It would seem that in every time of departure and decline spiritually, God has been pleased to preserve for Himself a faithful ‘remnant’. These represent a minority that are still faithfully devoted to God, His truth, and His promises.
The word ‘remnant’ is common in scripture but most often has the practical application to the ‘leftovers’ of something. However, Isaiah says, ‘Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah’, Isa. 1. 9. The New Testament also witnesses to the existence of these groups in our own times, ‘Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace’, Rom. 11. 5. Here, Paul is referring to Jews who had, in distinction to their fellow countrymen, embraced the gospel. These two scriptures direct our attention to a ‘remnant’ as a group of believers, preserved by God and still faithful to Him and His word by their refusal to follow the general pattern of spiritual apathy around them. They declared themselves as no longer belonging to this departing majority.
It may help to clarify their distinctiveness by considering some four characteristics that mark them out:
Some remnant companies in scripture:
In His disciplinary dealings with Israel in the days of Elijah, God in grace leaves them a remnant, ‘Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him’, 1 Kgs. 19. 18. It is not recorded that Elijah ever saw a great deal of support for his ministry from these God-fearing ones, but they were there in what were the darkest days of the rule of Ahab and Jezebel, when idolatry abounded.
In a day when it is so easy to take the road of ‘popularism and fashion’ rather than that of holding to the simplicity of a scriptural pattern and to the total authority of inspired scripture for all truth, we need to value more than ever those that are prepared to hold intelligently and devotedly to scripture as their only guide and the Lord Jesus as their only centre of gathering. Our salvation and path to a fruitful testimony will only be found in that which presents the person of Christ, seen and demonstrated in devoted hearts. Legalism attains nothing for God, but He responds with delighted blessing when we ‘love’ His Son and honour His word.
Malachi’s prophecy is one of the most devastating and stringent criticisms in the whole of our Old Testament.
It concerns the many failures of the returned nation, and their total disregard of the requirements of God for a true testimony to Him made it so that they could no longer call themselves ‘the people of God’.
But, and it’s a large ‘but’, at this critical moment, there were those whose hearts were touched, and they responded to God’s word in heart and deed! Thank God for such when we do also. How often is there now a humbled and powerful hush to our hearts at the close of hearing powerful ministry? Is there no one who will get up to say, ‘we have heard the Lord speak today, we need to leave, humbled, prayerful, and thankful’? Or who will gather a few to ‘pray the ministry in’ and so avert Satan’s vigorous efforts to snatch away the seed sown? Those who do these things are an example of a remnant in our present day, they could be described as ‘they that feared the Lord’.
In closing, we need to see how God had His ‘remnant’ ready and responding as the Lord Jesus came into our world. ‘And there was one Anna… which departed not from the temple but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem’, Luke 2. 36-38.
So there have been those characteristically seen to be ‘remnant’ companies ever since. Those looking for His return. Even in the final letter to the churches, the Lord will appeal for such, ‘I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me’, Rev. 3. 18-20. This is the Lord’s final comment in His final letter to the churches.
Do we need to look into our hearts and ways at this late day? We are here to be a remnant for Him. Will He find us looking up and ready for His call to eternal glory?