Since God first set apart a people for Himself, there have always been compromisers among those who bear His name. Flirting with false gods and dabbling in the world’s lusts results in captivity; but whenever God’s judgments have been administered, He has always preserved a faithful remnant of His people to carry out His plans (remnant meaning a small, select portion).
Joseph speaks of this. His brothers’ hearts had been full of jealousy and murder. Yet Joseph when he was exalted as ruler forgave them, saying, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance” (Gen. 45:7)
Isaiah and other prophets spoke much about the remnant: “For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return” (Isaiah 10:22, NASB). In Ezekiel the Lord told an angel to “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it” (Ezekiel 9:4, NIV) – this remnant of the people was to be spared the destructions that were coming upon the rest of the city for its idolatries.
The concept of a remnant carries over under the New Covenant. Paul states “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Romans 11:5, NASB). And in Revelation this is foretold by an angel who says “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God” (Rev. 7:3).
In Zephaniah 3, several characteristics of the remnant are listed. They:
In a similar way, Elijah lamented to God, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I alone am left, and they seek to take my life away” (1 Kings 19:14). Notice the Lord’s response to reassure Elijah: “I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” Elijah thought he was alone, but 7,000 others who had not compromised were part of God’s hidden remnant.
It’s not enough to me just to be called a Christian. I want to be part of the remnant, of God’s elite – His Special Forces as it were. “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21, NIV).