Romans 11:3


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

“Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life”? Romans 11:3

This quote is taken from 1 Kings 19:10. However, Paul amends it somewhat to meet his purposes for our instruction. Here is the exact quote of that verse –

“So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.'”

Paul leaves out “forsaken Your covenant.” It is now the time of the New Covenant. He has been speaking of the Jews whose adherence to the Law of Moses became an end in and of itself (see Romans 10:3, 4).

He also switches the order of “torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets.” It’s possible that he did this to highlight “prophets” in order to make his point about a remnant remaining (see 11:5). The altar at Elijah’s time was where one first went to sacrifice a sin offering. Only after that could a person have fellowship with God. As Jesus is the fulfillment of such sacrifices, the prophet (the one who transmits the message) is thus highlighted. This follows with the theme of Romans 10:14-17.

The term for “torn down” is the Greek kateskapsan. It means to “dig down” or “dig under.” It is used only two times in the New Testament, the other being Acts 15:16. The altars of the Old Testament were to be made of earth and un-hewn stone (Exodus 20:24-35). In order to destroy such an altar, it would be easiest to dig into or under it and cause it to collapse. This is the reason for Paul’s use of this particular word.

The next thing he quotes is Elijah’s belief that “I alone am left, and they seek my life.”  Elijah felt completely alone in his ministry. At a previous point, 100 prophets of the Lord had been kept alive by a man named Obadiah, having kept them safe in a cave. However, it’s possible that even they had been killed by the wicked queen, Jezebel. With this occurrence, Elijah thought he was the last of the faithful people of God.

The sad state of despair weighed heavily on him and so he fled to Mount Horeb and there spoke to the Lord about it. The coming verses will continue to show us, however, that God had a faithful remnant then, and He had such at Paul’s time as well.

Life application: The Lord’s faithful believers have always come under attack. In today’s world, it is an on-going occurrence. Daily, many are martyred for their faith, and even in places where Christians are safe to worship, they are coming under increased pressure to be silent about their belief. Pray for those who are facing life and death choices concerning the gospel and also pray for strength to boldly proclaim Christ where you are.

Lord, grant me boldness to speak about my faith, wisdom to do so without confrontation, and the zeal to show others that what I speak is intended to glorify You. Should I face persecution for the name of Jesus, I will consider it an honor and I will rejoice that I have been counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Thank You for that Name above all names – Jesus! Amen.

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