When you think of the word “remnant,” what comes to your mind? The dictionary says, remnant “is a small remaining quantity of something.” Residue, leftovers and remainder are common synonyms for remnant. For example, we often talk about the remnants (leftover or remains) of food. Remnants in the ruin has a similar association, when we talk about “the remnant people.” However, there is a jewel in the word, that doesn’t imply remains, leftovers or residue. That jewel is called “essence.”
Of all the things I’ve learned while studying the book of Ezekiel, one of the first is this; While God always leaves a remnant (remaining) people; God also leaves the remnant (essence) of ourselves, if we allow Him. It is the most comforting concept.
For example, God said to Ezekiel; “Take a sharp sword and use it as a barber’s razor to shave your head and beard; use balances to weigh the hair into three equal parts. Place a third of it at the center of your map of Jerusalem. After your siege, burn it there. Scatter another third across your map and slash at it with a knife. Scatter the last third to the wind, for I will chase my people with the sword. Keep just a bit of the hair and tie it up in your robe.” (Ezekiel 5: 1-2).
At face value it seems straight forward, but there is a pearl and a promise just for you. God communicated something significant to us through Ezekiel. The treasure lies in these words; “Keep just a bit of the hair and tie it up in your robe” (Ezekiel 5: 3). This single act is defining. It is momentous. It’s gracious. In this statement, we can find so many gems, but here are two:
- God always leave a remnant people: “Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries (Ezekiel 6: 8). When God sent the rains to flood the world, Noah and his family were the remnant people. When some were condemned to die in the wilderness, some were allowed to see the Promised Land. When God sent the angels to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his family were saved. In Ezekiel’s time, God promised that He would leave a remnant people who would not face exile. He doesn’t always destroy everything, He preserves a remnant people.
- God will always leave the remnant of yourself. While in the ruins, the essence of who you are doesn’t change. Ezekiel had to tie up a piece of hair in his robe. That piece of hair, is the original of Ezekiel’s hair. By keeping a bit of his hair, Ezekiel was preserving the essence of who he is. While you are in the ruins, God doesn’t intend to crush you and leave leftovers. Even though God called Ezekiel to perform certain duties, the essence of who Ezekiel is remains. Although he experienced paralysis, dumbness, famine, watched His wife die, climbed through holes, etc., Ezekiel was still Ezekiel.
What does that mean for you? The ruins you face through choices or circumstances do not define or place a brand on you. Because Ezekiel was dumb for a period doesn’t mean that he was daft. Just because he was paralyzed, it doesn’t mean that he was purposeless. The Israelites were still God’s people in the ruins of His judgement. Daniel was full of intellect and wisdom right in the ruins of captivity. Joseph was a dreamer right in the ruins of the dungeon. Paul was a preacher right in his ruins of prison. David was a warrior and a worshipper, right in the ruins of his sin. Peter was still bold Peter right in the ruins of betrayal. The prodigal son was still a prince in the ruins of the hog pen. Samson was still the strongest man in the ruins of his weakness. Jesus was still God in the ruins of a sinful cross. Who really are you?
You are not the ruins of your circumstances; you are a child of God. The ruins may beat, batter and break you, but it can’t change the essence of who you are, if you allow God to be Lord of your ruins.
The ruins of sickness may damage your body, but it cannot destroy your soul. Imprisonment may come with crucibles but it cannot crush the core of who you are. Consequences come with choices, but they are not the conclusion of your life.
Let me summarize this with two nuggets. Think of a mango, my favorite fruit. Many mangoes look really good on the outside. Some are very firm and they smell delicious too. Many times, I’ve taken a bite and begin to enjoy the fruit, when suddenly, a bad part; a maggot appears. Who saw that coming? What would you do? I would throw away the fruit, because other bad parts may be there too… it would turn me off. Sadly, that’s how we treat each other sometimes. On the contrary, some people would get rid of the bad part and continue eating the fruit (that’s how God treats us).
Nugget 1: One bad part, really doesn’t spoil the whole fruit. In the eyes of man it does. In the eyes of God, it doesn’t. Think of your life as that mango; you were once a seed planted in the world. You have grown and become a fruit. Maggots of sin are in the world; they may be infesting your life causing you to be in the ruinous circumstances you are currently in. But what if God cut out the maggot ridden parts, could you still enjoy the fruit of life? There is more to your life, than the ruins. The grace of Jesus will destroy the maggots in your life so that you can enjoy the fruit of life. The earlier you welcome Him in, the better.
How does this apply to the remnant? The seed is the remnant, the core of the mango, the essence of who you are. Sometimes, the ruins are so horrible as it was in Ezekiel’s time, that God had to get rid of the meaty flesh (worldly lust) of life’s fruit. Sometimes the fruit is so infested that God has to cut out all the meat of the mango, but something will always remain. Yes! The seed, the remnant. If your ruins has stripped you of everything as it did Ezekiel or Job or Paul or Samson or Moses, the remnant of yourself still remains.
If you cut out all of the flesh, some may ask, what good is there in the seed? Well, Jesus the Lord of the ruins, can replant the seed. Can’t He? Although the seed will be buried; imprisoned in the dark earth, feeling lonely and empty, just like you may feel in the ruins. It will die to self; buried in the soil of repentance. It will receive nourishment from the sunlight of God’s glory. It will be watered with the baptism of Jesus Christ. Will the seed be thriving or will it be dying? It will be developing the roots to be a tree. Not to become an apple, but the same old mango tree bearing fresh fruits. Nugget 2: The seed is still there within you.
If you don’t allow Jesus Christ to intervene, the maggots will get to the seed, just like it did Judas; just like it did Saul, just like it did Belshazzar. When that happens, the Spirit of God within the seed, takes flight and the demons take over. As long as you let Jesus in, God will always leave the remnant of who you are.
The ruinous experience will ALWAYS be an experience. However, the ruins are not you. Only, you have to dig deep within to see the ruins as the ruins and you as you. The ruins are there for you to grow up, while you bow down in humility. They are for you to learn in not for you to live in. Just like the maggots smear the mango, ruinous past may smear our lives, but the seed still remains. If you know anything about mangoes, once you get rid of the maggots, the seed is the sweetest part.
While you are in the ruins, God will always leave the remnants of yourself untouched, once you allow Him in. The seed is the core of a fruit. God’s Spirit is the essence of who you are and His Spirit is unchangeable. No ruinous experience can change the fact that God is your creator and Jesus is your redeemer. While you are in the ruins, don’t forget that His Spirit is there within you. It is the essence of who you are, and you need this SPIRIT to get you out of the ruins. God wants to help you see the real you not the ruinous you. Just let Him. The remnant of yourself is right there in the ruins.
Ezekiel 11: 13, “Then I fell face down and cried out in a loud voice, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! Will you completely destroy the remnant of Israel?”
Artwork: Avocet Brooks (Used with Permission).