You may recall that our theme for this year, found in Lamentations 3:22-23, finds its roots during a desperate time in Israel’s history. Because of their rebellion, God’s people were thrust into slavery and overwhelming despair. Lamentations 1:1, “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princes among the provinces has become a slave!” What a tragic scene. History shows us that God’s people seem to go in cycles; living lives committed to their Lord and then getting caught up in the broken and dark world around them. The whole scene of our theme verse is a story of God’s unwavering love for His children, doing all He can, even the tough things like discipline, to turn His children back.
He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them
as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord
an offering in righteousness.
While I was thinking about this, I heard some discussion about the letter of Malachi and the sad state of affairs that were once again taking place with God’s people. Although there could be much to reflect on from this little book, my attention was drawn to the verse above as it describes the care of God towards His rebellious people. Although the image given may not always be due to rebellion, as we will see in a minute, the desired goal of our Lord remains constant; that is, our personal growth to serve Him more fully in our lives.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
The first picture that comes to mind is that of a refiner and purifier who sits as he patiently tends to the process of readying the silver for use. The word translated “refiner” is used in other places. For instance, in Psalm 66:10 the ETRV says, “God tested us, like people test silver with fire.” The word carries with it the idea to “strain” or “sift.” The refiner, as he works the silver through the use of heat, is seeking to separate the lead sulfide ore from the silver. The heating process would change the lead sulfide to lead oxide, which in a powered condition would be blown away with the use of hot air. Great care is needed by the purifier in order for the desired product to be revealed. This, of course, is the next part of the picture we see in Malachi 3:3. God is working to bring about change in His people, especially the priests of the Old Testament, who have defiled their duties as prescribed by God. Thus, the refining process had a purpose; that is, “that they may offer to the Lord an offering of righteousness.” God was seeking to bring out the best that is in His people, even when they have lost sight of their potential.
Take away the dross from silver, and it will go to the silversmith for jewelry.
As Christians, we are more than familiar with the verses that speak of such refinement. Bible verses like James 1:2, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” or 1st Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…” quickly come to mind. In them, we realize that God, the Refiner, is still in the refining business. He is either seeking to direct us back or make us more of what we can be to the glory of His name. Our prayer to You O Lord, is when the hot air of adversity blows across us, that what remains is a more perfect image of You.