God’s judgment of the Israelites was not motivated by a desire to end his relationship with his chosen people, but a desire to rid the nation of Israel of idolatry. In response to a vision of two plagues that would devastate the land and starve the people to death, Amos prayed that the Lord God would forgive his people and cease from judging them. It says in Amos 7:3 and 7:6 the LORD repented, meaning he decided on a new course of action (5162).
The new course was described in a vision recorded in Amos 7:7-9:
Thus he shewed me: and behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumbline, with a plumbline in his hand. And the LORD said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, a plumbline, Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more: and the high places of Isaac shall be desolate, and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste; and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.
A plumbline is a tool used in the construction of walls and buildings. It consists of a weight suspended from a string used as a vertical reference line to ensure the structure is centered. It finds the vertical axis pointing to the center of gravity. A plumbline is used to make sure the structure will remain upright over long periods of time and can withstand the pressure of outside forces. Typicallly, a master craftsman will rely on a plumbline to guarantee his work will pass inspection.
The reference to a plumbline in Amos’ vision was linked to the rebuilding of the temple and wall surrounding Jerusalem. Amos was the first prophet to warn the people of their impending destruction and yet, in the midst of his message was a sign from the Lord that there would be restoration in the future. The key to understanding God’s judgment can be found in 1 Kings 12:32 where it says, Jeroboam sacrificed unto the calves he had made upon an altar in Beth-el.
Beth-el was the location where Jacob saw a ladder that reached to heaven and the angels of God ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:12). After he awoke from his dream, Jacob said, “How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven…And he called the name of that place Beth-el” (Genesis 28:17, 19). From the time of Jeroboam I to Jeroboam II, almost 200 years, the kings of Israel had been making sacrifices to two golden calves in the same location that Jacob identified as the house of God.