Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Remnant -- God Chose You to Love You

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, November 6, 2013:  Ezekiel 14:12-16:41

22 Yet behold, there shall be left in it a remnant who will be brought out, both sons and daughters; surely they will come out to you, and you will see their ways and their doings. Then you will be comforted concerning the disaster that I have brought upon Jerusalem, all that I have brought upon it. 23 And they will comfort you, when you see their ways and their doings; and you shall know that I have done nothing without cause that I have done in it,” says the Lord God.  Ezekiel 14:22-23 (NKJV)

Ezekiel prophesied during some of the darkest days of Judah's history.  His book, written from Babylonian captivity, is a running commentary of the destruction of Jerusalem.  Four judgments are released -- sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence (vs. 21).  Rampant, unrepentant idolatry had finally precipitated the wrath of God.  

We might read such a narrative as "the end of the trail" -- the funeral -- the close of the story.  But God doesn't describe it in those terms.  He never gives up.  Despite severe and thorough judgment, He points to a bigger picture, a new beginning, a better day.  It is the vision of His unfailing plan and purpose.  Ezekiel prophesies about THE REMNANT.

God always has a remnant.  So, what are we talking about here?   "Remnant" is an Old Testament term that has two levels of meaning.  First, it is simply the survivors of a catastrophe.  This would be something like the Jews who survived the Holocaust of World War II.  The second meaning is spiritual in nature, speaking of the kernel or germ of true believers who survive God's out-poured judgment and remain true.  It is the thin line of true believers that always survive.  Hebrews 11 speaks of this in tales of enduring faith.

In the Old Testament, the remnant is the people who come out of the purifying fires of captivity and remain faithful to God and His Word.  In the New Testament, the remnant is the Bride of Christ, the Church, the tried and true followers of Jesus.  These are "the chosen."  One of the favorite New Testament designations for us is "the elect" or "the chosen in Christ".*

Ezekiel gives us some interesting and thought-provoking insights into the purpose for the disasters that struck Jerusalem.  God says that when we see "the ways and doing" of this remnant we will be comforted concerning the hard times that had happened.

I am reminded of a little book I read many years ago that profoundly affected me.  Paul Billheimer's book on prayer, Destined for the Throne, tells about God's grand purpose throughout history.  He writes about "Limited Acceptance of Unlimited Atonement" and tackles a couple of tough theological concepts: the love of God for all men contrasted with election of the few.  Does God want everyone saved or is He only interested in "the elect?"

Mr. Billheimer states it this way:  All men from all of history are included in God's all-embracing redemptive love.  He wants all men to be saved.  But God knew from the very beginning that only a select remnant would accept this universal provision. ...  If God knew from all eternity that the net result of all His creative activity, including the plan of redemption, would be only this tiny minority, comparatively speaking, then it may be presumed that this small group was the object of all of God's previous plans, purposes, and creative enterprises.  Therefore, it follows that it was for the sake of this small group that the universe was originated.**

From all eternity, God's unfailing plan has been to bring a Bride to His Son.  That divine romance is at the center of the universe.

I realize that we are on profound, holy ground here.  We hold in balance two very important truths:  1) God's desire that all men be saved, and 2) His knowledge that only some will accept His offer.  Jesus came, died, and rose again for the salvation of all those who would ever believe in Him.  The target and beneficiaries of His saving grace is those who ultimately accept His offer.

Ezekiel says that when we consider "the ways and doings" of this remnant, then we will understand that God has "done nothing without a cause."  This echoes one of the greatest verses of the Bible, Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."

God says that even terribly bad things such as Babylonian captivity become tools in His hands.  He is bringing His remnant out through purifying fires.  While it may seems so very negative at first sight, the end result will bring praise and glory to God Who does all things well (Mk. 7:37).

If this is true (and I believe it is), then it explains why God has allowed testing to come into your life.  It is not because He wants to punish you.  Rather it is because He is preparing you, perfecting you, improving you.  He has a plan with eternal benefits.  He chose you to be united with Him forever.  EVERYTHING works together around that good destiny.

* 16 times the New Testament refers to Christians as "the elect" -- Matt. 24:,22,24,31; Mk. 13:20,22,27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; I Tim. 5:21; II Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; I Pet. 1:2; I Pet. 2:6; II John 1; II John 13.  The word "chosen" is used 10 times referring to believers -- Matt. 20:16; Matt. 22:14; Mk. 13:20; I Co. 1:27,28; Eph. 1:4; Jas. 2:5; I Pet. 2:4,9; Rev. 17:14.

**  Billheimer, Paul E.  Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1975), 24-25.

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