When I was young, my mother taught me to sew, a love that was lost as soon as I realized I was pitiful at it. Somewhere in junior high. Come to think of it, that's when I decided I was inept at just about everything I tried. Sewing was no exception. On home-ec assignments, I would end up with more remnants than actual ware, even though my teacher, Mrs. Douglas (bless her heart), would always try to find some redeeming quality in my designs.
"Patty, that's a very creative bib," she would say.
"Mrs. Douglas, this is an apron."
Okay, perhaps I'm exaggerating, but I'm not far off. Most times the best thing that came out of my labor were the scraps that would be taken home and stored for that quilt I would someday make. Yeah. Like that was gonna happen.
God knows all about saving remnants. Think about the examples found in the Bible -- Noah and his family rescued from the flood; Lot's family fleeing from Sodom; 7,000 prophets spared from Ahab and Jezebel's terror; the Israelites finally entering the Promised Land; and some 50,000 people returning to Judea to rebuild the temple during Ezra's time.
My morning Bible study this past week has been in the book of Ezra, and I find myself captivated by the story. Center to its plot is King Cyrus, the Persian monarch who overthrew the evil Babylonian regime in 539 B.C. Ezra opens with these words: "Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of Jehovah by the mouth of Jeremiah, Jehovah stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and he also put it in writing, saying, 'Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, Jehovah, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.'"
There's no fanfare to this declaration. No trumpet blast. No nothing. Yet there should be. After decades in captivity, the Jewish remnant is given permission to return home. Cyrus gets nothing out of it -- no compensation, no reward, yet he listens to Jehovah and obeys. And over 40,000 Israelites began the long trek back to Jerusalem.
Hopefully they have learned their lesson. Once a prosperous, God-fearing nation, the Israelites had turned to their own ways and failed to follow God's decrees (sound familiar?). Along came Nebuchadnezzar and his military thugs, and these once-proud people were carried away to Babylon. But now, finally, they are allowed to return to rebuild their Temple. A second chance to get it right. What a celebration that had to be!
I love stories of remnants, of castaways, of "rejects" who take advantage of second chances. Probably because I am one. And so are you, if Jesus is your personal Lord. You see, the remnant theme did not stop in the Old Testament. Paul wrote to the Romans that "at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace." We are all invited to be that remnant as we return from our rebellious ways, rededicate ourselves to God's service, and find our way home to a welcoming, grace-extending Father.
I pulled out my thirty-year old Viking a few years ago to sew some curtains together for our play. Dave seemed proud, like I was actually going to turn domestic or something. When it started right up, we were both surprised; unfortunately, it ran only in reverse. On top of that, even after it was turned off, the needle kept bobbing up and down. I told Dave it was a sign.
It was time to take up knitting. I had several skeins of remnant yarn left over from my young-adult, baby-blanket-making days. No doubt there was lots of potential for something creative there.
Mrs. Douglas would be proud.