The Remnant Isaiah 10:20-23

In recent years the misleading idea has become popular that everybody will be saved. That is a false hope. Not only are there so many specific passages of the Bible which teach that some will be saved but others will be lost. There is also an important general principle which is illustrated time and again. We see it first in the story of Noah.
Genesis 7 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.
Judgment came – and only Noah and his family survived. We see the same pattern in the story of Joseph.
Genesis 45 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
Not all were saved. Only the few. At the end of the parable of the Wedding Banquet Jesus makes the same point. Matthew 22 14 ‘For many are invited, but few are chosen.’
Not all are saved – only a few. Only the remnant.
ISAIAH 10 20 In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God.
22 Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return.
Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous.
23 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land.

Only the remnant of Israel will be saved. Isaiah 11 continues with prophecies concerning the Messiah which we often think about at Christmas and will certainly do again this year.
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
The Messiah, referred to as the branch from the stump of Jesse, the father of Great King David, will bring God’s salvation to God’s people. But not to all of Israel. Only to the remnant.
Isaiah 11 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea.
12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel;
he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.

Isaiah continues with more promises for the remnant of Israel.

Isaiah 11 16 There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria, as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt.

As Isaiah continues in chapter 12, although he doesn’t mention the remnant explicitly, it is clear that God’s future blessings will not be for all Israelites but only the chosen few. Those blessings of salvation will indeed be wonderful!

12 In that day you will say:
“I will praise you, O LORD. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.
2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.
The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
4 In that day you will say: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”

Such a wonderful salvation – but only for the remnant. And Isaiah says this about the remnant in chapter 28.
Isaiah 28 5 In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people. 6 He will be a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.
The Lord Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant”. These prophecies all look forward to events beyond Isaiah’s time. “In that day.” “In that day.” The promises were fulfilled first when the Exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon.
Isaiah 37 30 “This will be the sign for you, O Hezekiah:
“This year you will eat what grows by itself, and the second year what springs from that.
But in the third year sow and reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
31 Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.
32 For out of Jerusalem will come a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

The remnant will return, but not in Isaiah’s lifetime. Until then the remnant can only cling on to God’s promises
Isaiah 46 3 “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel, you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.
4 Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

This would the first fulfilment of the hope which Isaiah offered to Israel. “That day” would be the day when the remnant of Israel would return to Jerusalem. But then there was a second fulfilment of all these promises when the Messiah came and Jesus was born and lived and died and rose again. And of course the greatest and ultimate fulfilment of all these things will only come when Jesus returns in glory and triumph – that will be the day!
So who will be this remnant who survive to enjoy salvation while the rest of Israel are destroyed in the judgment of God?
ISAIAH 10 20 In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.
The first thing we can say is that the remnant are those who don’t put their trust in the Assyrians or in the Babylonians. The remnant are those who put their trust in God, the faithful few who truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.
21 A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God.
22 Though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return.
Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous.
23 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, will carry out the destruction decreed upon the whole land.

“Returning to the Mighty God” has two senses. “A remnant will return” is a prophecy about the Exiles returning to Jerusalem. All together the Israelites could be numbered like grains of sand on the seashore. But only a fraction, only a few will return and the rest will experience the destruction which is the judgment of the Holy and Righteous God on the nation of Israel.
But the remnant will return not only in the geographical sense to Jerusalem. “A remnant of Jacob will return to the mighty God” has a deeper meaning. That return implies repentance – only a remnant of all those who have been separated from God by their sin will return to God in confession and repentance. Only those who sincerely repent and return to God will escape his judgment. Faith and repentance. And there’s more.
37 31 Once more a remnant of the house of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.

The remnant will be God’s fruitful people. We thought back in Isaiah 5 about the kind of fruit God was looking for in his chosen people: righteousness and justice
Isaiah 5:7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

The remnant will be those few of God’s chosen people who were producing the good fruit of justice and righteousness.

Isaiah 48:19 17 This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains;
their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me.”

The Israelites who will be saved will be those who allow God to teach and direct them and obey his commands. Putting all these things together, for Isaiah the remnant are those who are trusting in God and repenting of sin and bearing good fruit and obeying God’s commands.

Later on other prophets picked up on this theme of the remnant and the idea of fruitfulness.

Jeremiah 23 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 31 7 This is what the LORD says: “Sing with joy for Jacob; shout for the foremost of the nations. Make your praises heard, and say, ‘O LORD, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’ 8 See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. 9 They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back.
The remnant will be a prayerful people. The prophet Zephaniah has an even more optimistic, idealistic view of the remnant
Zephaniah 3 11 On that day you, Jerusalem, will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me, because I will remove from you your arrogant boasters. Never again will you be haughty on my holy hill.
12 But I will leave within you the meek and humble. The remnant of Israel will trust in the name of the LORD. 13 They will do no wrong; they will tell no lies. A deceitful tongue will not be found in their mouths.
So the remnant will be made up of the meek and the humble, those who trust in the name of the Lord, who do no wrong and tell no lies.
The prophet Micah particularly sees God’s promises fulfilled in the remnant of Israel.
Micah 2 12 ‘I will surely gather all of you, Jacob; I will surely bring together the remnant of Israel. I will bring them together like sheep in a sheepfold, like a flock in its pasture; the place will throng with people.
Micah 7 18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry for ever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
So the remnant will experience the fulness of God’s mercy and forgiveness. And only the remnant. And this helps explain what we were saying a few weeks ago about the relationship between the present nation-state of Israel and the church. Not all of Israel are truly Israel – only the remnant who are saved by grace. Paul explains to the Romans,

Romans 9 6 It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. 7 Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ 8 In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

God’s salvation is not inherited by birth. Instead it is channelled through Christ to the faithful remnant who believe God’s promises. It is by faith that we are saved! Paul goes on to quote these verses from Isaiah10.

Romans 9 27 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. 28 For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” (Isaiah 10:22-23)
It is only the remnant who are saved. And since Christ came and died and rose again it is Christians who are that remnant.
Romans 11 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
The church are God’s remnant chosen by grace. That is our destiny and that is our calling.
Through many a day of darkness,
Through many a scene of strife,
The faithful few fought bravely
To guard the nation’s life.
Their gospel of redemption,
Sin pardoned, man restored,
Was all in this enfolded:
One Church, one Faith, one Lord.
The faithful few! Starting with Isaiah, the Old Testament prophets tell us that the remnant chosen by grace are those who are trusting in God and repenting of sin and bearing good fruit and obeying God’s commands. The remnant are a praying people. They are the meek and the humble, those who trust in the name of the Lord, who do no wrong and tell no lies. Only this remnant will experience the fulness of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Christians are God’s remnant. We should live out that calling. That is our destiny.

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