As Silver Refined
The Refiner and His Fire
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LET ME TAKE YOU BACK to a Judean village in ancient days.
Inside a small, walled courtyard under a blue and blazing sky, there stands a refiner of metals. In his hands, gnarled with age, he is rolling and fingering a lump of ore. He watches the sun play on the streaks and veins of lead and other minerals running through this bit of rock chiseled from the bowels of the earth.
His experienced eye knows that, intermingled within this ore, there is silver.
He lays the ore on his worktable then builds his fire with care and the wisdom of years. Soon the flames are rising in the pit situated against the courtyard’s stone wall.
At the worktable he picks up his hammer and begins crushing the lump into smaller pieces.
He pauses occasionally to stare at the fire, as if in study.
From time to time he places more fuel upon the already-blazing coals and works his bellows until the flames are in a frenzy.
When the fire is right, he gathers the hammered bits of ore from the place of their crushing and lays them in a small, sturdy container of tempered pottery—his crucible.
He places the crucible in the fire and sits down beside it. A long day is before him, and this is where he will stay for as long as the metal is subject to the flames. Silver is too precious to be forsaken in the furnace, too valuable to be ruined through inattention.
Carefully he watches the fire. It must be maintained at exactly the right temperature for the right duration of time to accomplish its purpose. Slowly the ore softens. The silver, with its greater density and lower melting point,liquefies first, hissing and bubbling as oxygen is released. The still-solid impurities rise to the top of the molten metal. This is the dross, and the refiner skims it off.
Now he adds bits of charcoal inside the crucible. He knows this will enhance the sheen of the silver. The carbon of the charcoal will keep the refined metal from reabsorbing oxygen from the air, which would only dull its finish.
He tends the fire, adds more fuel, and applies more air from the bellows.
Amid the relentless heat surrounding the crucible, more dull impurities, newly revealed, rise to the surface of the mixture.
Again the refiner carefully skims away the murky, smudgy metal floating at the top of the crucible. Gazing down upon the molten surface, the refiner sees at best but a dim reflection of himself.
The refiner works and watches and waits. The heat and its effect continue. More impurities rise to the surface, and again he skims them off.
He never leaves the crucible unattended, never steps away from the fire demands this he has formed to do its work. The finished product he cherishes demands this process. Only his guided and guarded refinement will yield the promised and precious metal.
And he is not yet satisfied. He lets the fire cool. Eventually he sets the crucible aside.
Then once again he builds up the fire, and the process begins all over.
This time the skilled refiner makes the fire hotter. Within the crucible, new impurities are released, brought to the surface, exposed for what they are,then skimmed off.
Finally his leathery face breaks into a smile, for now as he gazes into the liquid silver his reflection is apparent—not yet sharp, but more distinct than before.
More hours pass as he perseveres in his anxious and delicate work.
And then ... once more he bends over the crucible, and this time he catches his breath. There it is! In the silver he sees what he has waited for so patiently: a clear image of himself, distinct and sharp.
Delight banishes his frown. His task is done. The impurities are gone.
The silver is refined.
He has his treasure.
He has “choice” silver, the most lustrous of all metals, beautiful and highly valued. It’s as pale and shining as the wings of a dove, as brilliant and splendid as the moon, worthy to become coin or trumpet or ornament, worthy to grace the king’s table or to reflect sunlight in a crown upon his head.
The refiner has taken what was impure and made it pure.
He has taken what was dull and made it beautiful.
Potential value has become actual value.
And the fire—the guarded, guided, relentless fire—made the difference.
The fire allowed ordinary ore from the earth to be transformed into treasure.
All under the refiner’s watchful care, for all the while he never left it unattended.
You and I are more than observers in this picture, beloved. This image of refinement is something God touches on again and again in His Word. He is the true Refiner. We are His silver.
And the fire is the fire of His making, for through His fire our Refiner will perfect an awesome work, a divine work. He will take what is impure and make it pure. He will take what is dull and make it beautiful. He’ll take what is of potential value and reveal its actual value.
He will transform us into treasure.
He’ll refine us in the crucible so that He can see Himself in the silver—in you and me. And so the world, as well as the principalities and powers and hosts of Satan, can behold the triumph of the Redeemer.
The fiery flames—the array of disappointing situations in our lives, from minor irritants to major tragedies—will make the difference.
Different flames, different fires will come and go. In the pressure of their heat we’ll see the impurities in our lives being released and rising to the top. Then He’ll skim them off, purifying us, refining us.
He’ll make the fire a little hotter, causing new impurities to rise and be released, exposed for what they are. These, too, He’ll lift away.
Early in our Christian lives He may see only a very dim image of Himself as He looks into our crucible. But as time goes on, His image becomes clearer, more lustrous, more beautiful.
And all the while, He never leaves or forsakes His treasure.
Our Refiner never leaves the crucible, never steps away from the fire.
He is always there to make sure every flame that reaches us is exactly the right temperature—not too hot!—to accomplish its work in our lives.
He knows the precise temperature to maintain so we don’t face more than we can bear. He tests and proves our faith, not to discredit us, but to show us how far we’ve come. He perfects our perseverance.