The Seven Thousand

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 26 Nov 2009

“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18).

We are in a series of messages on the Great and Precious promises of God found in the Bible. So far we have looked at ten of these promises from Genesis to 2 Samuel. This evening, the Lord helping us, we want to consider a promise in the book of 1st Kings.

Now, there are actually several important promises in this book. For example, this book begins with Solomon’s enthronement and his building of the temple. In chapter 9, God said to Solomon:

“…I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. 4 And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: 5 Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel” (1 Kgs 9:3-5).

This is an important promise worthy of in-depth study. However, we have already looked at a similar promise in the book of 2nd Samuel in our previous study when we looked at 2 Samuel 7:12-16.

Therefore, this evening, we want to consider a different promise which will highlight another important theme in the book of 1st Kings. We want to consider the words of the Lord to Elijah:

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Let’s consider this promise under two heads. First, let’s consider the background and understand why this is a promise. Second, let us understand how this promise is relevant to us.

1. What is The Promise?

Now, while this does not sound like a promise, but if you consider the context you will understand why we say it is a promise.

What is the context? To know the context, we must go back to the time of Solomon. Solomon began well. He ruled well and built the temple. However, he did not remain faithful to the LORD. He was led astray by his many wives and concubines, many of whom were pagan and idolatrous. Blinded by lust, he built a plethora of shrines and temples for them. The result was that pagan idolatry began to have a foothold in the nation.

This incurred the wrath of God, who then sought to chastise His people. When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam dealt foolishly with the people and as a result the ten Northern tribes of Israel broke away under the leadership of Jeroboam.

Sadly, Jeroboam was not a god-fearing king. One of the first things he did was to make two golden calves and established them as images of Jehovah, in two temples — one in Dan, the other in Bethel. That was the beginning of the rapid decline into apostasy of the Northern Kingdom, from which it never recovered.

In fact, with each new king, the kingdom sank deeper and deeper into idolatry. Indeed, within less than 50 years, during the reign of Ahab, the kingdom had so severely apostatised that true worshippers of Jehovah were persecuted and the worship of Baal and Asteroth, the idols of Zidon, had become the officially sanctioned religions.

God, in response to the gross rebellion of His people, plunged the land into a severe drought lasting three and a half years. But in His mercy, God also raised up the prophet Elijah to minister to His people.

At the end of the three and a half years, God directed Elijah to confront the false prophets of Baal and Asteroth. The famous confrontation took place at the top of Mount Carmel where Elijah challenged the people:

“How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kgs 18:21).

Then he had the prophets of Baal construct an altar and to place on it a bullock for sacrifice. They were not to put fire on the altar but to call upon their gods to receive the sacrifice by fire. Well, they did as instructed and then cried and danced and cut themselves all day. But nothing happened.

Eventually, towards the evening, Elijah constructed an altar, placed the sacrifice upon it, and ordered that the whole set be drenched with water. The people did so with 12 barrels of water, perhaps drawn from the sea! Then Elijah cried unto the LORD:

“Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again” (1 Kgs 18:37).

God answered the prayer of Elijah with a burst of fire which consumed everything from the sacrifice to the wood and the altar.

Encouraged by God’s display of power, Elijah instructed the people to slay the 450 prophets of Baal that were present.

Then he prayed for rain.

Thinking that Ahab would finally wake up from his rebellion, Elijah instructed him to return to his palace. But Ahab was a spineless cry-baby of a man. As soon as he got back he told his wicked wife Jezebel what happened. And Jezebel in anger issued a fierce death threat to Elijah.

Elijah was stunned and suddenly feared for his life. He began to run. He ran and he ran. He ran a total of 500 km from Mt Carmel to Mt Sinai.

There, the Lord spoke to him: “What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kgs 19:9). Elijah replied:

“I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kgs 19:10).

At this point God instructed Elijah to stand upon the Mount. And God showed Elijah His great power in a mighty wind, an earthquake and also a great fire. Then the Lord, in a still small voice asked Elijah again: “What doest thou here, Elijah” (v. 13).


Elijah did not get the message. He repeated his answer:

“I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kgs 19:14).

It was in response to what Elijah said that God, after giving him some instruction to anoint another king and another prophet, spoke the words of our text:

Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

Can you see how this statement is indeed a promise? God was telling Elijah—“The situation may look bleak. I have not abandoned my people. Though there may be only a remnant remaining in the land, yet, my covenant fails not. I am God-Almighty. I am in sovereign control of the situation. Jezebel is not.”

But now, what is the…

2. Significance of the Promise

How does this promise apply to us? Well, the original context of this promise is a discouraged prophet and a dire situation in Israel. So intuitively, we know that this promise must be encouraging those who care about the church and are feeling discouraged at the situation in the church—whether it is the church local or the church universal. 

a. Consider how this truth applies to the church universal. How is the church in the world today? Is it like the church in Judah, or is it like the church in the Northern Kingdom of Israel? It is like the church in Israel isn’t it. The world is pagan and the church is a remnant. Even amongst all who call themselves Christian, there are not many who are truly Christian.

Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life. Few there be that find it. Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to death. Many there be that will walk in it. Many shall call unto the Lord, “Lord, Lord, have we not done wonderful works in thy name, who will hear the Lord say, “I never knew you, depart from me, ye that live lawlessly.”

It is easy to be discouraged in such a situation. It is not difficult to see why many think that God cannot allow this situation to persist without destroying His own testimony. For God’s promise to be true, the world must be Christianised, they surmise.

But this is far from the truth. The Scripture suggests that the true people of God on earth will always be a remnant. Nevertheless, the remnant will still be a significant number and often bigger than we imagine. Elijah thought that he was the only one left; but God told him that He had seven thousand who had not compromised their faith.

Today, we can feel very small and intimidated like Elijah. It is easy to think that God has lost control. But let us remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and God has His seven thousand. The remnant was seven thousand times bigger than Elijah had imagined. How many times is it greater than what you imagine to be the remnant?

God is still in control. The kingdom of grace is marching on through the world. One day, the kingdom of glory will be revealed in its full splendour and what a majestic sight that will be.

b. But consider secondly, how the promise can be applied also to the local congregation.

I believe that God’s people can be found even in congregations that have departed from the truth. I believe that there are true believers in Roman Catholic Churches, in Arminian Churches and in Charismatic Churches.

I do not think it is right to say, as some do, that anyone who does not worship in the Reformed way or understand the doctrine of salvation in the Calvinistic way cannot be saved. I think there will be very few who are truly saved where the preaching is confusing and mixed with errors on many points, but I do not think God’s power to save is restricted only to those who have the opportunity to hear true biblical preaching.

God had 7000 in apostate Israel, many of whom, it appears to me, would have had the opportunity to hear only a spattering of the truth.

Therefore we must not write off any congregation where there is a mixture of truth and error.

But what if you are in such a congregation or denomination? I believe that unless the Lord has called you to preach in the church like Elijah, you should as far as possible seek a church where the truth is preached! I know it is not always possible. I think of the Christians in parts of China which do not have Reformed Churches. I think of Christians in the Middle-East who are compelled to worship in Catholic and Orthodox churches. They often feel that they have no choice but to remain. But if possible, true believers should leave for the truth for the sake of their children and their children’s children.

Although God said that He had 7000 in Israel, He does not commend their staying in Israel. Indeed many true believers, especially amongst the Levites, left for the Judah when the kingdom divided and it became clear that the Northern kingdom would worship in an idolatrous way (cf. 2 Chr 11:14).

And moreover, God did not promise to maintain Israel as His covenant people. In fact, the prophet Hosea tells us that the kingdom would be transferred to the Gentiles:


“And I will sow her [Israel] unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hos 2:23).

In the New Testament, we have the same warning that a local church can have its candlestick plucked out of its place—which means that it will cease to be a true branch of the people of God.

What this implies, I believe, is that although true believers may be found in churches that are apostatising, they should seriously consider leaving them to seek true preaching of the world of God.

God had 7000 in apostatising Israel so long as they remained a true branch of His church. But because the branch was apostatising without repentance, it was inevitable that she would be cut off. Therefore, the only way for the remnant to maintain true religion in their children and children’s children would be for them to leave for Judah.


Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

God will always have his remnant. Thank God that the true number is usually hidden, which is one of the reasons why the remnant are called the ‘hidden ones’ (Ps 83:3). Thank God that we can be part of this remnant.

Pray that the Lord will draw out His hidden ones out of apostate or apostatising Israel that they may join themselves to true branches of the Israel of God. Pray that the Lord will preserve the Israel of God and magnify His name through His Church.

But pray also for the seven thousand who remain faithful to the Lord but are unable to leave for better pastures for one reason or another. Amen. Ω