It’s rather peculiar the way we think about remnants – it’s kind of a love-hate relationship we have with them. We appreciate the deals we can get on remnants: left-over car models, the last few yards of a bolt of cloth, the piece of carpet that’s too small for anything but our project. We don’t want to be stuck with paying for more custom material than we needed but can’t be returned, dealing with two spoonfuls of batter more than the cupcake pan will hold, or the remnants of society. You know, those people who because of failed health, dumb choices, bad habits, circumstances beyond their control have been abandoned without a future or hope. And we pray, “Lord, please, I don’t want to have to deal with them.”
Remnants are what we discount, disregard, or discard but they are what God preserves. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. Isa. 55:8 You see, in many instances the remnants of the culture are closer to the kingdom than the intellectual or economic elite. Those who are at the bottom often recognize they can’t help themselves, will more readily turn to another, even God, for help.
Once again, Isaiah reminds the Jewish people of God’s promise to deliver; God had decreed judgment in which many would be destroyed. Those judgments would surely come and it was just as certain that a remnant would be delivered. Isaiah makes it plain what sort of people would be included in the remnant, what they should expect during the time of judgment, and how they would be delivered.
A. the true remnant v.20-22 how are they distinguished
right dependence v.20
distinguishing mark of the remnant – put in both negative and positive terms – question is not “do you have faith” but “what is the object of your faith”. Everyone has faith, trusts in someone or something; not everyone trusts in God. Probably majority of people lie with their money; currency plainly states “In God we trust” but most trust more in money and their ability to manage it than in God. Just like majority of Jews who trusted in Assyria to deliver them rather than God.
True remnant – marked by sincere faithful reliance/dependence/leaning on the Holy One of Israel. Not a blind leap of faith, a simple trust in the invisible God who has revealed himself in visible ways – through his written word, through his works, (for us) through the Living Word.
genuine repentance v.21
repentance – change of mind evident in change of behavior. Turning from one way of belief and action to another; in this case, turning from confidence in self and human solutions to God; accompanied by change in choices and actions – doing God’s will in God’s way. Trusting in God for protection, yes, also believing that he knows best and obedience to his commands is the best way.
Important note: outward behavior indicates inward condition. True dependence on God is shown by godly living.
a minority v.22a
cf Rom. 9:27-28 When Apostle Paul considered his countrymen, fellow Jews, and their response to the Gospel, he used this portion of Isaiah (among others) to explain what he saw. While many Jewish people had come to faith in Christ, accepted him as the Messiah sent from God, they represented only a small minority of the whole, a remnant compared to the sand of the sea. Considering how many grains of sand on the seashore, how many stars in the night sky, a remnant can be a big number while still a small percentage.
Paul also reinforced another point people even today don’t want to accept: membership in the kingdom of God is based on theology, not biology. To explain: God’s intention from the beginning was that the true Israel of God, the people he would view as true children of Abraham would be known by what they believed and not by their genealogy. The children of Abraham in God’s sight are those who possess the same faith, same trust in God as Abraham. For reasons known fully only by God, only a small percentage of the Jews, perhaps of mankind in general would be include in that remnant who depend on the Lord in truth.
gracious fulfillment of God’s promise Isa. 7:3
Isaiah’s older son, named Shear-Jashub – a remnant shall return – phrase in both v21 & 22. God had told Isaiah to take his son and meet Ahaz for purpose of giving him sign why he should not fear Ephraim and Syria. Regardless of what happened, the son was living reminder of God’s promise, fulfillment of which began in earnest with return of exiles during time of Cyrus and continues today.
B. the trials they face v.22b-24, 28-32 what should they expect
God’s just discipline v.22b-23
the coming destruction would be the outworking of God’s justice, his rod of discipline used to correct the sinfulness of his people. It would come soon – God was ready to move, to carry out his decree.
Assyria’s conquering might v.24b, 28-32
Again Assyria is identified as the means God would use to punish the Jewish people. As Assyria had boasted, their advance (v.28ff) from Ai, the second city conquered during Joshua’s day, would appear unstoppable. Town by town the army makes its way relentlessly toward Jerusalem, until within sight of the city walls, he would pause to shake his fist and threaten their destruction tomorrow.
made tolerable by divine comfort v.24a
Word of the coming onslaught is prefaced with exhortation from God to not be afraid. Those of God’s people who dwell in Zion, the remnant who truly depend on God have nothing to fear. It may appear that they will be destroyed along with everything else but God is committed to their preservation. Discipline was necessary, God’s justice demanded that; a remnant was also necessary, God’s promise of a future Messiah required it.
The promised comfort didn’t apply to all in Isaiah’s audience, only those who were God’s people in God’s place. Those who depended solely on God, who determined to live pleasing to God, who had thrown in their lot with the church of God rather than the world. They could rest easy, knowing they were absolutely secure in God’s keeping. Those of their family, friends, and neighbors who continued to trust in their own solutions could have no such comfort, no assurance they would escape God’s righteous anger.
Important note: Reliance on the wrong thing keeps us away from God, may result in actual injury not simple failure to reach the goal.
C. the deliverance they receive v.25-27, 33-34
an end to punishment v.25
God is a good father to his children; he doesn’t stay perpetually angry with them. They displease him, he corrects them, his discipline ends, he restores them to right relationship and fellowship with him again. God promised his punishment of Israel would end, mercifully in “a very little while”. Yes, it would be difficult, punishment would be hard to experience, but it wouldn’t last forever. God’s people could expect to survive their time of discipline and look to the future with anticipation.
a beginning of blessing v.27
Harsh slavery imposed by Assyria would be taken away – oppression, inability to govern themselves, burdensome taxes imposed by a foreign king would come to an end. Followed by time of blessing, God once again providing abundance for his people.
the destruction of Assyria v.26, 33-34
Given comparisons, destruction of Assyria would be obviously a “God thing”. Just as Gideon’s victory over the Midianites could only be explained as a manifestation of God’s power, the same for the parting of the Red Sea, so the end of Assyria as a threat to Judah and as a world power. Arrogant boastful Assyria would learn the hard way who was the true Authority, who had the real power. Their end would come suddenly and it would be complete. Ice storm – trees with broken tops.
Yet again God would prove his trustworthiness to his people, keeping his promise to the believing remnant, giving them another clear evidence of why he should be trusted.
Important note: Two actions equally foolish – blind undiscerning trust, refusing to trust the trustworthy, or put another way, trusting in what is wrong, refusing to trust in what is right. Israel was guilty of doing both.
“Strange to say, while we readily trust God for eternal life, we often find it difficult to trust Him for what we need in this life. How foolish is this!” R A Bertram We trust God with the destiny of our eternal soul, but we struggle with trusting him to provide the daily “little stuff”. Instead, like Israel, we trust our own wisdom, our own genius to figure it all out, doing what we think is right without checking to see if the Bible says it is right. We all need to do better at refusing to trust what is wrong, trusting in what is right – placing not only our confidence in the right one, following through with right action. Living in ways that are pleasing to Jesus. After all, he can be trusted no matter what may befall us.