Welcoming 2022 Day 4: Behold, I Have Refined You
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
(Psalm 66:10-12, ESV)
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
(Isaiah 48:10-11, ESV)
The idea of the Lord refining His people originates in the Old Testament, as we see in both these passages. There are several ways to refine metals, but the most common one is the process of holding the metal in the middle—the hottest part of the fire—so that all the impurities are burned away. This is exactly what God does in our lives; He puts us through the furnace of affliction for His own sake (Isaiah 48:11; 1 Peter 1:6-7). He works in us continually after salvation through His Holy Spirit.
In our first passage the Psalmist speaks of what the people went through to be refined: fire and water. In Isaiah we read that we are refined in the “furnace of affliction.” Both these passages bring out the same well-known point that is brought out in the New Testament that the Christian life is not easy, trials are promised, and afflictions are practically a guarantee; the purpose of it all is to refine us and make us more like Christ. James 1:2-3 states, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” This verse is very clear: when—not if—you meet trials, count it as a joy. The Greek word used, hotan (ὅταν), means “on occasion of, in the case of, when, and whenever.” The question is not whether hard things will happen but when they will happen. The beauty of the refinement process, however, is that on the other side is a beautiful, precious thing, made to specification by the incredible Creator.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego comes to mind when considering the topic of fiery furnaces. In Daniel 3, when King Nebuchadnezzar built his statue and commanded that all people bow down to it, these three men, exiles from Israel, refused to do so. Because of their refusal the king had them thrown in the fiery furnace. It is an incredible story of God’s provision and how He used trials to refine these men. They stood against the king and against the temptation to just bow down and not cause trouble. The most shocking part to me is that they weren’t certain that God would save them from the furnace, so they gave an either/or statement to Nebuchadnezzar. “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18, ESV).
These three men experienced tremendous affliction—exactly what our passage from Isaiah speaks of regarding the furnace. As we go into the new year, keep them in mind. Although trials and afflictions are promised to us, we also have the promise of a wonderful Creator who is refining us through the process!