“”Oh my people, what have I done to you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!”
This is the first year I have read the bible using a chronological plan. I have to say that it has been my favorite of all. Right now, I’m deep in the period of the kings. As you know, this was an awful time, marked by complete disregard for the Lord except for only a couple kings. Almost all of them openly worshiped false gods and yet many boasted that the true God was in their midst and actually favored them. To correct them, God sent many prophets to forcefully remind them of their sin, instruct them to repent, and warn them of their impending doom if they failed. Of course, there was always great reward for their repentance which was even demonstrated in actual events of mercy.
Quite frankly, it seems to me that the conditions today are no different than way back then. Maybe they are worse. Government is corrupt and promotes evil. It seems almost all churches have fallen into some form of idolatry. And, the people? Well, we don’t want to follow God, either. We often point to Romans 3 in our assessment of the human condition, but it is not just Paul who has recognized that no man seeks God. I’ll add the references in parenthesis:
Romans 3:9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,
10-12 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Ps. 14:1-3, 53:1-3)
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” (Ps. 5:9) “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (Ps. 140:3)
14-17 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” (Prov. 1:16, 3:15-17)
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Isa. 59:7,8)
That’s been the case from The Fall until now. Simply awful. Their condemnation has been earned. Mine, too.
Yet, we see a common theme throughout the bible of God making separate a special group of people to whom he has mercy. What I like about the chronological plan is that it gives a sampling across books – Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets – so that we see the people’s actions and God’s response through his prophets. In my plan today, we see the exile to Assyria and Babylon. We also see this earlier beginning with Noah and Abraham, through Joseph, and later through the church culminating finally when evil is forever destroyed. Always, God is plucking a few out of the world that hates him.
Make no mistake, God is not simply letting all this go unnoticed or unanswered. His human creations have turned on him to a degree that we can scarcely comprehend, and he will make us pay. This particular part of Isaiah really struck me:
Isaiah 10:20-23 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. For the Lord God of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth.
Of course, he is describing the return from exile, but the same thing happened before and will, again, at the end of time. Ultimately, destruction will take place at the lake of fire. All along, in redemptive history, God has snatched out his remnant. Of this group, he has completely different intentions. Let’s look at the next part of Isaiah.
Isaiah 10:24-25 Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction.
Did you see that? God tells his remnant not to be afraid of the Assyrians. How could he say that since the Assyrians will almost completely slaughter the Israelites? He says that because he has saved the remnant. Intentionally. Even though the slaughter goes on all around, they have nothing to fear because God has protected them. As in forever.
This is staggering, folks, because when we closely examine those who are the remnant, we see that they are no different than the Assyrians. Indeed, what Paul collected and summarized in Romans 3 is true – none of us are righteous. None. Yet, we see the remnant who “will lean on the Lord” when before they fought against Him. How can these things be? What changed? Let’s look now at the prophet Micah:
Micah 2:12-13 I will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob; I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach goes up before them; they break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king passes on before them, the Lord at their head.
Who is the Lord? Jesus. See Philippians 2:10-11 about that. Jesus is our Savior, our Redeemer. He is the head of the Church which is the Seed of Abraham.
It is simply breathtaking how all of this ties together! Folks, I can’t impress upon you enough the reward you will receive from reading your bibles. You’ll need to read it seriously, many times over, but you’ll find it a book that amazes you more and more the more you read it. Economics speaks of the law of diminishing returns. That doesn’t apply here! In fact, this falls under the Law of Increasing Returns!
But, that doesn’t answer the question about who the remnant is. What makes them so special among the crowd? The answer to that is that there is nothing special about them. They have earned exactly with the rest of the world has – eternal damnation. Even so, God has determined to have mercy on some whom he decides to have mercy. We are not given any hint to his methods. None. If you have been given a Golden Ticket, it is not because you have purchased a Willie Wonka bar. It is because God has given it to you. Everyone knows it’s available to all, but none take it. God is the one who takes you.
What do we say of these things? Well, if you are of the remnant, Micah says it beautifully.
Micah 7:18-20 Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast our sins into the depth of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.
From the days of old. Friends, on the one hand, this should humble us because our salvation is truly a gift. On the other hand, it should embolden us to share our faith. Go forth, my friends, and share the gospel.
Father, who is a God like you? None other. Embolden your remnant! Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers