And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” -Zechariah 13:9
Over and over again the Bible mentions the refining of silver as a comparison to God's work in His people. But what does it mean to be refined like silver? Today most of us don't know much about the refinement process.
Refining is basically the heating of the metal into liquid form. Once the metal is melted in the furnace impurities float to the surface where they can be removed. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge of the process, but the comparison holds so much more.
This past Sunday our pastor spoke about how silver is refined. I learned more steps of the process that I hadn't realized before, and it led me to further research. Understanding all that goes into (and comes out of) silver refinement makes this metaphor even more beautiful.
So here comes your silver refinement crash course:
First, the metal to melt must be obtained. Natural ore is rock that often contains common metals like copper or zinc, however it may also contain gold or silver. Before the refinement process can begin this ore must be broken up so any precious metal inside can be exposed to the heat of the furnace.
Jeremiah 23:29 "Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"
Once the ore is broken apart it is placed in a melting pot that goes into the furnace. This pot was called a "crucible" and is also mentioned in the Bible.
Proverbs 17:3 "The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts."
This crucible filled with broken bits of ore is heated in the furnace. Once the silver is liquid, any impurities (known as dross) will begin to float to the surface where they are carefully removed by the one doing the refining.
Proverbs 25:4 "Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel"
The silver isn't complete however. It needs to be placed back in the fire and heated further. More dross will rise to the surface at different temperatures. Again and again the refiner will skim off the impurities and place the silver back in the furnace to release more.
Here is my favorite part, the refiner tests to see if the silver is ready by looking for his reflection in it. Each time impurities are removed his image will become clearer and clearer.
What an amazing picture of what God does in our lives! Taking us from useless hard rock and transforming us into something beautiful that reflects Him.
It takes trials and pain and frustrations and things that might seem meaningless and horrible. But when we are in the hands of our refiner, we can rest in the knowledge that it is Him doing the work in us and the outcome will be worth it all. Just like the silversmith, who knows what impurity is removed at what temperature, our God knows what trials we need to face in order to become the people He created us to be.
He knows every bit of dross in our hearts and souls. When we call on Him as our Savior and King, confess our sins, and believe in Jesus Christ we will be made new! Our sins are forgiven, we become part of the family of God, and we begin to grow as Christ's followers.
Jesus doesn't just save us and leave us as we were. He transforms us. Patiently and purposefully, He leads us through the fire He knows will cleanse us and makes us more like Him.
Psalm 66:10-12 "For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs. You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment."
(Originally posted at https://injarsofclayfullofgrace.wordpress.com)