Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Romans 11:1-6 "I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
I'll never forget the first time I saw a car with the new sort of halogen headlights that are common place today. The light was blinding, and targeted. The particular night in which I was driving was dark, rainy and foggy. Despite the darkness, those halogen headlights cut through the darkness, the rain and the fog.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is often likened unto light shining in the darkness (see 2 Corinthians 4:1-6). The Gospel's ability to cut through spiritual darkness and to reach the human heart is all do to its source in the Light of the World - The Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:9-13). As we read Paul's words about the nation of Israel and his burden for their salvation, he references an episode in their history involving the prophet Elijah.
Elijah's ministry is recorded in 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2. Elijah ministered in a time in Israel's history where spiritual darkness abounded in the court, the temple and the home lives of the people. In perhaps the greatest mountain top experience of Elijah's ministry - his defeat of the prophets of Baal atop Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18:20-46) - we see Elijah's moments of despair as a flees in the aftermath of that public confrontation. Fleeing for his life from the threats of Queen Jezebel, 1 Kings 19 portrays Elijah fleeing some 100 miles to Mount Horeb.
Elijah had lost all hope. The darkness he fought for so long had pressed into his soul - threatening to capsize his faith. He requested of God to take his life in 1 Kings 19:4, only to have an angel minister to him with food (19:5). Once more the angel would come in 1 Kings 19:6-8, urging Elijah to eat - since the journey was too great for him.
Elijah arrives at Mount Horeb. As a prophet, Elijah was called to speak for God. In desperation, Elijah needed to hear from God - and He did. Elijah's complaint in 1 Kings 19:14 concerned his alleged isolation:
"Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
God then responds in 1 Kings 19:15-18 with a new assignment for Elijah and the words we find quoted by the Apostle Paul:
"The Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
Notice how God's grace cuts through the darkness in the verses above:
1. We see first and foremost the calling grace of God - summoning Elijah back to his senses, reminding him of who he is and Whose he is, in 1 Kings 19:16. God's grace never excludes the will of man.
2. Next we find the grace of God's prophetic word in 19:17. Who would have the last word in Israel as to how things were going to go? Not Jezebel! Not those in power! Such people can only act to the degree God permits them to act. Furthermore, God even makes mention of what will be Elijah's successor. The prophetic power of God's Word will continue unabated.
3. Then thirdly we see the grace of election in 1 Kings 19:18. God had set aside 7,000 - a remnant - or as Paul describes it in Romans 11:5-6 "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."
On this third point, the Baptist Faith & Message describes God's gracious choice as follows:
"Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility."
So we see then God's grace, in all its refracted colors, shining through the dreary days of Elijah and igniting hope in the Apostle Paul. The Gospel shines forth its light into every alley way - urging all men, without exception, to believe, repent and be saved. God's initiative and calling shines forth to draw sinners to a saving knowledge of the truth. God's graces of His calling, His Word and gracious choice are a three-braided rope of grace, never bypassing but beckoning the human will to respond to such amazing grace.
God is ever reaching out through the darkness to those who are spiritually blind, spiritually deaf and who are at odds with Him. God's work of salvation is His work and thankfully, no matter how dark it may get - the Gospel's candle dispels the darkness. As the Gospel shines through the darkness, to the heart open to truth - a free decision issues forth (John 3:11-12; Romans 10:8-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul's point is that His hope for the salvation of His fellow Israelites rests with God (Jonah 2:9). He urges. He pleads for them to believe, repent and be saved. So it is with all that are brought into contact with the Gospel. Would it be that they respond to God's grace shining in the darkness.