Let's open our Bibles again tonight to the eleventh chapter of Romans. And I have to confess to you that this is a difficult portion of the epistle to the Romans and no doubt some of you are wondering when it's going to get practical again, when it's going to sort of touch your life, when Paul's going to get over this long, long argument that he's involved in. And I can tell you, it happens in chapter 12. So it won't be long. In chapter 12 we're all going to get right into the practical, nitty-gritty kind of things about Christian living. And that will be a wonderful time. But thank you for being with us and being faithful through this series. You who are super spiritual have been here each week to carry on with this great section of the epistle to the Romans.
We're looking at chapter 11 again, verses 1 through 10. And I want to remind you at the very beginning that the theme of this chapter is "Has God cancelled His promises to Israel?" That's the question Paul is answering here.
Reaching back a little bit to the Old Testament to begin, the prophet Zechariah was one of the prophets who ministered in the time of Israel's restoration. You remember that Israel was taken captivity. Basically I mean by Israel the nation of Israel as duly constituted. The people of God were taken captivity into Babylon. And then 70 years later they were set free and they came back to the land. Upon returning back to the land they desired to restore and rebuild the city, to restore and rebuild the temple which they proceeded to do. During this post-Babylon captivity time of restoration and rebuilding, there was a prophet by the name of Zechariah. And among the messages of this prophet Zechariah was a warning of God's coming judgment on all the nations that had harmed Israel, because if you go all the way back to Genesis 12 in the Abrahamic covenant you will be reminded that it says there, "Whoever blesses you will be blessed, whoever curses you will be cursed." And so Zechariah, among other messages, gave a message relative to the judgment of God to come upon nations which harmed Israel. And in Zechariah 2:8 it says this, "For thus says the Lord of hosts, after glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you (that is Israel) touches the apple of His eye." In other words, whoever touches Israel touches the apple of God's eye.
Now there are three Old Testament expressions, three different Hebrew expressions translated into the English "the apple of His eye." Not just one, but three. The first one is found in Deuteronomy 32:10 and you don't need to look it up. But that expression in Deuteronomy 32:10 translated "the apple of His eye," literally says in Hebrew, "little man of the eye." Israel is the little man of the eye. Now that basically is a very interesting and very graphic phrase. When you get close enough to someone to look right into their eye, you invariably see a reflection of yourself. And as you see a reflection of yourself in the pupil of the eye, you see yourself reduced to a very small stature. And the one way that the Hebrews used to describe the pupil, not giving it a clinical definition, is to call it the little man of the eye. That is that part of the eye in which you appear to be very small by reflection.
The second Old Testament expression used in Scripture to be translated "the apple of His eye," is in Psalm 17:8 and it varies but a little. It is this expression, "the little daughter of the eye." And I suppose that's equal time for the women who also see themselves in someone else's eye as very small and miniature. So both of those expressions describe that part of the eye in which there is a reflection of a person reduced to small size, or the pupil of the eye.
In Zechariah 2:8 the scripture I just quoted, which also says "the apple of His eye," it is a completely different phrase which means "the gate of the eye," the gate. That is that portion of the eye which allows the light to come in, the retina of the eye, again describing that visible part of the eye. And so whether you're talking about the little man of the eye, the little daughter of the eye, or the gate of the eye which allows the light to go in, when you touch Israel you poke your finger in God's eye. You touch Him on that very sensitive spot. And the point that all of those scriptures are making is that God cares for Israel, that Israel has a very unique relationship to God and when you touch Israel you irritate God in the most irritable part of a human anatomy that is exposed.
And we could look at it this way. What does this say about God's relationship to Israel? First of all, it says they are very precious. The eye is something to be protected because it is very, very precious. No one cares to lose sight, it is a precious possession. To touch Israel then is to touch a very precious possession of God, which He values very highly, as you would value your own eye.
Secondly, it is also to say that Israel is easily injured. Of all of the parts of the human anatomy that are exposed, that are outwardly exposed, the eye is by far the most vulnerable and the most sensitive. And therefore can be injured the most readily. And so Israel, as the apple of God's eye, is subject to injury rather easily.
Thirdly, the eye is that part of the body which is most carefully protected. Of all the parts of the body it has the most natural protection. The eyelid is that which is designed to protect the eye. The eyelashes and the eyebrow, designed to protect dust from getting into the eye. The eyelid, by the way, allows the system of washing to take place, to cleanse the eye and keep it clean. And even the bones around the eye are to protect it, placing it inward in a socket so that any blow is somewhat deflected by that which surrounds the eye.
So when Zechariah or when Deuteronomy 32 or Psalm 17 says Israel is the apple of God's eye, it is to say that Israel is very precious, very easily injured and very carefully protected by God. And anyone who affects Israel negatively, anyone who harms Israel is as it were poking a finger in the eye of God.
Now to further understand this thought look with me to Psalm 105, Psalm 105 verse 8. And here we have a whole psalm speaking about God's covenant relationship to Israel. And just picking it up in verse 8, "He hath remembered His covenant forever (that is His promise made with Israel) the word which He commanded to a thousand generations, which covenant He made with Abraham and His oath unto Isaac and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law and to Israel for an everlasting covenant." So Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all of those people had the covenant repeated, "Which covenant was made to the nation as an everlasting covenant, saying, unto thee will I give the land of Canaan the lot of your inheritance. When they were but a few men in number, yea very few and sojourners in it, when they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people, He permitted no man to do them wrong, yea He reproved kings for their sake saying, touch not Mine anointed and do My prophets no harm."
Now what the psalmist is saying is that when God called out Israel and established a covenant with them, He built into that covenant protection against Israel's injury and ultimate harm so that they would not be wiped out, so that He could fulfill ultimately His promise to them. So Israel then is said to be the apple of His eye, is said to be His special anointed. "Touch not Mine anointed."
Let me draw you to another passage in Deuteronomy chapter 28. And this gives us even another insight into God's relationship to this nation Israel. And in the chapter we find God promising blessing for obedience. In verse 10 it says, "All people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord." The world will see that you belong to Him. Then verse 13, "And the Lord shall make thee the head and not the tail and thou shalt be above only and thou shalt not be beneath."
Now the point that he's making there is of all the nations, Israel is to be the head. Of all the nations, Israel is to be the unique recipient of divine blessing. So Israel then is the apple of God's eye. Israel is the anointed of God. Israel is by design the head of all nations in terms of special and unique blessing.
Now in spite of all of these things and many other prophecies regarding Israel and many other statements of God regarding His special covenant with them, it is still the belief of many people that God has no plan for Israel, that there is no future for that people. In fact, it is the belief of many that God has completely forsaken His disobedient people, His Christ-rejecting people. He has set that nation aside. They are totally forever set aside and God has cancelled all of the national promises to Israel as a nation. And we're learning in chapter 11 that that is in fact not the case. That is not the case.
I talked this morning to a man who has been many years as a missionary in Korea. He said to me, "It's intriguing to me to realize after these years and dialogue with many missionaries in Korea that ninety percent of the missionaries serving in Korea are covenant in their theology." And the implications of that are that they deny any future place for the nation Israel. So this is not an uncommon view, this is a rather common view, that there is no future for Israel, that the church has taken the place of Israel and blessing is for us and the nation Israel has no debt owed to them by God at all because of their disobedience. And yet the Scripture makes it very clear that that is not the case.
In Jeremiah chapter 30 verse 11, "For I am with thee, saith the Lord to Israel, to save thee, though I make a full end of all nations to which I have scattered thee." In other words, though I make an end to every nation, yet will I not make a full end of thee. "But I will correct thee in measure and will not leave thee all together unpunished." He says though I would destroy every nation in the earth to which you've been scattered, I would never ultimately and utterly destroy you. I will correct you and I will punish you but I will not destroy you, again another confirmation of the fact that God still has a plan for Israel.
Now in the eleventh chapter of Romans, Paul affirms this. In verse 1 we read, "I say then, hath God cast away His people? God forbid." Mē genito, no, no. Verse 2, "God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew." Now that is the basic truth of chapter 11. God has not ended His covenant promises to Israel. And as I told you last week, this is so very important for us because we want to know that we have a God who keeps His promise, right? And that's the whole of Paul's point here. In trying to call men and women to Christ, in trying to call them to salvation by grace through faith, he is calling them to the God who is the God of Israel. And it is important to him to prove to them that the God of Israel has not abandoned His covenant people, because if He abandoned them, it's going to be hard to sell anybody else the salvation that he now offers, for why should they trust a God with their destiny who has abandoned His promises to another people. So the point in eleven is to answer that query that's going to come in the mind of a person who says, "Well, has God set aside Israel forever? Has God cancelled all His promises to them because of their unbelief?" And the answer is no, not at all.
Now, of course, he has said that God has set them aside. Remember back in chapter 9 verse 31, "But Israel, who followed after the law of righteousness has not attained to the law of righteousness." Why? "Because they sought it not by faith but, as it were, by the works of the law for they stumbled at that stumbling stone." He says they've stumbled over the truth of Christ. In chapter 10 verse 1 he says they're not saved. In verse 2, "They have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge." In verse 3 they are ignorant of God's righteousness and have not submitted to it but tried to establish their own. So he's made it very clear that they are unbelieving as a nation. He has made it very clear that God has set them aside as a special people. And in fact He has brought in another people. Verse 25 and 26 of chapter 9 says that He will bring in a people who were not His people. So chapter 9 and chapter 10 said that Israel was set aside and Israel was unbelieving. And God was chastening Israel. And then at the end of chapter 10 it says that they are a disobedient and contrary people.
Now does this mean that they are forever set aside and all the promises cancelled? No, no, no, not at all. They rejected Christ, yes. The culmination of all their history, of all their hope, of all their anticipation was the arrival of Messiah. Instead of believing in Him, they crucified Him. And there's no question that they were set aside, that God set them aside in a judgment. In fact, in verse 19 of chapter 10 God provokes them to jealousy by a no people, by a foolish people. And verse 20 says that God was found by them that sought Him not. He was made manifest to those who asked not. And that describes the Gentiles. They are a foolish people. They are a no people. They are a people who didn't seek, but they are a people to whom ultimately the truth has come. Because Israel rejected, God turned to them. So Israel is set aside.
And we've learned this, haven't we, in our study of Matthew. In Matthew over and over again we have read how the Lord says, "I'll take the kingdom from you and give it to a nation worthy of it." How He says to them, "You will not come to the wedding feast," Matthew 22, "therefore go out in the highways and call anyone who will come in." How He says to them in chapter 23, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” I turn from you, as it were. So we know that Israel is set aside. But the question is, is this total? Is this permanent? Has He cancelled His promises to Israel? And Paul's answer is no, no, no. To the nation He has not cancelled His promises.
And he is only reiterating this because it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it is consistent with the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 31:35, "Thus says the Lord who giveth the sun for a light by day and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who divides the sea when its waves roar, the Lord of Hosts is His name. If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seat of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever." In other words, there's more chance of everything in the heavens falling apart than there is of Israel not being a nation. “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundation of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” He says I'll cast off Israel when you can measure the universe. Get out your tape and give it a try, it's infinite. There's no hope of God ever setting aside Israel. That promise in Jeremiah 31:35 to 37 ought alone to end all the discussion as to whether or not God has a future for His nation Israel.
So, Israel, says Paul, will not be set aside. In fact, the setting aside that we are now seeing, and we're still living in that time, is partial, passing and purposeful. And that's how chapter 11 is divided: Partial, verses 1 to 10; passing, that is it's not permanent verses 11 to 25; and purposeful, verses 26 to 36 and we'll see the purpose of it when we get to that section.
Now first of all we're looking at the partial aspect. Paul wants us to see that God has not set aside Israel totally but rather it's only partial. And he uses three proofs: The writer, the remnant and the revelation the writer, the remnant and the revelation.
Now do you remember we looked at the writer in verse 1? Has God cast away His people? No, no, for I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham of the tribe of Benjamin. I mean, it's a simple basic syllogism. If God casts away His people and I am one of His people, therefore I am cast away. But when you reverse the syllogism it makes no sense unless it's a positive. For example, Paul could say, "I am an Israelite. God has not forsaken me therefore God has not forsaken all the Israelites." That's the point of the syllogism. So that is his argument. In being converted to the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul was living proof that God had not set aside Israel totally, it was only partial. In fact, Paul's conversion was especially representative of the nation, for Paul was an unbelieving Jew. He was a fanatical zealot against the gospel. He was ignorant of God's righteousness and God saved him and He will also save other fanatical, unbelieving, zealous, ignorant Jews. As Paul came to faith and true righteousness in Christ, he showed that God was not through with the Jews. So the first argument is the writer.
The second one is the remnant, and that's where we left off last time, verse 2, the remnant. Now God has always had a faithful group of people in His nation. It's never been the whole nation. You remember that? It has never been the whole nation. In fact we learned that so very, very clearly in the ninth chapter. Go back to verse 6 of chapter 9, the end of the verse, "For they are not all Israel who are of Israel.” They're not all Israel who are of Israel. “Neither just because they are the seed of Abraham are they all true children of God, but in Isaac shall thy seed be blessed." In other words, it's always been selective. It wasn't all the children of Abraham. Not the children of Ishmael but the children of Isaac.
And then he goes to the Jacob and Esau illustration. It wasn't the children of Esau but the children of Jacob. So it never was all those out of the loins of Abraham, it was always selective. Verse 27 of chapter 9, even Isaiah said, "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant shall be (What?) saved." It's always been a small group, always been a remnant. In verse 29, and "As Isaiah said, except the Lord of Sabaoth has left us a seed, (or a remnant), we would have been as Sodom and Gomorrah," and they, of course, were so totally sinful that they were totally destroyed. And so it's always been a seed, a godly seed, a remnant.
Back in chapter 2 of Romans, do you remember verse 28? "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh, but he is a Jew who is one inwardly and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter whose praise is not of men but of God." There he says a true Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly, whose heart is circumcised. That is to say the flesh of his heart...that is the sin of his heart is cut away, who worships in the spirit not the letter, who seeks praise from God, not men. So it's always been a remnant of true believers. Very important.
So we say then that God has not cast away His people. Why should we say now, listen carefully to me, why should we say now that Israel is set apart and Israel is cast away because the nation as a whole in general rejected Christ, when in fact the nation as a whole in general rejected everything else God ever said? You understand the point? It's always been a remnant. And there was a remnant at the time of Christ that believed in Him and they were led by the apostles. So when people say, "Well because of the cross Israel is ultimately set aside," they forget that it's always been a remnant at any point in Israel's history. Except for a few times of great revival and times under the judges immediately after their great victories, Israel kept going into apostasy all throughout its history. And that's why God says, "All day long have I stretched forth My hands to a disobedient and contrary people." That's a definition of them. It's always only been a remnant. And even at the cross it was only a remnant but God never said it would be other than that until ultimately all Israel shall be finally saved.
So, it's very important to understand the doctrine of the remnant. Now let me give you some... I hope you can capture this in your thinking because it's very helpful. The remnant discussion in chapter 9 — it says in chapter 9 verse 27, "The number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the seed but a remnant shall be saved," — the remnant idea in chapter 9, now listen carefully, is to show that not all Israel will be saved. Did you get that? The remnant concept of 9 is to show that not all Israel will be saved. Reversing that, the remnant concept of chapter 11 is to show that not all Israel will be lost. The remnant concept of chapter 11 is to show that not all Israel will be lost. God has not cancelled His promises to them, there will be a remnant. They'll not all be lost.
You see, the argument is different. In chapter 9 they were saying, "Well if this is the truth, why doesn't all Israel believe?" And Paul's answer to that is because there's only a remnant that believe. And that's by God's design and plan. It's always been that way. And now he is saying, "Well because only a remnant believes, does that mean God has cancelled the promises?" No, because a remnant believes it shows He hasn't cancelled the promises. So you come at it both ways.
Now how do we illustrate this concept of a small group or a remnant? To do that we come to a marvelous marvelous account in verse 2: "Know ye not what the Scripture says about Elijah?" Do you know the story of Elijah? And he picks out Elijah, that great prophet of God, as his illustration of remnant truth, remnant truth. Do you know what the Scripture says about Elijah? Well let me tell you what it says. "He maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets and dug down thine altars and I am left alone and they seek my life." Now that's what the Scripture tells us about Elijah.
But what was the answer of God unto him? Verse 4, "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Now that was God's answer. Elijah says, "I'm the only one left." And Elijah didn't understand the doctrine of the remnant. God says, "No, no, I have seven thousand who haven't bowed the knee to Baal." There is always a remnant.
Now the reference here is to 1 Kings 19. They were dark days in Israel, tragic days in Israel. Apostasy had taken over. I mean, rampant apostasy in the land. A disastrous toll was wrought upon the people by a very vile, wretched, evil queen whose name was Jezebel. And Jezebel was the queen of, get this, the queen of Israel and the priestess of Baal at the same time. You say, "How did she get to be queen?" She married Ahab. Ahab was the king of Israel. Ahab was in the line of the kings. He was a wretched king. He was an evil king. He did evil in the sight of God. And he married this wicked, Baal-worshiping priestess by the name of Jezebel. And she's so distasteful that not a human being on the face of the earth would knowingly name a daughter Jezebel. The very word is a word that makes people shudder who don't even know the Bible story. There are two names you will never find people using for their children: Judas and Jezebel.
Now Elijah became the focal point of Jezebel's anger and hatred because he represented God. And she despised that prophet of God, Elijah. Now Elijah wanted to call the country back to God and so he said, "Look, you're all out there worshiping Baal and I want to have a contest." Let's turn back to 1 Kings and see what happened. He wanted to reverse the apostasy of his people. He said, "I want to have a contest," chapter 18, verse 18 and 19. He says, "You gather all the Israelites to Mount Carmel and the prophets of Baal, 450 of them, and the prophets of the idols, 400 more, that's 850 who eat at Jezebel's table." She was feeding all these prophets. Listen, she was Satan's woman. I mean, the reason Ahab married her from his viewpoint was he liked the way she looked and he wanted to make some kind of political alliance. But from hell's viewpoint, she was in there to corrupt the nation. She was in there with 850 priests that she ate with, that infiltrated Israel, that got the people worshiping the Baal, which, of course, is a false god. And so he calls for a confrontation of the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of idols and they come up to Mount Carmel. And you remember the confrontation. He says, "All right, now you prove that your god is God, you burn up this sacrifice." You remember they had an altar there of stone and they had a sacrifice. And all day long these guys cried out and screamed and cut themselves. And Elijah stood around saying, "Well maybe you better yell a little louder, he might be asleep." And he taunted them, or, "Maybe he's on a vacation." And this just infuriated them. And when it was all done and they had gone through all their histrionics, absolutely nothing happened.
And then Elijah called for water and they drowned the whole thing and cried to God. And God sent fire, burned up the water, burned up the altar, burned up the sacrifice and everything in sight. And Elijah affirmed that God is God. God is God. That was a great victory. Verse 39, "When all the people saw it they fell on their faces, they said, ‘The Lord He is God, the Lord He is God.’ And Elijah said to them, Take the prophets of Baal, let not one of them escape. And they took them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slew them there." A massacre, about a thousand feet down to the foot of the mountain and he just massacred all these prophets. That was a great moment, oh what a great moment.
And you know what Elijah expected? Immediate revival, immediate restoration to the worship of the true God; he expected a national repentance. He expected everything to take place instantaneously. But when it was over he got so depressed, he became so depressed about the unchanged apostasy, no change, that he became despondent. Go down to chapter 19 now and we'll pick it up.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done. How he had slain all the prophets with a sword. I mean, he must be some man. And you know those guys didn't just get in line and bend their neck and somebody said, "Next." I mean, this is amazing feat. This is a Samson type of an occasion. And she's told by Ahab, her wicked husband, what he's done. "And Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, ‘So let the gods do to me and more also if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’" I'm going to have your head by tomorrow at this time, she said. "And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life." He ran all the way to Beersheba. Now this is an old man, folks, and God never intended old prophets to run to Beersheba. It's hot down there. And what have you got here? You've got a guy who is not afraid of 850 men but one woman totally terrorizes the man. Some of you, no doubt, can identify with that kind of a...
You know what it was, a running in fear partly, and what it tells us is that we're all just human beings unless we're in the very place of God's power, right? I mean, when he was in the place of God's power, God used him to accomplish mighty things. But when he stepped out of that, he was just a normal person. He was just like anyone else, just as vulnerable and just as weak. And he ran for his life. And he was so despondent. Because he thought this great victory is going to bring a great revival and this is the start of a turning around of the people. I understand the despair of the man. He'd poured out his heart, he'd won the greatest spiritual victory of his lifetime and he expected to see revival and he never saw it. He never saw... It's kind of like preaching the sermon that you think is the epitome of all that you could possibly do and nothing really changes. And you run and you don't understand why and you get despondent.
And so he went a day's journey in verse 4. "Came and sat under a Juniper tree." He's way out in the desert, already one day beyond Beersheba. "And he requested that he should die." He said, "I've had it, it's enough. Take my life, just get me out of here." Very depressed guy. And then he prayed, and he actually prayed against his people. This is an interesting pastoral perspective. He prays against his people. Go down to verse 10, this is what he said, "I've been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts, for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, slain Thy prophets with a sword and I, even I, only am left and they seek my life to take it away." And this guy is really in despair. "Nobody spiritual is left, nobody cares anymore, they just murder the prophets, they tear down the altars, they forsake the covenant." Verse 14, would you notice, he said, "I have been very jealous for the Lord God of Hosts because the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, slain Thy prophets with the sword and I, even I, only am left and they seek my life to take it away." Now he's getting repetitious. He's repeating himself with passion, with intensity. And he prays that God would do something. He prays, as it were, against his people who are so apostate, so evil.
And that is what Paul picks up in Romans chapter 11 as his illustration of a man who needs to understand a remnant. Verse 2 of Romans 11, "He made intercession to God against Israel, this is what he said, Lord, they have killed the prophets, dug down Thine altars and I am left alone and they seek my life," that's Romans 11:3 and it's basically a paraphrase from what we just read in 1 Kings 19:10 and 14. They've killed the prophets, they've torn down the altars and I'm the only one left and they seek my life. Listen, Jezebel killed an awful lot of prophets, an awful lot. In fact, in 1 Kings 18:4 it says, "For so it was when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by 50 in a cave and fed them with bread and water. And ‘digging down the altars,” as I said, no doubt after the degeneracy and apostasy of the ten tribes and many altars were erected in secret locations by the faithful and used as places of worship. They were permitted by the prophets, apparently, but apostate haters of true worship destroyed them. And so Elijah calls for judgment. He feels everything is over, everything is gone. I, only I am left. He had just had a great victory that actually resulted in nothing happening that he could see in the nation.
Now what was God's answer? Verse 4 of Romans 11. What was the answer of God to him? "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." And that is 1 Kings 19:18. If you're in 1 Kings you can see it. "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." And so, Romans — and now you can turn back to Romans and remain there, if you wish — so in Romans Paul quotes that passage, refers back to that passage. It's not a quote out of the Hebrew, it's not really a quote out of the Greek text of 1 Kings, the Septuagint, it's just sort of a...the sense of it being quoted. But the idea is the same. God is not reserved...God rather has reserved seven thousand who have not bowed to Baal.
Now the point is simply this. Elijah thought he was the only person left in the nation that was true to God. And God says not so, there are seven thousand that I will protect because they have not gone into apostasy and idol worship.
There's an interesting thought there that I just mention to you in verse 4, "What saith the answer of God?" The word "answer" is very interesting. It's a very unusual word. The word is chrēmatismos and it basically means a divine oracle so that it's not just an answer that a man could give, it's a divine answer. So what was the divine word of God? What was the authoritative revelation of God? "That I have My remnant who have not worshiped Baal." Baal, by the way, is a term referring to the Phoenician deity called Baal. The Chaldeans called him Bel, B-e-l, that's why some of their kings were called Bel-shazzar and so forth. Baal and Bel are associated with the female god Ashtaroth, with the Greek Astarte and with the Queen of Heaven and with Venus. So Baal appears in all different kinds of pagan forms. Sometimes Baal appears male, sometimes female and that's consistent with the switching of gender among the false deities.
So, He says I have seven thousand that have not bowed their knee to Baal. “I have” I love this “reserved to Myself.” Now that's sovereign preservation. That's sovereign election, reserved by God for God. God always keeps a remnant. The nation may be apostate, God keeps a remnant.
Now listen carefully to what I say. In Elijah's time there were seven thousand in the remnant. In Isaiah's time there was a very small remnant. Do you remember chapter 6? God says to Isaiah, "You go out and preach the message and know this, that their ears will be fat, their eyes will be blind, their minds will not understand but you preach anyway till all the cities are laid waste, until there's no inhabitants in the land. Because when it's all said and done you'll find a tenth and they'll be a godly seed." There's always a godly seed. In Elijah's time it was a remnant. In Isaiah's time it was remnant. In the captivity, when they were in Babylon, there was a small remnant. The remnant was people like Daniel, like Ezekiel, like Shadrach, like Meshach, like Abednego, like Mordecai, like Esther, they were part of the remnant in captivity, while the rest of the people were rejecting the truth of God. And when they returned to the land, a remnant returned under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Malachi's time, there was a remnant and that remnant sought to have their names written in God's book of remembrance, Malachi 3:16 says, "And the Lord had their names written there and He said, I will punish this whole nation for their apostasy but I have your names written in my book of remembrance." And He said, "They shall be Mine in the day that I make up My jewels." God had His remnant in Malachi's time.
And when Jesus came, the whole nation of Israel was apostate, but He had His remnant. And His remnant was John the Baptist and his followers. And His remnant was Anna. And His remnant was Simeon, and those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem. There was always a remnant. And in Paul's time, look at verse 5, "Even so then at this present time there is a remnant, according to the election of grace." Even in the time of Paul the whole of Israel hadn't rejected. There was a remnant. I mean, there were the apostles. And there was the church at Jerusalem. Three thousand people converted at the day of Pentecost, thousands and thousands more in chapters 4 and 5, you're up to twenty thousand, by the time you get to chapter 8 they fill Jerusalem with their teaching.
There are more and more Jews being converted, there was a remnant of tens of thousands of them, no doubt, by the time the apostle Paul penned the epistle to the Romans. There was even then a remnant of believing Jews, according to the election of grace. The church at Jerusalem was growing under the leadership of James. They even founded a church in Antioch. And then that church sent out apostles, Paul and Barnabas to found churches all around the world. And in any city they went to, where did they go first? To the what? To the Jewish synagogue. And Jews were being saved all around. So there was a remnant according to the election of God's grace.
And today, we could add, there is a remnant. There are believing Jews today. And in the future there will be a remnant of believing Jews. There will be those who reject the activity of Antichrist. There will be in the nation Israel believing Jews who will be converted. There will be the 144 thousand Jews sealed so that they cannot be killed and sent out as missionaries to reach the world with the gospel during the tribulation. There will always be a remnant. There always has been a remnant. And ultimately, at chapter 11 look at verse 26, finally and ultimately, "All Israel shall be saved." Finally and ultimately God's going to save that nation. All Israel. But until then it's always a what? Always a remnant, always a remnant, always a remnant.
So the remnant, you see, people, listen, the remnant says Paul is proof positive that God has not cancelled His promise to Israel. He continues to perpetuate through the remnant a godly seed so that ultimately He can redeem the whole nation. God has set aside Israel, yes, but only partially, only partially, only partially. There's always a remnant.
I mean, when James wrote his epistle, who do you think he was writing to? "James,” James 1:1, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting." And when Peter wrote, to whom did he write? "Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the sojourners, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Capadocia, Asia and Bithynia." Jews who were scattered, who were sojourners, outside of their land, Peter wrote to them. And the book of Hebrews, to whom is it written? Jews, who believe in the Savior.
And so says Paul, notice it in verse 5, at this present time there is a remnant. There is a remnant, a spiritual group, a chosen group, I love this, “according to the election of grace.” They are saved not by their own will but by the will of God. They are saved not because they chose God but because God chose them and they responded in faith. They are saved because God elected them, from eklegō, to call out, a sovereign emphasis here. And they were elect because they were worthy. Is that what it says? No, it was the election of what? Of grace, not the election of honor, not the election of reward, but the election of grace, undeserved favor. God predetermined before the foundation of the world to choose some Jews on which to set His saving love and His saving blessing which would be His remnant. And so they are elect, according to His grace, not of works lest any man should boast. And salvation is as always the election of grace, the election of grace. Unconditional, undeserved, unearned grace resulting from the sovereign free choice of God. So all through history God has kept choosing out a remnant, a remnant, a remnant, so that He could preserve His godly seed, ultimately to fulfill the promise to save the nation.
That sixth verse is a comment on the election of grace, "And if by grace then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace," and that's where the verse ends. It seems as though what is added in the Authorized version was probably a marginal note that someone wrote just as a further explanation and somewhere along the line in later manuscripts it slipped its way in. But what he is saying here is the election of grace is what chooses the remnant. And if it's grace, then it's no more works. Otherwise grace isn't grace. If you earned it, it isn't grace, right? Salvation is by grace. God's grace and man's works are mutually exclusive. And so God has a remnant according to grace.
Back in Romans 3, do I need to remind you of this? "Being justified freely by His grace." Romans 5:2, "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand." Chapter 5 verse 20, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Verse 21: "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign unto righteousness."
And so, Paul has been saying all along, salvation by grace, salvation by grace. And that is true in the case of the remnant as well. And Paul, who was a member of that remnant, gives his own testimony. He says, 2 Timothy 1:9, "God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began and is just now being made manifest." Great concept. If you're a Christian, beloved, it's because God chose you before the foundation of the world and it was made manifest in your lifetime. The remnant is elected by grace, it is all of God's sovereign love, all of God's sovereign will, has nothing to do with human performance and that's what Paul is saying. God has elected His remnant. God has chosen His remnant in every time period.
Chapter 9 verse 11, it says there, "According to the purpose of God, according to election." It's the same concept back in chapter 9 verse 11. So, there is a remnant. The salvation of the remnant, like the salvation of everyone else, is wholly based on God's free gift of sovereign grace. Now listen, God chose a nation graciously, sovereignly. He determined by His own will to love that nation. Therefore in every period of time out of that nation He determines to love a remnant of people. Now may I add, so that you're not confused, that that choosing is not without the response of faith, but it is initiated by the sovereign choice of God? All men deserve death, none of us has a right to be saved, no Jew has a right to claim salvation, but God graciously grants it.
So the first six verses add up to the reality then that God is not finished with the Jews. He is not cast off the nation of Israel, as Paul's conversion proves, verse 1; and as the remnant proves, verse 2 through 6. There always will be a faithful group. There always will be a believing remnant to fulfill the Word of God. So very, very important.
Let me close with a very interesting testimony. My seminary days, as you know, I was taught by Dr. Charles Fineberg, a wonderful Jewish believer. And he tells the story of a Russian Jew and I want to read you the account that he gives. "Over a quarter of a century ago a Russian Jew of great learning named Joseph Rabinowitz, was sent to Palestine by the Jews to buy land for them. He went to Jerusalem. One day he went up on the Mount of Olives to rest. Someone had told him to take a New Testament as the best guidebook around Jerusalem. The only Christ he had known was the Christ of the Greek and Roman Orthodox Churches, who were his persecutors and the persecutors of the Russian people. But as he read the New Testament, he became acquainted with the real Christ of whom the Old Testament scriptures had foretold. And his heart grew warm. He looked off toward Calvary and thought, `Why is it that my people are persecuted and cast out?' And his conviction gave the answer. ‘It must be because we have put to death our Messiah.’ So he lifted his eyes to that Messiah and said, `My Lord and my God.' He came down from the mount a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He went home to Russia and erected a synagogue for the Jews. And over the door of that synagogue he had written `Let all the house of Israel know that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ.'" That's a funny thing to write on a synagogue.
"He was one," says Fineberg, "of the many present remnant of Israel, which proves conclusively and better than words that God has not cast away His people." He continues to collect a remnant.
Has He cancelled His promises? No. The writer, the remnant prove it. Next time, the revelation as we look at verses 7 to 10. Let's pray.
Our Father, we thank You that You are a God worthy of trust. You are a God who keeps Your word. Thank You for what we see in the nation Israel. We understand how that those people who heard Paul present the gospel of grace and who knew that the Jews as a nation had rejected it would say, "Well how can it be true if they rejected it? How can it be the truth of God when these people who are the recipients of the revelation of God refuse to receive it?" And we understand how they could say, "And if it is the truth, does this mean God has cancelled His promises to them?" And so, Lord, we thank You for this answer, because if You had abandoned Your people, we would wonder whether some day You might abandon us, too. We thank You that You are a God who keeps covenant and the day that You forsake Israel is the day that we get our tape measure out and measure the universe. Thank You, O God, for being a God of great truthfulness, great faithfulness. We bless You for that, for we have committed ourselves to You with the confidence that He which hath begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. That as You never forsake Your elect nation, so You will never forsake Your elect church. We thank You for that, in Christ's name. Amen.
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