Most of the children of Israel turned away from God and followed their own desires. Yet God, by His grace, kept a remnant for Himself. There were always some, a few, who chose to be faithful to God.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, "Unless the Lord of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah." (Is. 1:9) God completely destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their extreme wickedness. Before the destruction, Abraham had pleaded with God, "Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" (Gen. 18:23) Yet God could not even find ten righteous people in that place. (cf. Gen. 18:32) The only ones saved from destruction were Lot (Abraham's nephew), his wife, and his two daughters.
Isaiah knew that if it had not been for God's grace in keeping a remnant for Himself, all Israel would have been as completely destroyed as Sodom and Gomorrah were. But even as "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" and was saved from the flood, so did God pour out His grace upon a remnant in Israel. (Gen. 6:8, 7:23)
Sometimes that remnant was very small. Joshua and Caleb were faithful to God. They believed He could bring them into Canaan, while the other ten spies and the rest of the people were unfaithful and unbelieving. (Num. 13:25-14:10) Even so, Joshua and Caleb had to spend forty years in the wilderness before they could go into the Promised Land with the new generation of Israel. (Num. 32:9-13) They were part of a people, and the promise was made to that people, Israel. So, apart from that people, they could not have their full inheritance.
Isaiah prophesied of the time of Messiah, saying, "Then it will come about in that day that the Gentiles will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a signal for the peoples; and His resting place will be glorious. Then it will happen on that day that the Lord will again recover the second time with His hand the remnant of His people, who will remain, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will lift up a standard for the Gentiles and will assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth." (Is. 11:10-12)
Gentiles will come to Messiah. So will the remnant of Israel. "The banished ones of Israel" and "the dispersed of Judah" will be gathered back "from the four corners of the earth." That is why the Holy One of Israel says, "Now it will come about in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. For though your people, O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return; a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness." (Is. 10:20-22)
For those who return in repentance, there will be restoration. For those who do not, there will be destruction. "To return to the Lord" means "to repent." The Lord calls to those who desire restoration: "Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness, who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; when he was one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him." (Is. 51:1-2) The children of Abraham are characterized as those who pursue righteousness and seek the Lord. Those who do not, even if they are physically descended from Abraham, as Ishmael was, are not fully his children.
Isaiah prophesied extensively about the remnant of Israel and its return to the land and to the Lord. The name "Isaiah" (Yeshayahu) means "The Lord is salvation." The Lord named one of Isaiah's sons "She'ar-yashuv," which means, "A remnant will return." (Is. 7:3) This son was a sign of God's grace and faithfulness toward Israel. (cf. Is. 8:18)
Other prophets also spoke about the remnant. The Lord told Jeremiah that He would gather His remnant from the nations after the exile (Jer. 23:3), and from "the remote parts of the earth". (Jer. 31:7-9)
Ezekiel said, "And the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Son of Adam, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them. ...The slain will fall among you, and you will know that I am the Lord. However, I shall leave a remnant, for you will have those who escaped the sword among the Gentiles when you are scattered among the countries.'" (Ezek. 6:1-2, 8)
The Lord told Joel, "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the Lord calls." (Joel 2:32) The New Covenant Scriptures teach the same thing. (cf.Rom. 11:1-5)
The Lord commanded all Israel, "Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer." (Dt.10:16) That is a diffult operation to perform. Moses prophesied that God would do it for us when we returned to Him. "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live." (Dt.30:6) Ezekiel tells us that the Lord will remove the stony heart of His people and replace it with a heart of flesh. (Ezek.36:26)
Circumcision of the heart removes its hardness, stubbornness, and rebellion. It gives us the desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Prov.4:23) "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried Me, though they had seen what I did. (Ps.95:7-9)

DIAGRAM 2 shows the faithful remnant within Israel, who are differentiated from their unfaithful brethren by the circumcision of the heart.

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(go back)
 In the Beginning
The Goyim Were First
Hopeless Gentiles
The Origins of Israel's Separation
The Gentiles who joined themselves to Israel
A People Set Apart
Jews and Hebrews
You Shall Be Cut Off
The Faithful Remnant of Israel