A Message about God’s Hidden Remnant
You remember the story of Elijah. On Mount Carmel, he faced 850 false prophets in a life-or-death showdown over whose God would prevail. He simply called on the Lord, and supernatural fire fell from heaven. The engulfing blast of heat consumed both the prophet’s sacrifice and the 12 barrels full of water he had poured around it. What an awesome display of God’s almighty power! The false prophets trembled at the sight, and the backslidden Israelites who were present fell to their knees, crying, “The Lord, he is God! The Lord, he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39).
Elijah then slew every one of those 850 false prophets. Suddenly, the conditions seemed perfect for a revival in Israel. The awakening Elijah was praying for appeared to be on the brink of happening. Surely, the people would listen to him now. Elijah must have been thinking, “This is God’s hour. It is the beginning of the renewal I have preached about for so long!”
I believe Elijah determined to go straight to the abandoned temple in order to restore pure worship in Jezreel. Before he came near the city, however, he was accosted by a messenger from wicked Queen Jezebel. She threatened, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time” (1 Kings 19:2). She was telling Elijah, “You’ve got one day to live, prophet, before I slay you the way you slew my priests.”
Within 24 hours of his miraculous victory on Mount Carmel, Elijah was back in the wilderness, trembling under a juniper tree.
In Elijah’s mind, everything had backfired. Overnight, all his hopes for renewal vanished. The Bible then says, “And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” (1 Kings 19:9). This was God’s way of saying, “What’s bothering you, Elijah? Why the anger? What’s your complaint?”
The prophet began to unburden his pent-up heart. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10).
Much of what Elijah said was true. God’s people were in a sad state, and wickedness abounded in Israel. True prophets were maligned, and their words were mocked. In spite of all this, Elijah remained faithful. He was wholly given to God’s cause and prayed fervently for revival, but he was wrong to think he alone carried the Lord’s burden.
If you’re a person of prayer, you’ve probably felt alone as Elijah did. Perhaps you too mourn over the world’s condition. Maybe you wonder as Elijah wondered, “Where are the godly leaders and brokenhearted shepherds? Where are those who still believe in holiness instead of fleshly methods? I feel like an out-of-step fanatic. Please, Lord, bring me into fellowship with others who see the things I’m seeing.”
God answered him, “You’re not alone, Elijah. Soon you’ll meet my servant Hazael. I want you to anoint him as king over Syria. There is also godly Jehu, whom you’re to anoint as king over Israel. Then there is the young prophet Elisha, who will serve beside you.” Finally, the Lord said to Elijah, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18). God was saying, “I’ve got 7,000 hidden ones, Elijah, men and women who haven’t given in to the spirit of this age. They’re growing in my Spirit, and they all share the same burden as you.”
Among these 7,000 were 100 true prophets hidden away in caves by godly Obadiah, a high-ranking governor who served in evil King Ahab’s household. Obadiah kept these prophets alive with bread and water. Elijah must have known about these godly ones. He also knew of Micaiah, a godly prophet who’d been jailed by Ahab for prophesying hard things to him (1 Kings 22:8). Even knowing of these men, however, Elijah was still overcome by loneliness in his calling.
These 7,000 represent the holy remnant God is preparing today.
God also has a hidden remnant in this generation who have not bowed to the idols of the age. Paul wrote, “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). You see, I believe it wasn’t Elijah’s prayers alone that brought down fire from heaven. It was also the cries of 7,000 hidden, praying God-lovers. These people were shut up in underground meetings, praying in fields and some serving in Ahab’s house, all unknown to everyone but the Lord. They were faithful in their calling to intercede, and God heard them.
This is success in God’s eyes: to be totally fulfilled by ministering to him. Such servants aren’t striving to “make it” or seeking earthly security. They only want to know their Lord and to minister to him. Think about the 100 prophets hidden by Obadiah. They lived an isolated existence in caves for at least three to four years during a severe famine. These men had no outside ministry. They were completely out of the public’s view, forgotten by most people. They couldn’t even share in Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel. No doubt the world would call them failures, insignificant men who hadn’t accomplished anything.
In reality, God had given these devoted servants the precious gift of time. They had days, weeks and even years to pray, study, grow and minister to the Lord. God was preparing them for the day when he would release them to minister to his people. Indeed, these same men would doubtlessly shepherd those who returned to God under Elijah’s ministry.
You can test whether you’re among the 7,000 who haven’t bowed.>
We know that all through the Bible, the number seven is equated with God’s eternal purpose. Therefore, I believe the number of 7,000 that God quoted to Elijah simply denoted everyone who made up his remnant. The people he sets aside for himself might number 70 or 7 million. What matters is that they’re wholly given to him.
So, what are the characteristics of this remnant? Here are three defining marks.
1. An unchangeable commitment to cling to the Lord. Every remnant believer has made a single-minded choice to swim against the tide of evil.
The 7,000 in Elijah’s day stayed true in spite of Israel’s great falling away. Their society had gone mad with sensuality. Even their family members and friends had moved toward idolatry. In spite of the powerful seductions of the age, however, these 7,000 were able to stand against the tide. They endured shame, deprivation and persecution with no Bibles, preaching or fellowship with outsiders. Indeed, the viler their society became, the more righteous they grew.
Elijah knew the masses were doubled-minded, wanting a measure of both God and the world. He confronted them, saying, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
Have you already made your stand for Jesus? Maybe you’re afraid to break away from your old crowd. You want Christ, but you also want some part of your old life. I tell you that it won’t work. You’ll only get sucked back into your old ways. You can’t witness to sinners if you’re drinking with them or laughing at their dirty stories.
Paul warned, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). At some point, you have to make a commitment, declaring, “I don’t care what others say or do. I am the Lord’s, and I won’t give into the wicked spirit of this age.”
2. A willingness to identify with the poor. While society’s trend is to associate with the rich and successful, you align yourself with the suffering class. Like Obadiah, you may have a measure of success or stature. Although that godly man was a governor in Jezebel’s house, he determined to fear God alone. He proved that his heart was with the poor by taking care of those 100 ragged, suffering prophets.
I thank God for every believer who is successful. My question to you is whether you can identify yourself in the following verse. “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
I think of a dear woman in our church who passed out evangelistic tracts near our offices in New York City. She spoke broken English, and she didn’t dress in the latest styles. When I met her on the street recently, the Lord prompted me to give her a small offering. When she saw the money in my hand, she smiled and said, “Oh, no, I’ll bring my tithes tomorrow.” She thought I was reminding her to pay her tithe.
There she was, already doing the Lord’s work, yet uppermost in her mind was to be at church so she could pay her tithe. She quickly added, “The Lord has kept me, pastor.” She is numbered among God’s remnant and probably didn’t even know it.
3. A reliance on hope. The 7,000 in Elijah’s time endured because of their hope in a coming day of deliverance. Today, the church’s blessed hope is the soon return of Jesus. With one trumpet blast, all wickedness will end. The Lord will do away with all killing of babies, all blatant perversions and all ethnic genocide.
We are to evangelize, minister and work while it is still day. All the while, we’re to live in the hope that King Jesus is coming. He is bringing a new world with him, where he will rule from his eternal throne.
Do these three marks characterize you as part of God’s holy remnant? If so, God boasts of you, “This one has given his heart to me. They are focused on me, and they are wholly mine.” Amen.