Summary: Throughout history,God has preserved a remnant for the purpose of perpetuating His kingdom.
This morning, as we continue our journey through the Old Testament prophets, we’re going to deal with a concept that has come up previously, but today we’ll have a chance to examine it in more detail. We’ll do that as we continue to look at two different passages in the Book of Isaiah. So you’ll want to take your Bibles and open them to Isaiah chapter 10 and we’ll begin there in just a moment.
The concept of a remnant is one that we’ve already come across in a passage that we’ve looked at previously in Amos, but it is the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah that deal with the subject most frequently.
The term “remnant” is not one that we tend to use a whole lot in our culture and when we do, we often use is to describe a leftover piece of cloth or carpet. For instance when Larry Ramer built a couple of additional sections to increase the size of our platform for our dinner theater last year, he was able to find a carpet remnant that matched our existing carpet very well.
But, as we’ll see this morning, the idea of a “remnant” in the Bible is quite different and it is an extremely significant concept when it comes to our study of the Old Testament prophets and the Book of Revelation. So let’s use a couple of passages from the Book of Isaiah to help us understand this concept of the “remnant” and its significance. We’re going to look at two short passages this morning. The first is in chapter 10, beginning in verse 20:
20 In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. 23 For the Lord GOD of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in the midst of all the earth. 24 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: “O my people, who dwell in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrians when they strike with the rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. 25 For in a very little while my fury will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. 26 And the LORD of hosts will wield against them a whip, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb. And his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. 27 And in that day his burden will depart from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck; and the yoke will be broken because of the fat.”
You’ll notice that Isaiah refers to a remnant that is going to return to the land that God had given them four times in this passage. What is really interesting is that this concept of a remnant returning to the land is so important in Isaiah’s prophecies that the name of his firstborn son even points to that remnant:
And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son…
Isaiah 7:3 (ESV)
We know that in the Bible, names often have significant meanings, and this is no exception. The name “Shear-jashub” means “a remnant shall return”.
As usual, we won’t have enough time to examine our passages in great detail this morning, so what I’d like to do is to point out a few of the most significant aspects of the two passages and then see if we can’t use these two passages to help us summarize some facts about the remnant that will provide us with a good foundation as we continue on this journey.
This particular prophecy, like many in the Bible, has both a near-term and far-term fulfillment. You’ll remember that at the time of this prophecy, Assyria is the major world power in the Middle East. During the period of Isaiah’s ministry, he sees Assyria invade the northern kingdom of Israel, resulting in the northern ten tribes being scattered among the surrounding nations. And, as Israel’s neighbor, Judah is obviously concerned about what Assyria might do to them. So Isaiah’s prophecy is intended to assure the people that even though Assyria will attack Jerusalem, they will not be successful, for God Himself would protect Judah and destroy the Assyrians.
The near-term fulfillment of this prophecy began in 701 BC during Hezekiah’s reign. In 1 Kings 18 and 19, we find the account about how God miraculously protected Judah from the attack of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria because, just as Isaiah had prophesied, Hezekiah chose to lean on the Lord rather than trust in the offer that had been made by Sennacherib. And it is not too much later that Babylon becomes the new world power and puts an end to the Assyrian empire, just as Isaiah had predicted.