Sunday, September 25, 2022

Room for the Remnant

Make room for an Israelite remnant.

I would urge you to do this as you read and think through the scriptures, whether for your own benefit or in planning to teach others.

Allowing for the possibility of a remnant will provide a key to the understanding of prophecy, which occupies such a large part of the Bible. Without doing it, you may fall for Replacement Theology, which teaches no future role for Israel in God’s plans, transferring to the church all references to a bright future for that nation, and leaving all Jews to experience only those parts of scripture that speak of divine displeasure with Israel’s past and her present condition of unbelief.

Precious promises to a believing remnant within that nation are thus understood as finding their fulfilment in the church.

One of the verses used to support this idea is Galatians 6:16, where the Apostle Paul speaks of “the Israel of God”. But if we make room for a remnant within national Israel that confesses Jesus of Nazareth to have become Lord of all and the nation’s Messiah, the term makes sense, for as Paul teaches elsewhere, the privileges given and promises made to the Israelite patriarchs must and will come into effect as written. The explanation given is, “For they are not all Israel [the Israel of God] who are of Israel [the nation].” In Christendom we may see a reflection of this, for not all those born of Christian parents and churched are God’s children; only those who have personally received Christ and believed on him are members of the church of God.

So then, interpreters must always make room for a remnant consisting of true believers in whom God’s promises are to be realized.

A Present Problem

Making room for a remnant will help us also in our appreciation of the Psalms. Some of them contain verses that not only provide encouragement and comfort for a believer living in either Old or New Testament times, but also give expression to prayers that call for the severest of judgments on their enemies. To echo such requests seems contrary to the Spirit now dwelling in the Christian reader and opposite to the teaching of the Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.

Some suggest these cries for vengeance are simply a record of the natural reaction of God’s persecuted saints living before the true Light came into the world, and that he exemplified and taught a different response to undeserved suffering. They would cite his plea as he was being nailed to the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and Stephen’s words as he was being stoned to death, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” But does that mean that it was acceptable to God in those Old Testament days of immaturity for his people to plead for God to vindicate them, but that we should not do so at this present time, and that no one should do so in in the future? Was it ever right — can it ever be right — for someone in fellowship with God to utter such insistent cries for justice? If we say “Never”, then we have to wonder why such prayers form part of the inspired record that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”.

Moreover, what shall we say about the words of Jesus in Luke 18:1-8, which refer to a time beyond this present age and anticipate the suffering of an elect company just prior to his return to earth? These “elect” want justice to come down in their favor. Christ said God will speedily avenge them.

A Past Application

We may learn much of value in the process of seeking to resolve such difficulties. One thing will become clear: while human beings and their circumstances change, God remains what he ever was and ever will be, the eternal I AM. He says, “I am the Lord, I change not.” He is ever true to the promises he makes to his friends, whether they are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob or someone like you.

We must keep that in mind when we read the Psalms. They are among many things written for our benefit, but directly concern a company of believers who lived under a different covenant. Naturally, there are things you have in common with them, as well as things in which you cannot possibly share. Most were written in David’s day when Israel’s kingdom on earth was still rightly being claimed through conflict with its enemies. These were God’s enemies too, living in gross idolatry and immorality, raising their offspring to do the same while others sacrificed their children on pagan altars, showing themselves in every way to be enemies of righteousness and of God.*

Was it not possible to pray within the will of God while pleading for the extermination of the wicked in such a time as that?

A Future Application

Another question: David is called a prophet, and we might well expect his words to point to the future. This is obviously the case when he refers to the Messiah. What then is the value of the rest of the collection, in which cries for justice and vengeance are often heard? For whom were they intended?

I believe the Psalms will form the hymnbook of believers in Israel after the rapture of the church. This makes room for a remnant referred to in Revelation 7:1-8 and many other portions of scripture. They will not only be Israelites by virtue of their birth, but the “Israel of God” by virtue of their new birth, yet living through the Great Tribulation.

“At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” We need to pray for those who form it and the believers from other nations with whom they are in fellowship, for in Christ “there is no difference” and the current remnant shares our hope. But the Middle East is in turmoil and the “time of Jacob’s trouble” is approaching rapidly. We believe that in the mercy of God the present remnant and ourselves, as members of the body of Christ, will have been caught up to meet the Lord in the air before that day of the Lord begins.

At the present time and in the government of God, the nation of Israel may have military and political successes in an effort to maintain its identity. But she is not yet in spiritual condition to pray the prayers of the remnant or expect them to be answered. Our prayers need to be directed by the Word and the time in which we are living, not by any political sympathy we might feel.

— Colin Anderson, “Make Room For A Remnant”, April 2013

* He has enemies of course, not made so by himself, but of their own choice. If they repent and believe, a gracious pardon is granted in the light of Calvary. If they do not, they can only expect to experience his wrath.

No comments :

Post a Comment