Divine Proving and Purifying
Proverbs 17:3
The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD tries the hearts.

Heat, like water, is a very bad master but a very excellent servant. It proves whether our acquisition has or has not any value, whether it should be carefully preserved or be "trodden underfoot;" and it refines that which has any worth at all, separating the dross and securing for us the pure metal which we want for use or ornament. What we do with our materials God does with ourselves; but the fires through which he sends us are of a very different kind from those we kindle.

I. THE FIRES THROUGH WHICH GOD PASSES US. These are the disciplinary experiences through which, in his holy providence and in his fatherly love, he causes us to pass. And of them we may say that their name is legion, for "they are many." They vary as do the histories of human life. It may be

(1) a change for the worse, sudden or gradual, permanent or transient, in our temporal conditions, affluence sinking into competence, or competence into pecuniary embarrassment, or into hard toil and scant enjoyment; or

(2) bereavement and consequent loneliness of spirit, the loss of some near companion whose fellowship was sweet beyond expression, or whose guidance was incalculably helpful; or

(3) disappointment, the going out of some bright hope in the light of which our path had been trodden and the extinction of which throws the future into thick darkness; or

(4) the loss of health and strength, when we are taken away from activities which were congenial or apparently necessary to us, and are shut in to an enforced idleness, from which we long to be delivered; or

(5) the endurance of pain; or

(6) our failure to accomplish some good work on which we had set our heart and put our hand.

II. HIS TRIAL OF OUR SPIRIT. God thus proves us. Theme troubles are trials; they show to our Creator and to ourselves what manner of men we are, what is "the spirit we are of." They prove to him and to us whether we care more about our circumstances than we do about ourselves and our character; they prove whether we have a deep spirit of submission and of trustfulness, or whether our subjection to the will of God is very shallow and departs as soon as it is tested; they prove whether in the hour of need we look above us for strength and succour, or whether we have recourse only to those persons and things which are around us, or whether we descend to props and stays that are positively beneath us. They prove the quality of our Christian character; they sometimes demonstrate its actual unreality.

III. GOD'S REFINING GOODNESS AND WISDOM. God tries our hearts, not merely that he or we may see what is in them, but that they may be purified (see Isaiah 48:10). Many purifying, practical lessons we learn in affliction which we are very slow to receive, and which, but for its discipline, we might never gain at all. They are these, among others.

1. The unsatisfying character of all that is earthly and human.

2. The transitoriness of the present, and the wisdom of laying up treasures in heaven.

3. The secondariness of all claims to those that are Divine, and our consequent obligation to give the first place to the will and the cause of our Redeemer.

4. Our deep need of Christ as the Lord whom we are to be faithfully serving and the Friend in whose fellowship we are to spend our days. With these great spiritual truths burnt into our souls by the refining fires, we shall have our worldliness and our selfishness expelled, and be vessels of pure gold, meet for the Master's use. - C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.

WEB: The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, but Yahweh tests the hearts.

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