From the days of Seth to the days of the coming remnant in the tribulation, God’s testimony has always had remnant character. A full study of the character of remnant testimony would require a study of a large part of the history of Israel and more particularly the days of recovery under Ezra and Nehemiah.
The words of the risen Christ to Sardis are applicable to our circumstances, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die” (Rev 3:2). The general trend of any testimony in which frail, failing people have a part is decline and departure. How has testimony survived so late in the dispensation? One reason is that God has granted times of recovery and revival.
Six features have characterized every recovery: a humble confession of failure and weakness; priority given to Scripture illuminated by the Spirit; childlike faith in an Almighty God; faithful men raised up and fitted by God as instruments of recovery, and the venomous attacks of Satan. The result of these attacks has been decline through compromise and internal weakness.
Many believers ask, “If we are right, why are we so small and ineffective?” We should never use society’s value system to judge worth. Size and worldwide influence are all-important in that system, but God’s standards are completely opposite, “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Cor 1:27-28).
However, it is arrogance to claim that because we are small, we must be right. It is Laodicean complacency to be content with our weakness and smallness. We need to be deeply concerned about our ineffectiveness and cry to God to visit us again with mighty evidences of His power and presence.
In 536 BC, a remnant under Zerubbabel returned from Babylon with 50,000 exiles. Twenty-one years later, after much delay, the temple was completed. There were 57 year between the coming of Zerubbabel and the return of Ezra. Another 13 years passed before Nehemiah came to build the walls. Thirty-nine years later Malachi wrote, “I have loved you saith the Lord” and they responded, “Wherein hast Thou loved us?” (Mal 1:2).
So about 130 years transpired between the great spiritual awakening under Zerubbabel and the ministry of Malachi to a people far from God who did not know their true condition. It is 130 years ago since the first gospel pioneers came to North America with a burning passion for lost souls. Does our history parallel the history of the remnant of Israel?
The days of Ezra and Nehemiah have great appeal to us. The remnant was comprised of ordinary people, small and weak. They had many problems, enemies within and without. Even leaders failed. There were no miracles or visible signs of God’s presence. There were no fresh revelations; they only had the Word of God. They were ridiculed for their separation and it was in this very area that they failed and became mixed with the people of the lands around them.
We love to liken ourselves to Philadelphia, but let us hear the words of the Lord to Laodicea, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Rev 3:18). The words to the remnant in Judah should encourage our hearts to be faithful, “Then they that feared the LORD spake 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” (Mal 3:16)