Being a Remnant

By Marilyn N. Anders –

Photo courtesy of Charles and Betty Lewis in Hanover, Maryland.

The first words of the Bible declare that where there is darkness, emptiness, and formlessness, God intervenes. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). The formlessness was touched and order came. Chaos was dispelled. The evening was separated from the morning, the dry land from water, the heavens from the earth. The emptiness was caressed and the earth was filled with vegetation, animals, birds that fly, sea creatures, and people – male and female people.

The darkness was overcome with just a word. “Let there be light!”

As human history marched forward, men and women chose formlessness, emptiness, and darkness over the order, the fullness, and the light God offered. God judged. And, always a remnant remained and grew by his masterful touch. When the flood came on the land, Noah and his family stood tall and strong. When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire, Lot and his family were the called-out ones. With Joseph in the lead, Jacob’s family went into Egypt and came out a mighty nation. When thousands bowed the knee to Baal, Elijah led those who did not. Always a remnant.

The definition of “remnant” is a “small, remaining quantity of something” or a “small, surviving group.” In the scriptures, the term “remnant” is used in the context of both judgment and salvation. One of the best pictures of God’s idea of his remnant is painted by the prophet Isaiah. As he chronicles his call from God to go to a people with calloused hearts, closed eyes, and stopped-up ears in Isaiah 6, he ends with the following words. “Though the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land” (Isaiah 6:13). Isaiah expands the picture when he declares further that those who escape cultural compromise shall “take root downward and bear fruit upward” (Isaiah 37:31).

A stump! Stark. Ugly to some. Plain. It looks dead. And, yet … new growth springs up. The Spirit of God hovers and life appears. As the prophet Ezekiel proclaims: “I will put My Spirit in you and you shall live!” (Ezekiel 37:14). A mighty right arm touches and beauty arises. It is the intentional move of God when there is formlessness, emptiness, and darkness.

We are living in such a time. Darkness swirls around us. The choices of the people in our land march daily farther from the light. There is emptiness and hollowness of soul and little order, purpose, and form. But, once again, the Most High God is raising up a remnant; a small, remaining quantity of people who know him and his ways and want to make him known. To many they look dead. To some they are ugly. They are in stark contrast to the glitzy crookedness and perversion of the culture. These are the survivors and the hand of the Creator is on them. A thing of beauty is in the making.

The best illustration I can think of is what has been created at the home of Charles and Betty Lewis in Hanover, Maryland. A large tree was felled on their country acreage. It left a large 9’ ugly stump. It looked dead. There was nothing attractive about it. But then the hand of a commissioned chainsaw artist intentionally transformed the remaining stump of the once stately tree into a thing of beauty. There He was! Jesus holding his sheep.

You and I have a choice. As Peter said to the scattered church, we can either “be carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21) or we can “be carried away by the error of the lawless” (2 Peter 3: 17). It’s time to step into the gap – this huge chasm between God and the culture. It’s time to be salt and light. It’s time to surrender to the touch of the Master Craftsman’s Hand. The holy seed will become the stump in the land.

The culture will not change until the church changes, and the church will not change until individual hearts change. My heart and your heart. We must be sheep intentionally following the Good Shepherd – humbling ourselves, praying, seeking his face, turning from our wicked ways, and watching with great anticipation for God to hear, forgive, and heal our land.

In his book, Radical, David Platt recounts the story of the SS United States. In the late 1940s the U.S. Navy commissioned William Francis Gibbs to build the largest, fastest troop carrier ever made. It was to be able to sail anywhere in the world within ten days and to carry 15,000 troops. The only thing is, it never served in that capacity. It sat on stand-by during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, but otherwise it never sailed under its original intent.

Instead, it became a luxury liner for presidents, heads of state, and celebrities, fully fitted with air-conditioned staterooms, heated, luxurious pools, elevators, and several restaurants and bars.

“Things look radically different on a luxury liner than they do on a troop carrier. The faces of soldiers preparing for battle and those of patrons enjoying their bonbons are radically different,” writes Platt. “The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the opulence that characterizes the luxury liner. And the pace at which the troop carrier moves is by necessity much faster than that of a luxury liner. After all, the troop carrier has an urgent task to accomplish; the luxury liner, on the other hand, is free to casually enjoy the trip.

“When I think about the history of the SS United States, I wonder if she has something to teach us about the history of the church. The church, like the SS United States, has been designed for battle,” Platt continues. “The purpose of the church is to mobilize a people to accomplish a mission. Yet we seem to have turned the church as a troop carrier into the church as a luxury liner. We seem to have organized ourselves, not to engage in battle for the souls of peoples around the world, but to indulge ourselves in the peaceful comforts of the world.”

Throughout the ages, God did two things. He judged because he is a righteous God. And, he raised up a remnant, because he is a merciful, reconciling, restorative God.

Each of us and our families can be the Noahs, Lots, and Elijahs of the day. The choice is ours. Will we be troop carrier Christians or luxury liner Christians? God is always using a remnant to work his wonders of salvation. Will you say, “Here am I. Send me?”

Marilyn N. Anderes has taught Bible studies and led seminars and retreats for the last 40 years. For many years, she was the “From the Heart” columnist for Good News. This article is adapted from her new book The Intentional Remnant (LivingGodsLongings.com).

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