August 4, 2008

by Pastor George Van Alstine

Last night, I routinely opened the refrigerator door and scanned my options. There were fresh fruits and vegetables, a variety of cheeses, milk and a couple of juice drinks. But my eye didn’t stay long on these. As a lioness focuses in on her prey, my vision was narrowed to my favorite objective—leftovers!

Many main course foods actually taste better as leftovers. They seem to marinate and ripen their flavor. Of course, there is a point when they become overripe, and soon they can be absolutely rancid. Some people say they’ve “turned,â€? meaning turned from good to bad.

My wife and I have different opinions about when that happens. It’s not uncommon for her to go through the refrigerator on a mission of getting rid of leftovers that have turned. It’s almost predictable that I’ll open the refrigerator that night, push things around, and say, “Where’s that meatloaf that was in here?â€? She’ll answer, “That stuff was bad; I made it two weeks ago.â€? I act all self-righteous and frugal, “That’s waste; it’s still good food.â€? I guess when leftovers have turned is in the eye (nose? stomach?) of the beholder.

Did you know that God is a fan of leftovers? In the Old Testament, the prophets spoke of “The Remnantâ€? of God’s people. This sometimes refers to the small number of Israelites who were still in the land after an invasion left many dead, while others were taken captive. There is also a more spiritual use of the word, referring to those who remained faithful to God when most of the people were worshipping idols. This use of the remnant idea was adopted by the followers of Jesus, who saw themselves as the true Israel, The Remnant.

The Remnant were a lot like leftovers. They didn’t seem impressive, since most of the original was gone. They could easily have been overlooked, rejected, discounted. And yet, in some ways they had “ripenedâ€? through their hardships, and seemed to be “tastierâ€? to the Lord.

The Hebrew words used for The Remnant are not very complementary. One of the two most common words often refers to the scraps of cloth that remain after a seamstress makes a garment. Another is used almost as we use “etc.â€? at the end of a list, “and all the things not worth mentioning individually.â€?

God loves The Remnant. To him, they’re not stale food, but “the apple of my eyeâ€? (Zechariah 2:8). In his view, the leftovers are not what’s left over after all the good stuff has been taken, but what’s left over after all the stuff of lesser value has been removed by troubles and trials. Because of his love, he often warns The Remnant about sitting too long in the world’s refrigerator until they begin to “turn.â€?

If we are part of The Remnant, we should see that, to God, we’re a tasty dish. But we won’t be tasty for long unless we give up and become one with him. Turn to him before you begin to “turn.â€?