Do you not know what the scripture says of Elĳah, how he pleads with God against Israel? "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." But what is the divine reply to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal." So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. - Romans 11:2-5
Paul anguishes over why so many have not believed that Jesus is the long promised Messiah. He is adamant that God is keeping the covenant with Israel. In his somewhat convoluted argument, he turns to a story from 1 Kings 19 for the idea of "a faithful remnant."
In that story God tells Elijah that even though the Israelites have been unfaithful, God will not destroy them but will keep faith with the Divine promise by preserving a remnant—7,000 righteous ones "who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (the local fertility god/gods).
I can take comfort from this story, which traces the story of good news across generations, from 1 Kings to the letter of Romans. It tells us that God remains faithful to the covenant promises made long ago to our ancestors in the faith.
It tells us that the Invisible God remains faithful—an important counter to the oft-told story of the inevitable decline of the church in these days.
This faithful God calls us not to bigness, prosperity or success, but to justice, mercy and love; to be faithful as God is faithful from generation to generation.
God of Holy Promises, we know that you will not be left without witnesses. We pray in the name of Jesus that we may be among them.
Richard L. Floyd is Pastor Emeritus of First Church of Christ (UCC) in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. and author of A Course In Basic Christianity and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: Reflections on the Atonement. He blogs at richardlfloyd.com.