The Gentle Metallurgist
by Michael Green
April 20, 2016
Proverbs 17:3: The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.
Hebrews 12:7-11: 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Many times in the Bible God is pictured as a refiner. Unless you’ve spent a lot of time at Tannehill State Park or you work at Nucor Steel, you might not be up on your metallurgy. If you want to get the skinny on the refinement of silver, you have to know the definition below.
Ore - a natural aggregation of one or more minerals that can be mined, processed, and sold at a profit.(1)
Silver, in general, does not occur in isolation in nature. It is typically mixed together with less precious substances, the “natural aggregation” in the definition above. Since the silver is mixed with other substances, there is a process for separating the desired silver from the less desirable materials.
Silver is generally found in the combined state in nature, usually in copper or lead mineralization, and by 2000 BCE mining and smelting of silver-bearing lead ores was under way. Lead ores were smelted to obtain an impure lead-silver alloy, which was then fire refined by cupellation.(2)
Once the smelting process involving intense heat takes place, dross forms on the molten metal. The term dross refers to “the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal.”(3) This scum has to be removed in order for the silver to shine with all its luster, and the metallurgist prides himself in producing the finest of silver.
In the same way, God makes things beautiful. He delights in purifying impure people like you and me. If we have been born again, then we have the precious silver of faith within us that has been given to us as a gift. But, it is bound up with other worthless materials and a great deal of the dross that is sin. Our Heavenly Metallurgist is not content with leaving that silver in its unrefined state. He desires to remove its impurities and, as Jeremy said on Sunday, it is often through the refiner’s fire of sorrow.
At this point, despite the heat involved, this purification process may seem very cold to you. Depending on how the men with authority in your life have treated you and many other factors, you might be picturing God in a welder’s mask hammering you on an anvil with hard hands covered by thick, desensitized gloves. But the Bible is a book with a lot of analogies that help us to keep God in proper view. One such analogy is that of a loving father disciplining his children.
I had a particularly poignant picture of this one last night as my two-year-old spent right at two straight hours throwing intermittent fits. I disciplined him because I am working to mold him as the Bible calls me to do. But, that discipline was always housed in my love for him and my purposes for his ultimate good. My love did not change for him. In situations like that, I even work to protect him from himself as he repeatedly spews profane utterances. In the midst of one such rant, as he laid face down on our tile kitchen floor, he said, “Daddy holds you,” which is toddler speak for, “Daddy will you hold me?” Despite his behavior and the mean things he was saying, I was so pleased when he asked me that; I was more than ready to oblige his request.
In the life of an adopted child of God, God is a gentle metallurgist that always has the child’s good and His glory in mind. In the heart and mind of the Master Refiner, these aren’t in conflict.
In the Encyclopedia Britannica we are told that “Silver has long been valued for its white metallic lustre, its ability to be readily worked, and its resistance to the corrosive effects of moisture and oxygen.” In the same way, on the other side of God’s refinement, we too have a greater sheen pointing to the perfect work of the Heavenly Metallurgist; we are more readily usable for the Father’s purposes; and we are more resistant to the corrosion of sin. Praise God for that kind of purifying love.
1) Encyclopedia Britannica
3) Merriam-Webster Dictionary
4) Photo Source: Flickr (photosmith2011)