Romans 11:1-11 by Robert Dean
Just because you're a powerful warrior for God one day doesn't mean you can't become a whining, sniveling, namby-pamby coward the next. Listen to this lesson to find out how God came to the rescue of this prophet of Israel and interrupted his pity party. Follow Paul's argument for why the Jews should trust that God will keep all His promises to them in spite of their rejections of Him. Gain courage in your own life with the assurance that God is just as faithful to us and see how we can't second guess the methods God uses to fulfill His Word.

God has NOT Rejected or Replaced Israel
Romans 11:1-11

Open your Bibles to Romans 11. We're going to review briefly and then continue going through this extremely significant passage in Romans. The issue in this part of Romans is that despite Israel's rejection of God they have not been rejected or replaced. This isn't just something that's related to the generation that rejected Jesus as Messiah but as we'll see this had been a pattern throughout the history of the Jewish people going back to Abraham. This was the theme and the claim of the prophets, the writing prophets that we know of, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and others in the minor, shorter prophets who consistently rebuked the kings, the leaders, and the people of Israel because they failed to listen to God. The prophets were constantly challenging them with their disobedience and the fact they were constantly going after false gods and goddesses.

This is not a unique claim to the New Testament. It's not a unique claim of Christians that somehow Israel has rejected God. It's a consistent pattern going all the way back to Abraham as we studied in Genesis. Going through a number of the history and biographies of Jacob's sons we saw this was part of the pattern of that generation. They were synthesizing and assimilating back into the pagan culture of Canaan. As a result this was one reason why God brought them out of Canaan, brought them to the situation in Egypt where they would be isolated from the surrounding culture and therefore protected. The Egyptians had a tremendous bias and racial prejudice against the Jews and so they basically sequestered them off into their own area, probably the original Jewish ghetto. As a result of that, they maintained their purity. Another result is that they grew from less than a hundred people, about 70 or so, to a nation between probably two to three million people who came out during the exodus.

So this is how God established the Jewish people. This is the story of the book of Exodus. Romans 11 begins with this emphasis that God has not rejected or replaced Israel. I put that word replaced in there because this has been so often a theme in Christianity, especially during the early and late Middle ages from roughly about the 3rd or 4th century A.D. Replacement theology which is based on an allegorical or non-literal interpretation of the Old Testament came in and talked about how Israel and the Jews had rejected Jesus as the Messiah so God permanently rejected them as His people.

This flies in the face of Romans 9, 10, and 11 which is one reason why in many Bible studies on Romans and in some commentaries these chapters are virtually ignored or skipped over. This is why these chapters are sometimes referred to as the "passed over" part of Romans. People in the Replacement Theology camp really can't handle this. You find many people who have trouble handling certain Scriptures so they just ignore them. They take out their mental scalpel and cut those verses or chapters or pages out of their Bible and leave in what fits their theological system. Then they hit something like this and since they believe the Church is the new Israel or that Christianity replaced Israel in God's plan they just ignore this whole section.

This is one of the strongest areas of Scripture that emphasizes that God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew. Paul is saying in this section that even though at the present time Israel has been disobedient in rejecting Jesus as Messiah, there will be a time when that will end and Israel will come back to God and there will be a full restoration of Israel, including a national restoration to the land. We've seen that in this section of Romans. It's related to the basic argument of Romans dealing with the righteousness of God. Romans 9 deals with the principle of the righteousness of God in terms of His rejection of national Israel. It is not that God rejected them permanently but He rejects them in terms of divine judgment as clearly set forth in the Torah.

In Leviticus 26, God spells out a series of five stages or five cycles of disciplinary action, culminating in the action of removing the Jewish people from their land. This is what happened in 722 B.C. when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom. It happened again in 586 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians defeated the Kingdom of Judah and destroyed the first temple and it happened again in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the second temple and conquered Israel and the people were further scattered in what is known as the diaspora. Diaspora is a Greek word for scattering.

As we've seen many times in our study of this section when we deal with these hard passages related to God hardening Pharaoh's heart and in this passage we're going to see an expression related to the "blindness of Israel". This is God's action in response to the initial reaction or decision on the part of individuals to reject God's plan. So first Pharaoh rejected God's plan and refused to let the Israelites go and as a result of that God "hardened", or as we saw it actually means strengthened, his resolve in bringing about his rejection of Moses' plea to release the Jews from slavery.

Now we've seen it in terms of individuals. But first the individual sets his heart against God. This is the whole process in Romans 1 which talks about the fact that God has revealed Himself through the non-verbal revelation of His creation. People, though, reject Him and they worship the creature rather than the Creator. What's the result? Three stages that we've studied. Each stage is indicated in Romans 1: 19 and following where it states in Rom 1:24, "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." Then in Rom 1:25 "For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen"

What God is doing is that if we go into negative volition, if we reject God's Word and we harden our hearts against God, then He gives us our way, as it were. He lets us reap the consequences of our decision so He then allows that hardness, that blindness, to take place because we're the ones in our volition and our free will who have set the course against God. So God is righteous in rejecting Israel temporarily, setting them aside because they rejected the offer of the Messiah. That's the argument in Romans 9. Romans 10 demonstrates that that rejection was based on Israel's corporate neglect of revelation that had been given to them. The quotes in Romans 10 are all related to the Old Testament and Paul is supporting his case with citations from Deuteronomy. That was a believing generation in the Old Testament but he is applying it here. Romans 11 then answers the question of whether God has permanently rejected His people. Paul answers that he hasn't rejected them permanently at all. God still has a national plan for Israel and He's going to be faithful to His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and eventually He will fulfill those promises.

It goes back to the theme in Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." See there's no exclusion of the Jew. There's an offer to the Jew as well as the Gentile. It's up to their volition whether or not they accept it or reject it. So this is the background.

As we look at chapter 11 we see that it emphasizes that God has not permanently rejected Israel in verses 1-10. Then when we get into the second part of the chapter in verses 11-24, Paul expresses his assurance that the rejection by the majority of Jews of God's grace is not going to last forever. There will be a time when there will be a turning to God among the Jewish people in the light of Deuteronomy 30:1.

The third section gives us an insight into the future of when that takes place and the circumstances around that and that's brought to a conclusion in verses 33-36. So in verse 1 Paul raises the question, "I say then, God has not rejected [cast away] His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." Paul forms this question in a way that presupposes a negative answer. His answer is not just "no." It's "not at all", "it's impossible". It's the strongest way you can express "no" in the Greek language.

It's "not at all" "not in any way" and then he uses himself as an example. As an Israelite himself he has not been rejected by God. The very fact that he as a Jew has been the recipient of God's grace in salvation means that God has not rejected the Jewish people. There's a couple of ways in which we see this connection in terms of its relations to the previous chapters. Paul says first of all lego oun which draws an inference from the previous chapter where Paul says in verse 18, "But I say" and then in Romans 10:19 he again says "but I say".

 This is one of those things that those of you in the Bible Study Methods class that you look for in terms of looking for patterns or repetition in the text in order to see connections and developments in terms of what the author says. This is one of those rare occasions when the English translations are consistent and accurate. Often in English translations, as I've pointed out before, English translators will try to vary the English vocabulary for some stylistic purposes. This is one of those man-made rules that you can't use the same words too frequently within the same context or you're just going to bore your reader. This might be good for creative writing classes at your standard Marxist liberal university but that's not how the Holy Spirit writes. The Holy Spirit writes with a lot of repetition to drive home a point but when you take these silly little man-made English writing rules and apply it to a translation then what happens is the reader in the translation loses the point. The translator will find the same word in the Greek used five times in two verses and they translate it a different way each time for stylistic variation and the reader misses the point that the Holy Spirit is trying to communicate.

But this is one of those cases where they were consistent and accurate so in English you can see that there's "but I say", "but I say", and then verse one starts "I say then" showing a conclusion drawn from what he says in those earlier verses. So that shows that Romans 11 is integrally related to Romans 10. Just as Romans 9 and Romans 10 emphasized Israel not as individual Jews or Jewish individual salvation or justification of the individual Jew, it's talking about God's plan for corporate, ethnic Israel for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So that ties it together. It's important in understanding this passage that we're talking about corporate, ethnic Israel and we're not talking specifically about individual justification.

Second, we see the references in 11:1, "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." 11:2 says, God has not rejected [cast away] His people whom He foreknew." This indicates again a corporate view of Israel. That God had a plan for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and He elected them nationally. It's a corporate election that applies to them.

So often we hear that word election used in theological context and we immediately jump to the assumption that somehow John Calvin and the Calvinist are right and that God's up in heaven saying "eeny-minni-miny-mo" and He's picking this one and rejecting the others for salvation. That's not what this is talking about. This is talking about God's choice of a particular people to accomplish his purposes in history. He decided it was going to be through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that God would reveal Himself to the human race and that they would be the recipients of God's revelation. They would record his revelation, preserve it, and they would keep that and pass that on for the benefit of the human race and that it was going to be through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the Savior would come, the One who would save the world from their sins. This is a theme all the way through the Old Testament prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and on into many of the minor prophets, such as Zachariah as well as Hosea and some of the others. So this emphasizes this corporate nation and also Paul's use of 1 Kings 19:10-18 which comes up at the end of verse 2 and verses 3 and 4. This, too, pulls together this same idea of corporate Israel.

So when the verse begins Paul uses this verb apotheomai which is translated cast away. It's an aorist tense which means it's talking about some undefined, indeterminate time in the past. It just sort of summarizing it under one basic simple past tense verb and this verb has the idea of pushing back, driving back, casting away, or rejecting. I would think the better translation is "has God rejected His people?" The question here is whether this is a permanent rejection. The answer is no, not at all. The example that he gives is himself. He reminds them that he is an Israelite of the seed of Abraham and the tribe of Benjamin. The point is that if God had permanently rejected the Jewish people from His grace then he wouldn't be saved.

We all know that the early church was made up almost completely of those who were Jewish people. It says 4,000 were saved on the Day of Pentecost and 5,000 saved later. Thousands and thousands of other Jews were saved during the first century. Up until the time that the Emperor Constantine established the Edict of Toleration in 315 A.D. which made Christianity the legal and only religion for the Roman Empire, the Jewish and Christian communities worked together. Even though there were theological differences they worked together to take care of the poor and the sick, providing for orphans and widows, and things of that nature.

But once Christianity became the legal religion the church became dominated by those who held to a non-literal interpretation as a result of the influence of Origin that they started laying the groundwork for Christian anti-Semitism which is one of the most horrible things that ever happened in human history. It's a complete perversion of what the New Testament teaches and it's a complete perversion of what the Bible teaches. It came about because these early Christians by the end of the 4th century quit interpreting the Bible on the basis of authorial intent and on the basis of a literal interpretation of Scripture. That is taking the words of Scripture in their normal context. Once they began to mystify it and to bring mysticism and subjectivity into their interpretation and allegory, then they lost that literal interpretation.

Paul here clearly is using the term Israelite in a literal way in referring to those who are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That's how it's stated. You'll run into the fact that today in a lot of ways, especially among reform Jews who are more egalitarian, they like to talk about the patriarchs and the matriarchs. They wouldn't want to leave the women out but the Scripture always just emphasizes the male as the leader so we prefer to stick with Scriptural terminology and emphasize Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because it is through them that the seed came. That's that terminology that is emphasized all the way through Genesis.

Philippians 3:5-6 is another place where Paul emphasizes his Jewish heritage, "circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless" In Romans 11:2 Paul uses that same word again in terms of repetition. Remember whenever the Holy Spirit repeats Himself in terms of the revelation of Scripture, we need to pay attention to it. God wants us to recognize that there's a significance and a connection there. And the answer to the question that he raised in verse one is stated didactically here and dogmatically that God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.

Here we get one of those great words that once again brings us into this whole issue of the relationship of the Sovereignty of God to the freewill of man. It is true that in God's Sovereignty He overrules and overrides human decisions but God, in His plan, included the dynamics of the chaos that freewill would bring so that His plan is great enough and grand enough to include the chaos that comes from the freewill decisions that comes from creatures. We see that even in the natural realm in Genesis 1-3 that when Adam sinned, it brought chaos into the geophysical, natural, biological world and yet God had built enough flexibility into the DNA structure, into the laws of physics, and into the various other natural laws and physical laws that it handled the chaos that came from sin.

God is able to still accomplish His purposes even when human beings go astray from His decreed will. He still controls that. I submit that that is a much greater, grander, and glorious view of the Sovereignty and Omnipotence of God then the "God in a box" that the Calvinist have who say God can't know anything unless He's determined it so His Omniscience is actually limited because in their view God only knows what he's predetermined. And only what He's predetermined does He know. God doesn't know the counterfactuals as the philosophers put it. He doesn't know the things that could've been, or might've been because they have such a limited view of God's omniscience. In fact, they think that if you introduce that into God you basically end up making God into a slave to man which just shows how perverted and corrupt their thinking actually is. They just turn every truth upside down so they can have a rigid, mechanistic, predetermined and deterministic environment.

So here God allows for the flexibility of negative volition within His plan or purpose. In the Old Testament there's no mention that there's going to be a new entity called the Church. There's no inclination that the Jewish people will reject the Messiah when He comes. There is simply the clear statement that He's going to come and offer the Kingdom to His people. But then they reject Him.

So what happens? God, in His sovereignty, has flexibility to introduce a new game plan. He always knew that. It was no surprise to God but it just shows the flexibility that He has within His plan to handle all the corruption and chaos that comes from human volition. Now when Paul states this in Romans 11:2 he says, "God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew" this is a direct quote that comes out of the Old Testament. This section in Romans is just loaded with references to the Old Testament because Paul is making sure that everyone who reads this, especially the Jewish people who read this, understand that what he is teaching is firmly grounded in what was predicted in the Old Testament by the prophets, by David in the Psalms, by Isaiah, by Jeremiah, and by Ezekiel. They all predicted the worldwide dispersion of the Jewish people because they would completely reject the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

So when he states this Paul is actually quoting from Psalm 94. David says in verse 14, "For the LORD will not abandon His people, Nor will He forsake His inheritance." So there's this permanent promise in the Old Testament that God will always be faithful to His promise to Abraham and that God is going to bless the world through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And that God is going to permanently establish His people in the land, that there will be a time as God told Moses that they would be removed from the land, a time when they would be dispersed throughout all of the nations and then at the end of time they would turn back to God and they would be restored to the land and God would establish His Kingdom.

Later on He makes it clear that this Kingdom will be established under a king who is a descendant of David. That was articulated in the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel 7–14. So again David makes this clear that God has not permanently rejected His people. This is another one of those examples where modern and medieval theologians come along and they reject this and pervert the interpretation of this because they have an anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bent and they want to assert that the only people of God today is the Church.

Now when we look back at this issue of foreknowledge we have to understand what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:2. Peter, Hebrews, James, and Jude are actually Jewish epistles. They are all written to a strongly Jewish Christian audience and those four epistles emphasize a lot that comes from Jewish background. At the beginning of 1 Peter he talks about the fact that his recipients are elect, that is they're chosen according to the foreknowledge of God. As we've seen before that God in His Omniscience knows all the knowable. He knows all the possible, all the potential. All the woulda, coulda, shoulda, mighta beens and in light of all of that He makes decisions not apart from His knowledge but on the basis of His knowledge of what will take place.

Understanding this concept in Romans 9-11 means it's related back to what he states in 9:11 that, "for though {the twins} were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to {His} choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls." It was not about individual salvation or individual justification. He chose the Jewish people and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for a national purpose, a national destiny that would culminate in a kingdom established in the land under the ruler ship of a descendant of King David. This is clearly stated, clearly defined here in this particular passage.

When we read in Romans 11 passages that talk about His people whom He foreknew in verse 2 and then in verse 5 it talks about the "remnant according to the election of grace." We have to understand that this is not related to individual justification but to the corporate plan that God has for true Israel. Romans 11:3 and 11:4 provide us with a background of what he's going to emphasize here in understanding what is going on with the Jewish people in this dispensation, in this era of the Church age. Notice at the end of 11:2 we read, "Or do you not know what the Scripture says in {the passage about} Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?"

So we're going to go back into the Old Testament in order to connect to this particular event. He summarizes the event in two verses quoting from the Old Testament, quoting from 1 Kings 19:10, 14, and 19 in order to make his point here. We need to take a minute as we usually do to go back and quickly run through these passages so we understand what was going on. Some of you were here when we went through 1 Kings.

This whole episode here with Elijah is one of my favorite sections of the Old Testament. Just the impact that one man had on a nation is phenomenal but we learn that even some of the greatest of God's servants in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament have great flaws. We all have sin natures. We all fail at times. After his tremendous success and tremendous victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel immediately Elijah heard of the threats of Jezebel the queen who sent out an order that he was wanted, dead or alive, preferably dead and she was going to make sure he would die. He immediately caved into his sin nature. He caved into fear. He caved into worry and anxiety. He forgot about God and he went on the run as a fugitive.

1 Kings 19 tells the story. Let's just review it to catch the context of these whiny statements that Paul quotes in Romans 11: 3 and 4. Ahab comes back from Mount Carmel and tells Jezebel about everything that happened there and everything that Elijah had done, including executing all of Jezebel's favorite prophets whish she had imported from the Phoenicians, the prophets of Baal, and all the false prophets. He had their heads decapitated which was the punishment under the Mosaic Law. Some people have said that wasn't his responsibility but that's a failure to understand the role and responsibility of a prophet in the Old Testament. He was God's representative to fulfill God's plan and purpose. This is what Elijah was doing. He was fulfilling the Mosaic Law so he executed all of the false prophets because this was the penalty, the death penalty, stated in the Torah. So he had all of them executed.

Jezebel wants to get her revenge. In verse 2 she says, "So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." She's saying she's going to send out the hit squads and by noon tomorrow she threatened he'd be dead. So verse 3 says, "And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there." (Pastor Dean shows a map of the area here). Beersheba is located on the edge of the Negev, in the southern part of Israel which is down just on the north end of the wilderness of Zin which is a very barren piece of real estate. He left from where he was on Mount Carmel and runs south as fast as he can to get as far away as he can from Jezebel. Remember her area of dominion is in the northern part of Israel. Her husband, Ahab, is the King of the Northern Kingdom but they don't have any authority in the south. So he heads not only into the Southern kingdom of Judah but as far to the other side of the Kingdom of Judah as he possibly can.

Let's go back and look at the text. The Masoretic text, which is one of the things I've learned this past year that helps me work my way through the Old Testament. The Old Testament has textual problems just like the New Testament, where you have different readings at times in different manuscripts. Sometimes it's a clerical error. Sometimes it's an error of hearing or other reasons. When a copyist writes he'll make a mistake. In the original Hebrew text there were no vowels. The word for "saw" and the word for "fear" have the same consonants. You change the vowels; you change the word. Besides the Masoretic text, there is the Septuagint which was a Greek translation made by the rabbis in about the 2nd or 3rd century B.C. and the Vulgate which is the Latin translation of the Old Testament, The Syriac version is translated as "he was afraid."

I went to Dallas Seminary and the Hebrew Department, although I didn't realize it then, was mostly in a camp where a lot of the professors didn't really believe there was much in terms of Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. Once I learned that I can look back to some of the discussions and things that were said and it suddenly makes sense to me. I just didn't realize there was an issue going on in the background but you'd hear things from the professors about some of the Messianic Psalms and you didn't really believe it. I couldn't figure out how to correlate that and it left me a little confused. It wasn't until I was listening to a lecture this year by Michael Rydelnik where Mike interviewed all the professors in the Old Testament department and he said there was only one Old Testament faculty member at that time who believed in real Messianic prophecy from the Old Testament. Now that impacted and was related to their view of textual criticism.

When Mike said this I realized that the view we were taught at Dallas when I was a student was that you were to go with the reading in the Masoretic text. A lot of times the Masoretic text which wasn't finalized until the 7th, 8th, 9th century A.D. had the vowel points changed which changed the words in key Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament in order to remove the obvious interpretation of those passages as pointing to Jesus. So that affects what's in the Masoretic text. Rydelnik's written an excellent book called The Messianic Hope where he goes through detail after detail how this happened historically and theologically. It's fascinating to come to understand that. There's another prominent Old Testament Israeli scholar by the name of Emmanuel Cove who has done a tremendous amount of work on textual criticism in the Old Testament and his basic rule of thumb is if the Septuagint agrees with the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Syriac or one of the early Greek translations then that trumps the Masoretic text. That opens a whole new door of understanding in terms of interpreting lots of these Messianic passages. If you follow his rule then you end up straightening up a lot of these problems in some of these Messianic prophecies that look like or as interpreted by some people today as not really Messianic.

So that would make much more sense in verse 3 that it's not that Elijah "saw" this but that when Elijah became afraid. He reacts to this threat by Jezebel in fear and runs for his life down to Beersheba and he leaves his servant there. (Pastor Dean shows pictures of Beersheba which is now a national park in Israel) It's fairly arid territory except for irrigated spots which are extremely productive and they're exporting that irrigation technology to a lot of sub-Saharan countries trying to help African countries farm and implement some of these technological advances which have been developed by modern Israel.

So in 1 Kings 19:4 we read, "But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper [broom] tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, "It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers." A broom tree doesn't provide a lot of shade but when you're in territory that looks like this any little bush and any little spot of shade is very welcome, especially if it's very hot. Those who went on the first trip we took to Israel we went in late June, went over into Jordan, and when we came back we had to cross the border. The fence line was on a path about half the size of this room and you had two cyclone fences down each side and you had about two hundred yards to walk from one border checkpoint to the other one and you had to pull your little luggage behind you. We're walking west and there was a sirocco wind coming off of the Judean desert right into our face. The temperature was 117 in the shade and it was like walking into a hair dryer. I frequently say the temperature was 117 with a heat index of 135. It would wither you in place.

So Elijah was looking for any place where he could rest and verse 5 tells us, "He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, "Arise, eat." (Pastor Dean shows a picture of a broom or juniper tree). It doesn't give you a whole lot of shade but it's what you get in the midst of the desert. So the angel took care of him. Again we see God's faithfulness. The point that Paul makes all through Romans 9, 10, and 11 is that God is faithful to His promises to Israel. What we can take from that is that God is faithful to each of us in terms of His promises. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is always going to strengthen us, sustain us, and take care of us just as He did Elijah even though Elijah is running in fear and he is forgetting to depend upon God, God doesn't forsake Elijah. You can blow that up even larger that even though Israel is in disobedience, according to Romans 11, nevertheless God is still watching over them. This is the same thing that is seen in the Old Testament book of Esther that when the Jews are in the Diaspora and there's this huge anti-Semitic plot by Haman who's the favorite of King Ahasuerus, nevertheless, even though God's name is not mentioned anywhere in the book of Esther, God is really the one who is the hidden force protecting Israel behind the scenes. 

So that's the lesson here. Whatever our condition is God doesn't forsake us even though we forsake Him. So the angel takes care of Elijah in the wilderness. He provides food and drink for him and he goes on for forty days and forty nights on down to the Sinai so there's a parallel drawn there between him and Moses. (Shows map of Sinai.) We don't know exactly where it is. There are three or four candidates but the Sinai of Exodus is probably located in this area. You can figure this out because the Scripture says it took so many days to walk to different locations. Some have even placed it up into the wilderness of Zin but it's probably not. 

So when he gets there he goes into a cave and spends the night there. The next morning the Lord comes to Him, probably the angel of the Lord, and speaks to him, under the title the "word of the Lord". This is the pre-incarnate Christ, the logos in the New Testament in John 1:1-3. The word of the Lord came to him and asked him what he was doing there. I brought this up because this passage is misused by a lot of people. They think this is a divine guidance passage. In a minute we'll come to the verse where God isn't in the whirlwind and God isn't in the earthquake but God is in the still, small voice. They say you need to pull away from everything and get where you can listen to God and God will speak to you in that still, small voice. This is just pure mystical garbage. This isn't a divine guidance passage. Elijah isn't trying to figure out what God's will is. He's trying to run away from God's will and God isn't giving him direction to what His will should be.

God is going to give him an audio-visual demonstration of God's incomprehensibility to drive home the point that Elijah, who had a preconceived notion of how he would have this victorious response from Ahab and there would be this huge revival in Israel as a result of Mount Carmel, finds out that's not what happened. Afterwards he's just crestfallen because he's confused his plan with God's plan. God is going to demonstrate that you can't second-guess God's plan. God isn't doing what you think He's doing unless He's told you what He's doing. So this is what takes place.

God asks Elijah what he's doing there. Elijah in 1 Kings 19:14 says, "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." Elijah says there's no one but him left who sees the truth, who understands reality; only him. He's just having his own little pity party down on Sinai.

So this is when God teaches him a little lesson of His power. God is teaching that He sometimes operates in great dramatic ways and other times not in great dramatic ways. You can't second-guess God. In many versions it's translated "a still small voice". The concept of a voice communicates revelation but that's not in the text. The NASB translates it, "a sound of gentle blowing." The NET calls it "a soft whisper." The ESV says the "sound of a low whisper". The NIV says the "sound of a gentle whisper." Literal translation of the Hebrew says it was a "sound of a small, thin".  Then it doesn't say any more. It doesn't use the word voice.

Basically the word in the Hebrew Aramaic lexicon of the Old Testament translates it as a "calm, vibrant silence". See there's all this noise of the storm, the earthquake, the fire, all these huge effects and then there's nothing. Just the sound of silence. Deep, profound silence. There's no communication going on here at all. God's not giving Him His directive will. It's just silence. The point that God is making here to Elijah is that you can't second-guess God. Sometimes He acts in big, overt ways like He did on Mount Carmel and He comes down and acts in this huge thunderbolt that just destroys the altar and evaporates everything on the altar but at other times He's working in silence and you can't see what God is doing so don't second-guess it.

Elijah tells God that he's the only one left. He hadn't really gotten the point yet. Then in verse 18 God tells Elijah to quit having a pity party thinking that you're the only one. God says he has reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal. So what we see here is the example of the Northern Kingdom of Israel that's gone into complete apostasy and have rejected the Torah and rejected God. They have been completely immersed in the pagan religion of the Ashera and the Baalim and they're worshiping the idols and they're involved in all the fertility worship and have completely rejected God but there's seven thousand in the Northern Kingdom who are still true to the Torah, the Word of God. They're still worshipping God and God alone even though it's a time of tremendous persecution.

It's that group of seven thousand that are referred to in some places technically as the remnant. That is a key term that comes out of verse 5 in Romans 11, "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to {God's} gracious choice [the election of grace]." Now we have to understand what this concept of "remnant" is. This is an important term and one of the reasons this is important is because I have heard some theologians and some pastors who are not well-studied in the word apparently wrongly apply the concept of "remnant" to the Church. There's no scriptural basis for doing that. The term "remnant" is exclusively used of the core group of true believers in Israel among the Jews. It is never, ever used of the Church. It's only used twice in the New Testament and both times in this passage. Once in Romans 9 and then here in Romans 11, both in reference to the Jewish remnant. There's no such thing as the Christian remnant. Use of that terminology betrays an influence of replacement theology. There are certain terms that are restricted to Christianity and the Church and there's certain terms restricted to literal Israel and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and remnant is an Israelite term. It's a Jewish term to refer to the core group that is true Israel, those who have not rejected God, those who have stayed true to the Old Testament and have responded to whatever revelation God has given, whether it's Old Testament or whether it's the revelation given in terms of Jesus.

In terms of terminology there are basically four words for remnant. The first two are Hebrew, the second two are Greek. The first word is yathar which means remainder. That's basically the idea of the remnant that which is left over, that which remains. The second is she'ar, also translated remnant and mean the same thing. These words in the Old Testament Septuagint are translated with the words that show up in Romans 9 and Romans 11. Romans 9 uses the word kataleimma and Romans 11 uses the word leimma. kataleimma is just a prefix with a preposition, both referring to the remnant. This is an important term.

I want to go through several verses and that will take time so I'm going to go ahead and close but we'll come back next time and we'll finally get there. You now understand the conclusion so we'll go back and see how the term "remnant" is used in the Old Testament. It's used in non-specific ways and it's used at times to refer to the Canaanites who were left over and survived the conquest. Those who were the ones who remained alive, who survived, so sometimes the word remnant simply has the idea of a survivor. Sometimes it's applied to Jews who survived the Assyrian assault, the Jews who survived the Babylonian assault. They're referred to as the "remnant." There's no spiritual sense there. They're just the ones who survived. Then it's used in some key passages to refer to a subset of Israelites as Paul says in Romans 9 that "not all Israel is Israel." So there's a subset that's faithful to God. The remainder are unfaithful. That's the analogy that lies behind Romans 11. So to understand Romans 11 we have to understand the doctrine of the remnant and we'll come back to that next Thursday night.