In case you were curious 2 mites, or leptons/denari are two small copper coins that are equivalent in value to our U.S. penny. In fact, after some research I came across a book (1) that said that two lepta “appears to be the minimum lawful amount of temple contribution!” That it was actually a “temple made rule!” Its very well possible that it is all she had to live on, but that is what she was required to give!

The next question that I have failed to asked myself all these years is WHY is this all this woman had to live on? We learn throughout the Old Testament that when a woman becomes a widow, her deceased husbands brother makes her his wife and takes her in. If there is not a brother, or not one living then it goes down the line to the next of kin. We learn this with the story of Ruth. There a man that was next of kin before Boaz, but he did not want to buy Naomi’s home/land because he did not want to take in both Naomi and Ruth! Boaz was a man of honor and went by the rules. Not only did he take in two widow’s but he left plenty of extra grain around the fields to help feed the poor, which was customary in that day. This widow, in the story of the widow’s mite was likely one of those very widows that Jesus was mentioning that got tricked out of her home.

Then Jesus leaves the temple where the large marble stones and columns were. Matthew’s account of this just says, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Mark’s account shows emphasis on what one of the disciples says about the temple as to make a point that he (whichever disciple it was) really didn’t get the point that Jesus is making. That the worldly things, burnt offerings and sacrifices are not as important as loving God and loving your neighbor. “As he was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings! ‘Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. ‘Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Mark 13:1-2)…then he continues to talk about the other signs of the End of the Age are about to come in both Mark and Matthews account.

If you want to dig deeper, check out Matthews account in Matthew 22:34-24:2. He talks about the greatest commandment and whose Son is the Christ but leaves out the widow’s mite story and goes on a whole chapter about the seven woes to the teachers of the law and Pharisees. It mimics the same theme in a different way with way more condemnation. It also calls them out for giving a tenth of their spices, “But have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy, and faithfulness.” (Matthew 23:23).

I find it fascinating how the main themes of the Old Testament from God and the old covenant run throughout the New Testament and Jesus ministry in the new covenant. The people change and the stories differ, but the principles stay the same. Its the plumb line. A plumb line is a type of measuring device that is used when constructing the walls of a building. The plumb line helps you to build the walls so that they are straight and true. If the walls are not straight, the whole building will fall to the ground!

Jesus is our cornerstone and the Word of God is our plumb line! The Word is what keeps our temple straight. It, is what guides us when we are putting together Kingdom walls and the enemy is trying his best to make them crooked. It, is what straightens the foundation. Jesus, the cornerstone, bringing together the wall on the left and the wall on the right into a beautiful straight, foundation of living stones that will never fall to the ground! Amen?
 

Edershiem, Life and Times of Jesus          the Messiah, vol 2, p 388.

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