The Refiner’s fire

Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
    I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
    or even speak the names of their gods.

Psalm 16:4

It’s not hard to look around and see examples of unbelievers with grief and trials, but we also know that many godly people – God-worshippers – also go through the same.

But those who believe have a reason to rejoice always, even in the midst of pain (Philippians 4:4). God provides a joy to his children that just does not make sense to the world. And yet, to have trial and sorrow in this world without God – that is to say uninhibited sorrow – is hopeless and futile, while trial and sorrow with God holds the promise of glory and fulfillment of our hope.

As of late, whenever I am consumed by my own frustration, anger, or bitterness, I am reminded of God’s refining fire. The word “refined” floated through my head one recent early morning. Since this topic has brought me more comfort and peace than I can describe, I wanted to share this with you,

There are plenty of references throughout scripture of believers’ true faith being tested, as though by a refiner’s fire. For those of you that don’t know, a refiner uses a fire to heat metal to a molten state, in order to remove anything else and purify it. Just like raw metal is not pure to begin with and needs refining to perfect its content, so are our souls in need of God’s refining process.

Here are a few places in scripture where this is mentioned:

Proverbs 17:3 - Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart.
Isaiah 48:10 - I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.
Zechariah 13:9 - I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold... I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
Malachi 3:3 - He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the Lord.
1 Peter 1:7 -  These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

Wow. Not only does God explicitly speak to our earthly sufferings, he comforts us in promising that we will receive the end result of it all – maturity and perfect righteousness before him. Nothing is too horrible or hard for God to handle nor does he shy away from answering to us regarding the hurt. In addition, consider that every one of these verses (and there are plenty more) were written by different authors across hundreds and even thousands of years, yet the same unified message comes through despite all that.

I am so comforted by this group of verses because it gives us a peek into God’s point of view when it comes to allowing suffering in our lives. While we will never truly know why this or that was allowed to come upon us, the Word of God offers comfort through this concept of the refiner’s fire as a path to intimacy, fellowship, and righteousness before God. Is not this the end goal of every believer’s longing heart? Closeness with Him who loves our souls?

On a related note, I need to express that it has been only after years of careful, consistent, and patient bible study that I have a preliminary understanding of this precious topic. In particular, spending intentional time in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy really helped. Many people shy away from books like these because of their apparent “boringness” or “outdatedness”. But boring and outdated couldn’t be further from the truth.

In these books we see God himself setting the laws and boundaries regarding correct worship and living that were to characterize and differentiate his chosen people from the rest of the world. And we see Jesus in every word, knowing that he would come to fulfill the promise of permanence that the old covenant lacked. All this would be lost on us if we are not willing to open our hearts and minds to ALL of scripture, and desire to deeply appreciate every Word.

Thank you God, for your beautiful, glorious, comforting, incredibly crafted Word. Thank you that we live in a place where it is legal to meet in worship of you and declare your goodness publicly, using whatever means necessary. (Luther had parchment, I have WordPress.) I’m praying for you, reader, that your heart and mind would be transformed first by God’s Spirit who gives faith, and then by his Word who comforts and confirms us in Him.


All scripture references taken from NLT unless otherwise noted. 

References

GotQuestions.org. “What Is the Significance of the Refiner’s Fire and Launderer’s Soap in Malachi 3:2?” GotQuestions.org, 5 Nov. 2012, https://www.gotquestions.org/refiners-fire.html.

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Openbible.info. “What Does the Bible Say About Refiners Fire?” Openbible.info, accessed 9 Dec. 2022, https://www.openbible.info/topics/refiners_fire.

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