The Remnant

“And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth quickly and with finality.” And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.””
Romans 9:27-29 NLT

In Genesis 15:5 we read about God’s promise to Abram regarding his descendants, “Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have””! It’s not often that we can look up on a clear night and see the amazing canopy of points of light because of light pollution. Abram of course would have been well acquainted with the heavenly display, street lamps yet to be invented. Although there could be as many as one septillion stars in the universe we can only see a relative few without technological aids. But Abram would have been overwhelmed by the promise. In Genesis 32:12, Jacob prayed, “But you promised me, ‘I will surely treat you kindly, and I will multiply your descendants until they become as numerous as the sands along the seashore—too many to count’”. Another huge number. But in all of this neither Abraham or Jacob would know that their Israelite descendants would fall into hard times of rebellion and sin and only a remnant would be saved. What went wrong?

In 1 Kings 19 we read the story of Elijah after the amazing miracle on Mount Carmel. Depressed, he ended up on Mount Sinai, and having a conversation with God. Part of his depression was caused by the idolatry of his fellow Israelites, but we read in 1 Kings 19:14, “[Elijah] replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too””. Thankfully for him, God put him right, as we read in 1 Kings 19:18, “Yet I will preserve 7,000 others in Israel who have never bowed down to Baal or kissed him”! Elijah was convinced that the Israelites had broken their covenant with God and the situation for them was terminal. But God has always preserved a remnant of His people, with whom He brings about His will and purposes. 

We pilgrims are part of a modern day remnant. In my community there is only a small number of people who would claim to be Christian, and practising their faith. And that probably applies in most Western communities. Jesus warned about the small numbers of those chosen to follow Him. We read in Matthew 7:13-14, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it”. So many people are walking that “highway to hell”. Some are even proud about it, singing a song popularised by the rock group, AC/DC. But we pilgrims must maintain our efforts to show those in our communities, our families and friends, where the narrow gate is. The default road is the broad one. No effort is required to walk it. Comfort is obtained by the numbers of fellow travellers – “Well, everyone does it!”. There is a popular misconception that lemmings commit mass suicide at certain stages in their population life cycles. But for them this is not a conscious decision, made for the good of the remainder of the species. It is more the result of foolishness, as they look for less densely populated areas. There is a comparison to be made between the foolishness of lemmings and the foolishness of mankind who have chosen the wide gate leading to hell, as Jesus warned. 

Jesus said that the road to life was difficult, and only a few ever follow that path. But the rewards are eternal, leading to an immortal life spent in God’s presence and well worth the privations experienced in this life. Have we found that narrow gate? Do we believe in Jesus and follow Him, day by day? Then we are on the difficult road that is the only way to find life, abundant life beyond all that we could dream of. Only a pilgrim remnant travel it, but we’re in good company. Sadly, I know so many people who have been shown the narrow gate, but have declined the invitation to open it and pass through. God’s patience is extraordinary, and He won’t give up on His creation until the very end. And as we pilgrims journey along on the narrow paths towards to eternal life, we pray for the opportunity to grab others by the hand, to show them the way, the only way, God’s way.

Father God. We pray for our friends and families, our neighbours and community, that they would find the narrow gate before it is too late. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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