Some time ago, a few ladies met to study the scriptures. While reading the third chapter of Malachi, they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse:
“And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver” (Malachi 3:3).
One lady decided to visit a silversmith, and report to the others on what he said about the subject.
She went accordingly, and without telling him the reason for her visit, begged the silversmith to tell her about the process of refining silver. After he had fully described it to her, she asked, “Sir, do you sit while the work of refining is going on?”
“Oh, yes ma’am,” replied the silversmith; “I must sit and watch the furnace constantly, for, if the time necessary for refining is exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured.”
The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
Before she left, the lady asked one final question, “How do you know when the process is complete?”
“That’s quite simple,” replied the silversmith. “When I can see my own image in the silver, the refining process is finished.”
The bible is full of beautiful illustrations of God’s relationship with His children. Perhaps the trade, process, and analogy of refining precious metal is lost in our society, but we still put immense value on gold and silver and hold them as special. Such is God’s love for us. We are God’s precious treasure and He tells us so multiple times in the scriptures. In Exodus 19:5-6 God tells the people, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” We can see in this passage that we are treasured possessions to our Lord. There are, however, conditions we must meet to be considered precious silver by our Lord.
God, in His infinite wisdom, is able to put us into the refining fire and purify and strengthen our faith. Job was put to the test and said, “when He has tried me, I will come out as gold.”(Job 23:10) The nation of Israel was tested over and over (Ex 16:4, Ex 20:20, Deut. 8:2). We are told plainly that the Lord will test us. Proverbs 17:3 states, “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the hearts.”
Precious metals in their primitive state are full of impurities and dross. God has created us with freewill. As such, He desires for us to love and obey Him out of our own freewill. Unfortunately, our free will has also brought sin into the world. Sin is what separates us from God. It makes us filthy and detestable in His sight. We all have sinned and brought impurities into our lives (Romans 3:23). God does not force us to serve Him, but rather tests us and allows us to choose to love and serve Him or choose our own self and become rejected silver. Jeremiah 6:29-30 says, “The bellows blow fiercely, the lead is consumed by the fire; The smelter refines in vain for the wicked are not drawn off. People will call them rejected silver, because the Lord has rejected them.”
So what is the dross that the Lord is trying to drive from our lives? For the Israelites, he was purifying them from idolatry. Are we so different from His physical nation? We may not have golden statues we bow down to, but how often is our spirit bent to something other than our Lord? Our dross is our self and the sin we serve. We can worship entertainment, sports, family, jobs, beauty, money, material possessions and anything else we desire for ourselves. All of this we can put before our Lord - thus becoming our idols. 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 says, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God,and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’ ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.’ Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
Are we to consider the trials of this life punishment from a wrathful God? Certainly not. Consider the fine craftsman as he meticulously works, patiently perfecting his creation until he deems it complete. Such is our heavenly Creator. We are told in Ephesians 2:10 that we are His workmanship: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” While our refining may not be pleasant in the moment, it produces a precious treasure. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ...” There is an incredible reward when we withstand the refining fires; we come through the flames with a faith that is solid and pure, incapable of fracture.
So what is the image reflected on that shiny silvery surface? It is an image of holiness. We have been created in His image (Genesis 1:27). Our God is holy and commands us to be holy also. 1 Peter 1:14-15 says, “as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” We become holy by separating ourselves from the dross in our lives. Holiness is the absence of evil. We no longer conform ourselves to impurities, but to God and His pure, holy image.
It’s a comforting thought to know that God is sitting, patiently watching us as we go through the refining fires of life. It is a necessity and His eye is ever on us, watching the purifying process and He will not let us be tested beyond what we can endure. Sin has brought impurities into our lives and our Lord removes the dross and waits for His holy reflection.