GOD‟S REMNANT AND GOD‟S HOPE
Key Verse: 4
“And what was God‟s answer to him? „I have reserved for myself
seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.‟”
Last week, we learned about the importance of confession. When we
make the confession of faith and love toward Jesus that he is Lord with our heart
and mouth, we will be saved. Today, we are going to learn about Israel‟s role in
God‟s world salvation work. In today‟s passage, Paul highlights two points: 1)
God‟s remnant and 2) God‟s hope in the future. Who is God‟s remnant? What is
God‟s hope for the world? Through this study let‟s understand the way of God‟s
world salvation work and know how we should live in view of God‟s redemptive
history. May God give us his spirit to understand God‟s word in this passage.
I. God‟s remnant (1-24)
Paul begins this chapter with a question “I ask then: Did God reject his
people?” Why does he ask this question? In chapter 10, Paul pointed out that the
Israelites had zeal for God without knowledge. As a result they held on to their
own righteousness by keeping the law and rejected the gospel. In their pride and
self-righteousness they crucified the Son of God, Jesus. However, out of Israel‟s
rejection God has brought the gentiles the good news. By God‟s grace the
gentiles could come into God‟s blessing. The gospel went out to the gentiles like
wildfire. Seemingly then God rejected his people Israel? But Paul answers in
verse 1, “By no means!” Paul knew that God‟s promise is unchanging, even
though his people changed their minds many times over. God never rejects his
people although his people rejected God. What is the evidence that God did not
reject the Israelites? Paul gives an example of himself as God‟s remnant from the
Israelites. Look at verse 1b. “I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham,
from the tribe of Benjamin.” Paul believed that out of the Israelites, God chose
him as God‟s remnant for God‟s work. We must have this conviction. Let‟s say, “I
am God‟s remnant.” And to Paul, that was a clear evidence that God didn‟t reject
his people but he was still using them as his instrument to carry his mission to
save the world. It means that Amanda Vance, one person‟s change is a clear
evidence that God did not abandon Canada, but wants Canada to be a kingdom
of priests and a holy nation.
Like other fellow Jews, before meeting Jesus Paul had rejected the gospel
and followed his own way of righteousness. But by Jesus‟ grace, he was saved
and raised up as an apostle to bring the gospel to the world. Paul believed that
God who had changed a stubborn young man Paul could change anybody
among his people. Paul also knew that throughout history, God‟s work has been
done through God‟s remnant. For example, Elijah lived during the reign of King
Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Jezebel was a daughter of Sidonian king and
worshipped Baal, an idol. Queen Jezebel corrupted King Ahab and the whole
nation Israel through Baal worship. She put the prophets of Baal on government
payroll and killed the prophets of God of the Bible.
The the Israelites were wavering between God and Baal. They wanted to
enjoy the benefits from God and Baal. So Elijah summoned all Israelites and 450
Baal priests on Mount Carmel. He first challenged the Israelites, saying, “How
long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if
Baal is God, follow him.” He also challenged the priests of Baal to a contest.
Each side would offer a sacrifice to their God without building a fire. The ignition
of the fire was left to the strongest god, who would thereby reveal himself as the
true God. First, the priests of Baal prayed all day long. But Baal did not answer.
Then in his turn, Elijah dug a huge trench around it and filled it with water and
prayed to God and God sent fire that consumed the sacrifice in the water. The
Israelites who saw all these things fell prostrate before God and right away
turned their hearts to God. And all the priests of Baal were slaughtered at the
Kishon Valley (1Ki 18). Jezebel heard what had happened and vowed to kill
Elijah by the next day. Elijah fell into despair and fear and appealed to God: “Lord,
they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left,
and they are trying to kill me” (3). To paraphrase Elijah, “Lord, Your work was
ruined completely. And now I am about to be ruined.”
Look at verse 4. “And what was God‟s answer to him? „I have reserved for
myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.‟” Elijah was tired
and lonely thinking that he was the only one in the country who served the Lord
God. But God was quietly and steadily helping 7000 Israelites to remain true to
God and not compromise with idol worship. The condition of Israel was 7000
times better than Elijah had thought. Likewise, God reserves his remnant for the
work of world salvation regardless of world situation.
Like Elijah, Paul felt lonely and hopeless seeing the Israelites‟ unbelief.
But he accepted God‟s word to Elijah, “I have reserved for myself seven
thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Paul believed that God had
spared his remnant, chosen by grace, to serve him those times with the word of
God. God always works through his remnant. God is the God of the remnant.
Who is then God‟s remnant? “Remnant‟ means that which remains of an
original body or substance. In reference to God‟s people, it means those who are
faithful to God‟s original truth despite apostasy and opposition. In the Old
Testament, the remnant referred to those who remained in God after certain
catastrophic events. They were to be the ones who carried God‟s promises and
his covenant forward to the new generations which would come after them.
God‟s remnant are those who become faithful to God no matter what. God‟s
remnant are those who overcome their situations by faith. God‟s remnant are
those who challenge the godless world with God‟s message. God‟s remnant are
those who have a shepherd heart toward the perishing. God‟s remnant are those
who live their lives for God‟s glory. The Bible is the record of God‟s remnant.
Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the prophets, the disciples of Jesus, Paul and
many others were God‟s remnant. Usually, we disregard and throw the remnant
away. But God chooses his remnant and raises them as history makers.
Look at verses 5-6. “So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen
by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no
longer be grace.” Paul believes that although world history is turbulent like the
surface waves, God‟s work in history flows steadily through his remnant, like the
undercurrent of the ocean. Although the number of God‟s remnant is small, God
uses them as light and salt of the earth. They keep the lamp of God burning in
their times. In the 16th century there was a missionary to China, named Matthew
Rich. He dedicated himself to the proclamation of the gospel message for 25
years. No one accepted the gospel. One day, a young man came to him and said,
“I have decided to believe in Jesus.” Missionary Rich was so joyful and gave his
pocket watch to him. But soon the young man disappeared. Was his ministry a
failure? No! In the world salvation work of God he was used in a most lonely
place as a small lamp of God. In the sight of God, he was truly a spiritual general
who overcame the hardest discouragement and doubt of Satan and remained as
God‟s remnant. God accepted his tears and toils and blessed China. Now there
are 100 million Christians in China.
We must see that we are God‟s remnant people in our time. Sometimes
we see only our own sins and problems. Then we can become depressed and
hopeless. However, by God‟s grace, we are God‟s remnant people in this
generation. God reserved Shepherd Richard Field, Shepherd Paul Lee and
Shepherd Andrew Han as the remnant chosen by grace among Canadians. God
who changed them as his remnant can change other Canadians as his remnant
too. May we remain as God‟s remnant no matter how dark our times may be.
Moreover, we must know that God reserves young students on Campus for
himself. They are now ready to begin their school study and to accept our
invitation to Bible study. They will be God‟s remnant in our times. Therefore let us
go, find and bring them to Bible study from this week.
Now then as God‟s remnant we must know what we should not do. First of
all, we should not harden our hearts. Look at verses 7-8. “What then? What
Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were
hardened, as it is written: „God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they
could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.‟” Although
the Israelites were God‟s chosen people, they could not obtain God‟s grace.
Why? It was because they hardened their hearts. When they hardened their
hearts and rejected God‟s love, then God hardened their hearts, too. Man‟s heart
is truly mysterious. It can be hardened or softened. What does “hardened heart”
mean? In view of the Bible, hardened heart is not responding to God‟s word. In
the parable of the sower, the path was compared to hardened heart. The seed
fell along the path but the path was so hard that the seed could not come into the
soil. Likewise, hardened heart is so hard that the word of God cannot come into
it. Those who have hardened heart listen to God‟s word but do not respond to it.
They don‟t obey it practically. Pharaoh, Pharisees and Judas Iscariot are
examples of people with hardened heart. That is not all. When people hardened
God gave them the spirit of stupor and they become foolish.
David spoke of the final end of those who hardened their heart and
rejected God in verses 9-10. “May their table become a snare and a trap, a
stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they
cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” By rejecting Jesus their heart
became hardened. Then their very blessing became a trap for them. Likewise,
the Israelites stumbled over the blessing because of their hardened heart. We
must learn from Israel‟s failure and quickly repent of our hardened heart before
God and accept and obey God‟s words practically.
Now look at verse 11. “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond
recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come
to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.” When the Israelites hardened their hearts
and rejected the gospel, the consequences were serious. However, Paul saw
God‟s hidden purpose at work even in this. It was to make Israel envious. In this
way, God wanted to motivate them to accept Jesus and fulfill God‟s glorious
purpose for them.
The Israelites were the chosen people of God. God wanted to make them
a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. So he blessed them abundantly. But in
the time of blessing they became proud and lazy. They enjoyed the milk and
honey of the Promised Land, yet totally ignored God‟s purpose for world
salvation. Most tragically, they rejected Christ when he came. Then God sent the
gospel to the Gentiles. During Paul‟s time, Gentile churches sprang up in Philippi,
Corinth, Ephesus and even in Rome. The gospel was being spread among
Gentiles to the ends of the earth. The Gentiles came to know God personally.
The Gentiles became the instruments of spreading God‟s grace to the world.
Everything seemed to go well for the Gentiles. Of course, God loved the Gentiles.
But to Paul, God had a hidden reason for pouring his blessing upon the Gentiles:
it was to make Israel envious.
God‟s envy strategy came from his deep understanding of humanity. God
knows that people are in general very envious. They are envious of others‟ jobs,
houses, cars or donkeys or etc. Especially, they envy those who seemed to
receive more of God‟s blessings than they did. Some people buy things which
they actually do not need simply because of their envy of their friends or
neighbors who have them. Likewise, knowing man‟s envy God wanted to arouse
the Jews to envy by pouring his abundant blessing on the Gentiles. To Paul, it
was clear that God still had a great hope for his people to come back to him (13-
16). So far we learned that as God‟s remnant we should not have hardened heart.
If we hardened our heart, we become foolish and God‟s blessing goes to others.
As God‟s remnant the next thing we should not have is pride and
arrogance. Look at verse 17. “If some of the branches have been broken off, and
you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now
share in the nourishing sap from the olive root...” Jews who did not accept Jesus
because of pride and unbelief became like broken off branches; they were
excluded from God‟s history. The wild olive shoot refers to the Gentiles who were
comparatively undisciplined and useless. But God grafted them into the
cultivated olive tree so they could enjoy the nourishing sap from the olive root.
Here, “the olive root” refers to God‟s redemptive history, primarily to the
patriarchs and to Jesus Christ. The Gentile Christians are branches. Upon
discovering God‟s great favor toward them, they could easily become proud and
despise the Jews. But if they became proud and unbelieving, they too would be
cut off (22b). So Paul warns them: “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid” (20b). We
are God‟s remnant by God‟s grace. As God‟s remnant we must recognize God‟s
kindness and be grateful to God and remain in humbly (22).
II. God‟s hope for world salvation (25-36).
Finally, Paul saw God‟s mysterious hope that all Israel would be saved.
How could this be? Look at verses 26b-27, “The deliverer will come from Zion; he
will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I
take away their sins.” This deliverer is Jesus Christ. When the Jews simply
receive him as Lord they can have forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. If
they insist on their own righteousness, they are enemies of the gospel. But God
loves them on account of the patriarchs. God sees their disobedience as the
opportunity to receive mercy. God is full of hope. Look at verse 32. “For God has
bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
Both Jews and gentiles must see their sins and disobedience to God and come
to Jesus humbly to be saved. God hopes that all people, Jews and Gentiles, will
be saved. God‟s salvation work is marching onward to save all people on earth—
Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, communists and everyone in the world. Knowing God‟s
amazing hope Paul praises God for the power and wisdom with which he carries
out his world salvation work in verses 33-36.
In this passage we learn that God is fulfilling his world salvation work
through his remnant. We are chosen as God‟s remnant in our times. May God
use us in his salvation work, and may we raise God‟s remnant in our times. May
God bless our fall ministry abundantly.