Pure As Gold
To the left (north) He turns, but I cannot behold Him;He turns to the right hand (south), but I cannot see Him. “But He knows the way that I take [and He pays attention to it].When He has tried me, I will come forth as [refined] gold [pure and luminous].
Job 23: 9-10
In the first chapter of Job, we find out what’s going on behind the scenes in his story. Job, however, doesn’t have a clue. He can’t figure out why he is experiencing such tragic, loss, and his friends are no help; they tell him it must be his fault!
Job wants to talk to God directly to ask Him a few questions, but like everything else in his life at this point, God doesn’t cooperate. Whether Job turns to the left or to the right-whatever he does- he feels lost, abandoned by God.
Some difficulties we experience are, in fact, the mutual consequences of our sins and bad choices. Others, though, come from a completely different source. God tests us, not to make us fail, but to strengthen our faith as we trust Him through difficult times. Jesus called this process “pruning” so that we bear more fruit (John 15: 1-5). Job compared it to purifying precious metals in intense fire to burn away the impurities and leave only pure silver or gold.
When we experience hard times, we need to look for the source. If we can’t trace our problem back to a selfish or foolish decision, we need to accept the problems from the hand of God as a test, pruning shears, or the refiner’s fire. These trials aren’t meant to harm us, but to make us stronger. Recognizing the source shapes our response.
Trial is God’s alchemy by which the dross is left in the crucible, the baser metals are transmuted, and the character is enriched with gold.
William Morley Punshon
The Bible teaches that when we receive Christ as our Savior, we begin the process of change. While there may be those who insist that God loves us the way we are and leaves us the way He finds us, that view isn’t in keeping with the Scriptures.
In the Old Testament, Malachi describes the work of God as He remolds us into His image.
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will prepare and clear the way before Me. And the Lord [the Messiah], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s soap [which removes impurities and uncleanness]. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi [the priests], and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord [grain] offerings in righteousness.
Malachi uses the terms “refiners fire and launderer’s soap” to describe the work of the Holy Spirit as He cleanses us and purifies us so that one day we will be able to stand fully in the presence of God. One might ask why this process is necessary so let me attempt to explain.
Malachi describes God as the fire of a refiner. Gold and silver, when they’re discovered and mined are mixed together with dirt and debris. In that form they have little to no value- at least in comparison to the value they will have after being refined. The process of refining by fire causes the gold or silver with their impurities to be placed in the fire and as they are heated the impurities-dross rises to the surface and can be skimmed off leaving the gold and silver more pure. This process continues until pure gold and silver is all that remains. Malachi tells us that everything in life is used by God to remove impurities from our lives. The taint of sin that has misdirected our purpose and goals has to be removed so that we will be able to enjoy heaven. Since God has given us the gift of free will and choice, He works to transform our desires. Since there will be nothing in heaven to satisfy any sin craving, the purifying process here on earth has the purpose of helping us desire good and wholesome things. Heaven would be a sad place if we took with us our sinful desires for we would always be dissatisfied and looking for things that won’t be available. This is why the idea that God loves us like we are without any change ever is false and misleading. Yes, God does love us even while we are still in our sins. As a matter of fact, the Bible says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us and that speaks volumes of His love for us. But God loves us too much to allow sin to continue to wreak its havoc and bring destruction to us. We know that God absolutely loves every human but He also absolutely hates sin for sin brings destruction to those He loves. God loves us too much to bring us into eternity still under the power of sin. In the world to come, sin will be an unwelcome guest and there will be no place for it in what God has prepared for us. So God allows the pressures, trials, and adversities of life to work together with His grace and power to refine us. Those things will always bring our sin nature to the surface and the Holy Spirit skims it off. Every time it happens we become more pure in thought, deed and action.
The second analogy Malachi uses is laundress soap or fuller’s soap. This isn’t some mild soap. It’s a harsh soap used to remove deep stains and embedded dirt. As we pass through life, the dirt and stains of this world have a way to stick to us. We are all well aware that we and our things accumulate dirt and dust without any effort at all. Just ask any person that cleans homes and vehicles and they will tell you that almost as soon as they finish cleaning, the dust and dirt shows up again. And I’m sure that every mom could tell you that no matter how often a child is bathed, they get dirty again. It’s almost as though we and our things are dust magnets. And spiritually we are the same. Every honest believer would admit that there is a constant need to be washed and cleansed every day by the washing of the Word and the Spirit. And just as every natural born child needs bathing so does every child of God need a daily cleansing by the Holy Spirit. Every parent knows the drill of children insisting that they aren’t dirty and don’t need baths. Left to themselves they would quickly become dirty rag muffins so the loving parent has to step in and insist that they are washed. We all, because of our sin nature that loves to wallow in sin, might insist that we are clean but the Lord, like a good parent insists that we bathe.
Paul tells us that our works will all be passed through the fire of the holiness of God and tested. There will be that which fails the test and is consumed by the fire and that which passes the test and shows up as pure gold.
“But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will be clearly shown [for what it is]; for the day [of judgment] will disclose it, because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality and character and worth of each person’s work. If any person’s work which he has built [on this foundation, that is, any outcome of his effort] remains [and survives this test], he will receive a reward. But if any person’s work is burned up [by the test], he will suffer the loss [of his reward]; yet he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has barely escaped] through fire.”
1 Corinthians 3:12-15
God doesn’t allow us to pass through times of testing to harm us or to destroy us but to free us from all the things that weigh our souls down. God’s desire is to remove anything and everything that cripples us, hinders us, and harms us. Sometimes we want to hold on to destructive things and sometimes they have such a grip on us that they won’t let go. Sometimes the sin is wrapped around us that it’s like the dirt and debris which is interwoven with the gold and only the refiner’s fire can separate the two. Sometimes we have practiced sin so long that it has ground it’s stain so deep that ordinary measures aren’t enough to remove it and so we have to experience the heavy washing of the laundry soap. In every case, the Holy Spirit uses sufficient measures so that one day we can be presented to God pure and clean.
Revelation is very clear that only pure and holy things will be able to enter the New Jerusalem and God wants us to be welcome there so He cleanses us and purifies us.
“And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to give light to it, for the glory (splendor, radiance) of God has illumined it, and the Lamb is its lamp and light. The nations [the redeemed people from the earth] will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring into it their glory. By day (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed [in fear of evil]; and they will bring the glory (splendor, majesty) and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing that defiles or profanes or is unwashed will ever enter it, nor anyone who practices abominations [detestable, morally repugnant things] and lying, but only those [will be admitted] whose names have been written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.”
Blessed (happy, prosperous, to be admired) are those who wash their robes [in the blood of Christ by believing and trusting in Him—the righteous who do His commandments], so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs [the godless, the impure, those of low moral character] and the sorcerers [with their intoxicating drugs, and magic arts], and the immoral persons [the perverted, the molesters, and the adulterers], and the murderers, and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying (deception, cheating).
So today if you’re passing through the refiner’s fire and the heat is intense or the soap feels a little strong, lift up your heart in thanksgiving that God loves you so much that He is working to remove anything that separates you from Him. Be grateful that every impurity and every stain is being removed in preparation so that you can fully enjoy the splendors of heaven. And know that God is working everything together for your good.
Dr. John Thompson