“The Lord God showed me this: a basket of summer fruit. He asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ I replied, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’ The Lord said to me, ‘The end has come for my people Israel; I will no longer spare them.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
If you really want to learn the nuances of a foreign language, one of the best ways to go about doing that is by learning to read its poetry. Poetry is heavily rooted in imagery and sound play. Because of this, while you can translate the poem in order to understand all the words and maybe even grasp the poet’s point, without knowing the original language, there are elements the poet intended to be understood in certain ways you are nonetheless likely to miss. This all comes into play in these couple of verse from Amos. Let’s talk about how and what it means for us.
“He showed me this: The Lord was standing there by a vertical wall with a plumb line in his hand. The Lord asked me, ‘What do you see, Amos?’ I replied, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will no longer spare them.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
This morning will be a bit of a different kind of reflection than we usually have together. This is a pair of verses that have been preached many times by many preachers over the years. And in nearly all of these sermons the point has been roughly the same. God is going to hold us accountable to His righteous standards, and if we don’t meet them, judgment is going to come. This is all based on Amos’s using the imagery of a plumb line. It makes for a compelling sermon, but the trouble is that it is almost certainly not the imagery he was actually using. Let’s talk about it.
“We have an altar from which those who worship at the tabernacle do not have a right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the most holy place by the high priest as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, so that he might sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing his disgrace.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
The first sermon series I ever preached was through the letter of Hebrews. I don’t honestly remember why now. It was probably because I was fresh out of seminary and feeling ready to take on the world with my preaching. I still have all those manuscripts on a hard drive somewhere. I don’t particularly want to go back and read them as they were probably all pretty bad. My congregation was gracious to remember I was fresh out of seminary and had never pastored a church before and endured them patiently. I do remember that I labeled all my sections and made sure my big idea was in bold. They would have gotten at least Bs on manuscript form alone were I still in class. I think I wound up doing the series in something like eight weeks, which after this journey of nearly eight months, I can’t even imagine. Were I to preach through Hebrews again, it would be a much longer and very different series. In those eight weeks, do you know what I didn’t cover? Chapter 13. I didn’t touch it at all. We got to chapter 12, and then went on to the next series. These four verses are a big part of why. I’m still not totally sure what to do with them. This morning is going to be a bit of an exercise in figuring it out, and you get to join me in that.
“His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
For the last few weeks, I have been taking my congregation (and you as well) on a journey to understand how to read the Bible a little better than they did before. This has mostly been Christianity 101 type of stuff, and the next two parts of the series will be no different. I had been planning on this series for a few months and was pretty excited about it. Engaging with the Scriptures and encouraging followers of Jesus to do that in their own lives is something I’m pretty passionate about. But personally, I don’t always practice that passion as well as I feel it. As I fell asleep last night and when I was lying in bed for a bit this morning before getting up, I was thinking about what I would be writing about today. Leaving for the office a little later, I still didn’t know. Then God did what God has a knack for doing and gave it to me in a rush. We’re going to spend a little bit of time this morning engaging with the Scriptures together and seeing in action why doing it can make such a difference in our lives.
This week we kick off a brand-new teaching series. For the next four weeks, we are going to be talking about how to read the Bible. We’re going to talk about how to read it, why to read it, and what it even is in the first place. If you have ever felt like you didn’t really know what you were doing when it came to trying to read or study it, this is going to be a great series for you. Listen and share it with a friend who’s asking the same questions. You’ll be glad you did.
What Is the Bible Anyway?
If you are someone who’s been around the church for a little while, have you ever been told before that you should read your Bible? If you’re someone who hasn’t been around the church for all that long, do you remember ever being told by a well-meaning believer that you should read your Bible? Okay, here’s a follow-up question for both groups of people: Did you go from there and heed that counsel? I did. The reason I engage with the Scriptures on a daily basis today is because when I was about 13-years-old, two volunteers with my church youth group (who were both men in their late-50s or early-60s—if you find yourself in or near that category and you are not volunteering with our students, you are missing out on the opportunity to change someone’s life forever; case in point: I probably wouldn’t be a pastor today unless I had started reading my Bible all those years ago because those two men told me I should) told me that I should be reading my Bible every day and that if I did it for 21 days in a row, it would become a habit. I did and…it did. If you were another one of those folks who took that advice and started reading your Bible, did you know what you were doing when you got started? I didn’t, and I suspect there’s a pretty good chance that you didn’t either.