Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him. (1 Kings 19:18)
Elijah’s complaint may well be one that every genuine believer will share as the end times draw rapidly towards a close. There was a time when most of the people in the western world claimed themselves as belonging to the Christian religion. These days, most find the notion laughable. Even within the church there are many who are already deceived, following comfortable teachings and wrong doctrines that speak to self-gratification. The Bible tells us categorically that the great apostasy will come, when many will fall away, seduced by the doctrines of demons and chasing after false prophets and self-seeking teachers. Already real Christians who stand for God and His Word are becoming isolated among family and friends, persecuted and treated unjustly at work, at school, and in governmental laws. Free speech is allowed for everyone, but free speech from Christian is called discriminatory. With the rapid descent into what is politically correct, we will be hard pressed to find the remnant of God, even in our churches.
We have a promise that there will always be a remnant of God, preserved by His power.
There is no doubt that the great prophet Elijah was at an all time low. Perhaps having to confront the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, all of whom had royal protection and support. How alone He must have felt, standing alone against 950 false prophets. Yet he had the courage to do as God instructed, and through his faith and the power of God, won an enormous victory – and the hatred of and death threats from Jezebel. The thought of a remnant of God, of others who shared his faith and conviction, would have been very far from his mind as he fled, alone, into the wilderness.
We’ve grown accustomed to the concept of mass revival. This is what the Church seeks after – a powerful move of God sweeping across the nations. In our current culture, the concept of the remnant of God seems alien and unfamiliar – and often unwelcome. While we must rejoice if we see God move in mighty, miraculous ways, revealing His love and power to the world, we live in a time where we need to look past the hype so prevalent in our churches to sincere and committed faith – the kind that knuckles down, immersed in the Word, leaning only on God and trusting Him no matter what the circumstances. The call to repentance and righteous living has never been as loud as it is in this current time. We must remember that apostasy will overtake the real, sweeping, miraculous moving of God. Numbed by persecution, hardship, and mockery, believers will fall away, and God will raise up and preserve for Himself the remnant of God.
Remnant means ‘what remains after everything else is removed.’ Haggai and Hebrews both talk of the great shaking that is to come in which all that will be left standing will be the things of God. Anything that is not of God will fall away. Faith based on wrong teaching will fall away. Conviction based on feel-good emotionalism will fall away. Comfortable Christianity founded on false gospels of prosperity and unconditional love will fall away. True righteousness – the kind that relies only on the blood of Christ, and which recognises that we serve a jealous God who is both the judge of heaven and the merciful saviour – will emerge through trial and testing. The remnant of God is no weak-kneed, motley bunch. They will have been chosen in the furnace of affliction, and will be those who live for the glory of God alone, no matter what the cost.
The reality is that those believers who are fully committed and surrendered to God will start to feel their separation and isolation. There will be times when it seems we are the only one in a sea of enemies, where we stand alone against the storm, and when we feel we cannot go any further. At times like these, we should remember the story of Elijah, the bold and lonely prophet. We should look at his life and see how many times God preserved him, empowered him, sustained him, equipped him, and comforted him. This is the promise in today’s verse: The harder things seem, the more we can be sure that we are not alone. There are others whom God has called and set apart for this very hour and purpose. The remnant of God will be preserved by His mighty hand in all things and through all things.
We have a great blessing that was not available to Elijah. We have the Holy Spirit. Whether we are one voice in our particular wildnerness, God is there – not only with us but in us. The struggles that true believers will face can never be endured in our own strength. It can only be done through the infinite grace and almighty power of God Himself. Our part is to heed the call to righteousness and to obey. We love to remind ourselves that we are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people set aside for God. In end times, this means the remnant of God. That ‘set apartness’ will be more and more apparent, our faith will be tested to the limit, and our hearts may well break with the burden of it. But God will sustain His remnant.
It is a time for all true believers to evaluate relationships and seek discernment. We need to seek out and align with those who are called out, who have the courage to stand for the Word in its entirety, not just the bits we find comfortable. The days will come when when we have to choose, and we will need others to stand with us. The remnant of God is stirring even now, drawing closer to Him, surrendering all to Him, coming to a deeper place of humility and repentance. Those hearts are being fed and preserved by God Himself, shaped and molded and trained. He alone is our Rock, our strength and our salvation. The remnant of God, like Paul, preaches only Christ and Him crucified.
The beauty of life in the Spirit is that it is centred in eternity. Spiritual things have their roots in eternity. My prayer here and now, prayed with the same heart as another in another time and place, reaches the ears of God as a single prayer. I do not have to have another believer alongside to be united in the Spirit. This is part of the great gift that Elijah did not have. Through the Holy Spirit we are united as one body, even though we may be a world apart. The remnant of God in these end times is a remnant forged of the Spirit. We are a group united by the eternal Spirit of God. In the Spirit, we are never alone. What a joy it is to have the assurance that there are others, a remnant of God with a united purpose, faith, and righteousness in Jesus.
Righteousness is the banner of the remnant of God. Jesus told us to count the cost of following Him, and that injuction has never been as pertinent as it is in this age. If we want to avoid being swept away on the tide of apostasy, we need to hunger and thirst after righteousness as never before. May God grant us the grace and courage to search our hearts, to lay all before Him, to fix our eyes on our God our banner, and stand firm, no matter what the cost. Let us take hold of the wonderful truth that the remnant of God has been reserved – set aside, spoken for, and belonging to God. It is a privilege indeed to part of those called out to stand for God in these end times.
When the way is hard, as it often will, be He who has reserved us as His own will also preserve us as His own. Jesus said that no one can snatch His sheep out of His hand. That is the promise that the remnant of God takes with them in these challenging and demanding times. Each and every true believer has a particular purpose. We were born into this time for a specific reason, one for which we have been created, molded, and called out. Be encouraged to take hold of the Word and stand firm, yielded only to the Spirit of God who leads us all in the ways of true righteousness.
Lord God, help us in these troubled times to see past the difficulties and strife to the glorious coming of Christ. Sustain us, strengthen us, and preserve us. Above all, teach us the ways of righteousness that we may walk in the Spirit, bringing glory and honour to Your holy name.