Romans 11:4


Thursday, 3 October 2013

But what does the divine response say to him? “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” Romans 11:4

In response to Elijah concerning his plea against Israel, God returns an answer – not through the strong wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but through a still small voice. And the divine response was – “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal…”

Paul’s use of the term “divine response” is the Greek word chrēmatismos. This is its only use in the New Testament and is indicating the response itself, not the manner in which it was relayed. The word is spoken – “I have reserved for Myself…” The Hebrew of this verse actually states “I will leave.” However, Paul’s quote says “I have reserved.” The Geneva Bible explains the thought this way –

“He speaks of remnants and reserved people who were chosen from everlasting, and not of remnants that should be chosen afterwards: for they are not chosen, because they were not idolaters: but rather they were not idolaters, because they were chosen and elect.”

God foreknew that these would be the elect. He presented Himself to Israel and these are those who accepted the message. The honor belongs to God, not to them; they merely acknowledged His way and all others rejected it. Thus the dishonor belongs to those who rejected it.

Of those reserved, God states He has “seven thousand.” The number seven is the number of divine perfection and completeness. Understanding this use of the number in Scripture, it is possible that it is reflective of a complete number and not exactly seven thousand. They are those who make up the fullness of the faithful in the northern ten tribes; all others having apostatized.

Regardless of whether the number is exactly 7000 or a close approximation, it would be miniscule in comparison to the vast number in the land. Truly, only a remnant were faithful to the Lord. These few souls were those who had “not bowed the knee to Baal.” Baal is a word which simply means “master” or “lord” in Hebrew, but it was used as the name of one of the idol-gods of the Phoenicians and Canaanites. Elsewhere, such as in Assyria and Babylonia, the comparable name of Bel was used in the same manner.

To represent Baal, a bull or similar animal like a calf would have been constructed, but Baal was actually referring to the sun, or possibly at times the moon. In Paul’s use of this word, he uses a feminine article instead of the masculine which was used in the Greek Old Testament. It’s uncertain why he did this, but Vincent’s Word Studies offers the following options –

“…some supposing an ellipsis, the image of Baal; others that the deity was conceived as bisexual; others that the feminine article represents the feminine noun ἡ αἰσχύνη shame Heb., bosheth, which was used as a substitute for Baal when this name became odious to the Israelites.”

The last seems probable because, as noted above, “baal” otherwise simply means “master” or “lord.” In order to show the disgraceful nature of the act, Paul states it in the feminine form.

Life application: Again, it’s good to consider that even if the world is slipping into a completely degenerate state, God does have faithful believers set aside for His glory. When we see churches taking down crosses, eliminating certain terms because they may sound offensive, and weakening doctrine in order to increase audience size, we don’t need to think all is lost. There are faithful pockets of people still holding on to the truth of the message of the cross.

Lord, too often my prayers are requests. Not today! Today I want to give you praise – Praise for Your goodness; praise for Your grace; praise for Your love; praise for Your mercy. Your kind hand has been upon me and Your many blessings have rained down to me from heaven. I thank You, I praise You – glory to You in the highest! Hallelujah and Amen…

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