This Week's Focus Passage

‘For we are left a remnant that is escaped, as it is this day.’

Focus Passage: Ezra 9:15

‘For we are left a remnant that is escaped, as it is this day.’

While we know very well that the chapter and verse divisions in our Bibles are not inspired, but are in fact the devices of men; and while these divisions may sometimes fail to correspond with the flow of the inspired text, and even sometimes leave us hanging in the middle of a particular thought, allowing for some sort of disconnect, they have not been proven to be totally un-useful. Not only do they provide us with a very helpful form of reference whereby we may swiftly be directed to a certain place in, say, the book of Isaiah, or the gospel of John, but one of the interesting, and likely unintended, results of these man-made divisions is a feature that has not gone completely unnoticed over the years; the fact that in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, along with Daniel, the blessing-laden prayers of these three men of God are each to be found in the ninth chapters of their respective books. We must, of course, remind ourselves that this is the result of the devices of men, and it is only a point of interest, even as we may take an interest in the numerous “3:16” chapter and verse combinations found in the Word of God. Far more relevant—in fact these human devices are not actually relevant at all—is the unity of the content of the prayers of these servants of God. There are some important common denominators in the prayers of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel.

Among these common denominators, and really most conspicuous, is the demonstration of repentance and confession that predominates Ezra and Daniel, as well as the body of men spoken of in Nehemiah, that began their prayer with fasting, and with sackcloth, and earth upon them. This is the uniform behavior of these folk when they have had their sins brought to their attention; in Ezra we are told:

And at the evening oblation I arose up from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe rent; and I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto my God; and I said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God; for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our guiltiness is grown up unto the heavens.—Ezra 9:5-6

Daniel, in similar fashion begins his prayer:

And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. And I prayed unto Jehovah my God, and made confession.—Daniel 9:3-4

It is extremely noteworthy that, unlike the climate in the professing church today, true repentance followed by sincere confession constitute an essential part of prayer. It is also highly commendable to witness these prayers under consideration involving not only personal repentance and confession, but these men repented for the sins of their people. In the language of Ezra; our iniquities and our guiltiness are confessed by him, and not only his own sins. Should this not incite us to confess the sins of the church at large, pleading with God that He would Rise up for our help, and redeem us for thy lovingkindness’ sake? Surely, we aren’t imagining—are we?—that there are no true believers in churches that seem to have left their moorings; that have lost their way. Have we never found ourselves on our knees with David, crying, I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant? Jesus declared most vehemently to His disciples, I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The lost sheep of the house of Israel; the many lost sheep that are undoubtedly wandering in the wilderness of the many churches that have lost their way. Were we never among those lost sheep? Did our Lord not come to seek us and to save us? Being of the remnant, were we not mercifully called of God and made willing in the day of His power to come unto Him through our Lord Jesus Christ? And do we not now know that this was, humanly speaking, because God’s people were praying for the church?

Are we not the remnant; the election of grace; the chosen people of Jehovah?

These realities bring forward another common denominator in the prayers of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel; namely the matter of the remnant. The term remnant is used only once in Nehemiah, four times in Ezra, all of which are in this ninth chapter, and not at all in the book of Daniel. Nonetheless, each of these books focus upon and involve the captivity and the subsequent release from bondage. While many of the references refer to national Israel, do not many also involve the spiritual remnant, if we can put it that way? Is this not the remnant of which Paul speaks even as he cites, in Romans, from Hosea and Isaiah? It is only after Pentecost that Paul says, So then at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace—Romans 11:5. Does he say this not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles—Romans 9:24? When the apostle, in verse 29, cites Isaiah 1:9, he does so from the Greek translation which, instead of had left us a small remnant, has had left us a seed. Robert Haldane has remarked:

Instead of remnant, the word employed by the Prophet, the Apostle substitutes the term seed, from the Septuagint version, which, though the expression is varied, has a similar meaning, implying that after the whole heap besides was consumed, the remainder was reserved for sowing with a view to a future crop.

And who is that seed? Is it not the elect from among the Gentiles? Is this not those of whom the apostle speak in Galatians 3:29, And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise? We can agree with Hendricksen when he has affirmed, ‘Also here, as often previously, the lesson is: There is, indeed, a seed, a remnant, by God’s sovereign grace. Israel’s rejection is not total. Election is still having its effect.’ If we are the elect of God, we are the spiritual seed of Abraham and the remnant with the remnant of Israel according to election.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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