“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18
We have reached the point where Elijah is about to spring back in action. Before he did, however, God had one last thing to say to the prophet. One of Elijah’s laments was that he thought he was the only surviving, working believer in all of Israel. God made it clear that this was not so and that there was still a believing remnant in Israel that Elijah did not know about. God informs Elijah that there are still 7000 left who have not turned to the worship of Baal. Is this a literal figure of 7000 or is it symbolic? I see no reason to dispute that God means exactly what He said. That’s actually a fair number of people in the nation, to be honest. At the current size of Israel that would be almost a faithful believer in every square mile of the nation! Given the sparse population in that day, that is not insignificant. Some writers assign a more symbolic nature to the number 7000, in that 7, 70, 700 and 7000 are all variables representing the completeness of God. In this case, this number may be symbolic and a representation of God’s sovereign will and ability to always have a chosen and preserved remnant true to Him. That works just fine also.
God is always working His plan, and He will always ensure the resources to accomplish it are available; that includes people who will remain faithful to him. The instances of God preserving a faithful remnant are found throughout Scripture. Noah and his family being chosen of all the world to survive the great flood, Lot and his two daughters surviving the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and even the rescue of Rahab from Jericho all come to mind. As we move into the New Testament we see that while talking to Peter in Caesarea Philippi, that Jesu promises the perpetuity of his churches:
Matthew 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
So, the preservation of a faithful remnant ready and able to do the Lord’s work is something we see time and time again in the Bible.
The issue then was not that God had somehow let things slip into disarray! The issue was all in the mind of Elijah. We already talked about how the prophet had gotten a bit wrapped up in himself, and how God had gotten him back on track with the still, small voice. Then, the Lord closes his conversation with Elijah by directly addressing one of Elijah’s concerns. Elijah was not alone.
Friends, neither are we. It these times, it can be easy for the faithful workers of God to get the mistaken impression that they are alone or at least lonely in the work of God. A cliché says something like 90 percent of the work is done by 10 percent of the people; clichés work because there is usually some truth to them. I suspect that, when we are doing “big,” stuff, that our tendency to think we are alone in the work intensifies. After all, what we are doing is significant, up front, and very mission essential (in our minds.)
There are just a few things we might want to remember when we are faced with our minds going in this direction. First, we just aren’t really that important. God’s plan will happen with us or without us. Anybody remember Esther being told when she hesitated that salvation for the Jews would still come from another if she declined to step in? God has this, and while He wants us on board, our failure to get on board certainly won’t mess up His plan. Secondly, there is a lot of stuff going on in God’s work that we may not think about much but are very important. That guy or girl who replaces the toilet paper in the church restrooms suddenly seems important when we are stuck paperless!
So, next time we get to thinking that we are alone and that clearly God’s work is going to pot around us…it’s not.