Online Reference Library

The Gospel of the Remnant

H.R. Tourtel

"Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been like Sodom..." - (Isaiah 1:9)

THE Hebrew word translated sarid (Strong's Con. #H8300 = a survivor) is used only in Isaiah 1:9 and Joel 2:32. The one passage provides an interesting commentary on the other. They are as follows:

"Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant (sarid), we should have been like Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah" (Isaiah 1:9).

"And it shall come to pass, {that} whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant (sarid) whom the Lord shall call." (Joel 2:32)

Thus in Isaiah a small remnant is left, without which the nation would have been destroyed just as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed; while in Joel that remnant would be the instrument of deliverance for all who would call upon the name of the Lord, "as the Lord hath said," and "in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" in the 'day of the Lord.'


What we may call the "doctrine of the remnant" therefore, as the cause of the deliverance of the nation when in distress and threatened with destruction on account of its sins, is established.

There are, of course, many other instances of the word "remnant" in our English Bible, translations of words similar to, as well as quite different from, the word sarid. But this word may suffice as a beginning for our study of the "gospel of the remnant" as indicating those remaining, who are faithful to the Lord in the midst of a "crooked and perverse generation," among whom they would "shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:15-16).

The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah in Isaiah 1:9 is very significant. In Rornans 9:29 we read,

"And as Esaias (Isaiah) said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah."

Surely these references take us right back to Genesis 18:23-33, where Abraham interceded for Sodom, God promising first that If there were fifty righteous within the city He would spare it for their sake. Abraham goes on pressing his plea until he comes to ten, and God promises that He would 'not destroy it for ten's sake'. So Sodom and its companion city were destroyed, for there were not even ten righteous within the city. Indeed there was only one, for Peter reminds us that God "turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned {them} with an overthrow, making {them} an ensample (example) unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot..." - (2 Peter 2:6-7). Lot's wife and daughters came under the Divine mercy for Lot's sake for, in the sequel, Lot's wife "looked back... and she became a pillar of salt" - (Gen. 19:26). We are well exhorted to "remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32). As for his daughters, they were afterwards guilty of inciting their father to incest, the fruit of which brought great trouble to Israel in its warfare against the Ammonites and Moabites, the nations derived from that evil act.

The lesson for Israel was brought home with great force by Isaiah. After declaring, "Except the Lord of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been like Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah," the prophet goes on to address the rulers of the nation as themselves "rulers of Sodom," and the people as "ye people of Gomorrah," exhorting them to "give ear unto the law of our God." They were fulfilling the ceremonial of the Law, offering a multitude of sacrifices, but to no purpose; indeed they were "an abomination" unto Him! - (Isaiah 1:13).


The ritual of the law was (and is) nothing without the inward surrender of the heart and life. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well..." (vv. 16-17). Jeremiah, in his Lamentations (3:22), declared, "{It is because of} the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not"; while Malachi, the very last recorded prophet of the Old Testament dispensation, gives the Lord's final word on this subject, "For I {am} the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6).

Many other instances of the "gospel of the remnant" may be found in the Bible. We remember Joshua and Caleb.

"Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it (the land); for we are well able to overcome it. But the men that went up with him said, We are not able... " (Numbers 13:30-31). When the land was being divided after the conquest, Caleb came to Joshua with the reminder. "Forty years old {was} I when Moses the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to espy (spy) out the land; and I brought him word again as {it was} in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; but 1 wholly followed the Lord my God" (Joshua 14:7-8). In Numbers 32:12 Joshua is coupled with Caleb as having "wholly followed the Lord."

Now, as they entered the land to take possession, Moses was gone, Aaron was gone, Miriam was gone. No "remnant," but Caleb and Joshua of all who had "from twenty years old and upward," journeyed from Egypt. But for that "remnant's" sake, the bulk of the nation perished, those who were left were not even "of age" to take upon them the real burdens of leadership. Once again, "except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant..." But it was the living heart of the nation as the new generation grew up to take possession of the promised inheritance, according to the Covenant the Lord had made with Abram, saying, "Unto thy seed have l given this land" (Gen. 15:18).


Elijah, too, gave his challenge to the prophets of Baal. How few, comparatively, were those who "had not bowed the knee to Baal." Seven thousand may seem a formidable figure, and certainly it was a larger "remnant" than it might have been but for Elijah's courageous ministry. Yet, compared with the many thousands which made up the nation, they were of small account in human reckoning. In the reaction after the famous victory for Yahweh on Carmel, Elijah at Horeb lost sight of even that "remnant." "I, {even} l only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away" (1 Kings 19:14). But the Lord made him the heartening reply, "I have left {me} seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him " (1 Kings 19:18).

That seven thousand was the "salt" which kept the nation from destruction at that time.

Isaiah speaks (Isaiah 10:20-21) of the "remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob," and prophesies of their return, "The remnant shall return, {even} the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God." In the next chapter he makes the glorious prophecy that "the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people... and he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel (the various 'remnants' scattered abroad among the heathen), and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth " (Isaiah 11:11-12). Ezekiel takes up the theme at a later date. After a stern pronouncement of punishment upon "the mountains of Israel," the destruction of their "high places," the throwing down of their altars, and the scattering of the bones of the slain (Ezek. 6:1-7), comes the reassuring word:

"Yet will 1 leave a remnant, that ye may have {some} that shall escape the sword.. and they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither (to which) they shall be carried captives" (vv. 8-9).


Later in his prophecy Ezekiel speaks of Yahweh as being "as a little sanctuary" for them, "in the countries where they shall come" (11:16). What a beautiful word that is!

Speaking of the "great and terrible day" that would (and still will) come, Joel also speaks of a remnant:

"It shall come to pass {that} whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call" (2:32).

Deliverance in the remnant - what a heartening message for the faithful in the "great and terrible day of the Lord." "Who {is} a God like unto thee," sings the prophet Micah, "who pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth {in} mercy. He will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities,. and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, {and) the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old" (Micah 7:18-20).

Though he does not use the word, surely Malachi, the last recorded prophet of the Old Testament dispensation, was thinking of that remnant when he said, in those words so beloved of God's people:

'They that feared the Lord spoke often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard {it), and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels (my peculiar treasure); and 1 will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not' (Malachi 3:16-18).

Thus far the prophets by Divine inspiration kept their eye upon that secret and sacred "remnant," neglected by the multitude, despised even when observed - the salt of the earth within the nation, which alone kept the nation itself, and the nations around it, from utter destruction and decay.


But what of our own age, the age of the New Covenant? Does the same principle hold good today? Let Paul the Apostle speak. He remembers that original word of Isaiah and relates it to his and our age:

"As Esaias (Isaiah) said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrah " (Romans 9:29).

Referring back to the seven thousand which had not bowed the knee to Baal, the Apostle goes on to say:

"Even so, then, at this present time (that is, the Age of Paul and of us) also there is a remnant according to the election of grace " (Rom. 11: 4-5).

Finally, for the Scripture record, in the Book of the Revelation, speaking of the tirne of the great tribulation, St. John tells us how "the dragon was wroth (angry) with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ " (Revelation 12:17).

This brings us right up to our own time and the Christian Age, "the testimony of Jesus Christ."


It must be made clear that "the gospel of the remnant" has both a national and a spiritual aspect. Indeed, it might be said that it is the spiritual element within the national mass that forms the acceptable element, the "salt" which keeps the nation, and after that the world, from corruption and decay. It would have been so in Sodom, but the element was too small and had to be extracted - "righteous Lot." Even in Israel the seven thousand in the days of Elijah could only preserve the nation for a time; the powers of evil grew so strong that God had eventually to "cast off" His people and they went into captivity and exile.

Even in Judah the same thing took place, though there was a "remnant" who came back to Jerusalem after the seventy years' captivity, only at last to fall before the devilish enmity of Herod and his Esau brood, and become the instrument of the Messiah's death. That God had an overruling purpose in that death, as He always does overrule the evils that befall His people, did not excuse His enemies of their terrible crime, and their own mad cry "His blood be on us, and on our children," has had a terrible fulfilment in their history even to modern times.

But, even when it seemed outwardly that there was no "remnant" at all, God has always had His secret enclave, His "little flock" to whom it has pleased Him to "give the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).

The history of Israel in the Isles has maintained this abiding principle in God's dealings. Again and again in our history we have seen this principle at work. Benjamin, the redeemed lightbringer, brought cohesion and consistency to the nation at the time of the Norman Conquest. Long before that, Alfred the Great and his supporters had laid the foundation in making the Common Law of Israel the basis of the Common Law in Britain and throughout the Commonwealth. In some senses we may even claim that Israel has been a "inational" remnant among the nations of the world. We know that God has promised that, though the "time of Jacob's trouble" would come (as it has), yet they should be "delivered out of it," and become once again a people prepared of the Lord for His service in the world.


Is there a "remnant" today which is preserving the nation, maintaining the truth that we are indeed God's elect nation, chosen for a purpose, and preserved for its ultimate fulfilment? Dare we suggest that, in the maintenance of the faith that proclaims not only in this land, but in every part of the earth where the Anglo-Saxon race has found a dwelling place, or even a foothold, that faith is being held and promulgated? Is this, dare we think, another example in the nation, of a "remnant," a "gospel," the good news that God will not "cast away his people whom he foreknew" (Romans 11:2)?

"l will call them my people, who were not my people; and her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass {that), in the place where it was said unto them, Ye {are} not my people, there shall they be called the children of the living God" - (Romans 9:25-26).

We believe that "the gospel of the remnant" still maintains within our nation and race; that it is a national "remnant" among the nations of the world, and a spiritual element within the nation itself. True, "blindness in part is happened to Israel," and even among God's servants that blindness persists. There is, too, a hardness of hearing which is often the despair of the witnesses, but the time of blindness and deafness is a limited one, there is an "until" - "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Romans 11:25).

That day is surely near. So many other events betoken the shortness of the time; prophecy is being fulfilled with a truly quickening tempo. It is for us who believe in the "gospel of the remnant" with all its implications, to obey the Saviour's own command - as relevant today as it has ever been:

"Watch ... for ye know not what hour your lord doth come" - (Matthew 24:42).

Top | Home - Israelite Watchmen 2008