How much or how often do you think about Heaven? Young people rarely do, because they have so much earthly life before them – but they should. Older people – those saints who are nearing the end of their earthly lives, may consider it more often. But we should all “Set (our) affection on things above, not on things on the earth. Because Christ, who is our life, shall (soon) appear, then shall (we) also appear with him in glory.”
Assuming you do, what do you picture when you think about Heaven? Isn’t most of our thinking primarily speculation, because so little is revealed in the Bible? There is a reason why people sometimes call Heaven “Glory,” with a capital G, as if it is a place. There has never been a place on this corrupted earth which has touched the hem of the glory of Heaven. It is, and forever will be, a place of absolute beauty. And contributing to that beauty will be absolute purity.
It is sometimes said that there is no perfect church on earth, because you and I are members. Wouldn’t Heaven be less than Heaven – less than perfect – if we walked into it today? There are things necessary prior to our presentation to God in all His glory. And we can summarize those necessities in the word “purification” and by one definition of “refinement.”
In eschatology we are told about periods and events of refinement.
We have touched on a couple of these recently. As I suggested last Sunday, the purpose of the Tribulation – “Jacob’s Trouble” – will be to refine Israel in preparation for the commencement of the “Millennium.” Malachi 3, prophesies the return of the Lord and the ministry of His messenger, saying…. “Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire…and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…” And He shall “purge them as gold and sliver” in preparation for the Kingdom.
Zechariah 13 says, “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David” speaking of the fulfilment of the Lord’s covenant with Israel. And verse 9 refers to the deaths of two thirds of the nation during the Tribulation, putting it this way: “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
Not only will Israel be purified in preparation for HER future but so will the Gentile saints for their future. Romans 14 says of every Christian “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” – verse 10. And II Corinthians 5:10 – “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” I Corinthians 3 clarifies that Bema judgment saying, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”
When we begin the joy of eternity, we will be and have nothing but 24k gold to present to the Lord. In fact we will better than 24K, because that is only 99.9% pure. Our souls and spirits will be as pure and beautiful as the Lord Himself. And there will not be a work or service which will be anything less. Nothing done in and by the flesh will endure the Lord’s fiery gaze. Nothing done without implicit faith and absolute dependence upon Him will remain. We will give back to our Saviour and God, every crown with which He will reward us, and every one of them will be made of pure Heavenly gold, pure silver and perfect gemstones.
But Solomon, in our text, is not talking about any of this. “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.” Solomon is talking about the refining process which is in effect TODAY.
The LORD continually trieth the hearts of His saints, the way gold and sliver are refined.
I recently read a history of man’s search for gold, and I found it fascinating. Not once in this big book was it declared that man has ever found a perfectly pure nugget of gold. The Lord has seen fit to mix other minerals and metals in with silver, gold, copper and all the rest of things which man seeks to mine and use. Sometimes there is very little gold in the ore which man digs out of the ground; sometimes there is more. Many centuries ago, man learned that by applying heat to crushed ore, gold or silver could be separated from the lesser materials. Today, the process begins the same way, but now we also use various chemicals and things like electrolysis to further refine the materials until we can come away with nearly pure gold – 24K. 24 carrot is not often the best
way to have or keep gold, for various reasons, but we have that capability. We had a man visiting our services years ago, whose job it was to find and buy old mine tailings, because new processes mean the gleaning of more gold out of gravel which had been thrown away. But let’s say that, as it was in Solomon’s day, heat is the means of “fining” or refining gold and silver.
God tries Christian hearts with heat with the purpose of greater purity. “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.” I must admit that the word “trieth” refers to testing, assaying, proving or examining. But the context and Solomon’s illustration mean we can apply it to testing for the purpose of refining. And that takes us back to I Corinthians 3: – “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” Our lives and our works will be tried – tested – assayed – by divine fire which will consume all that is wood, hay and stubble – leaving only materials worthy of the Lord.
But the thing we need to remember is that this refining is not confined to the Bema – the Judgment seat. “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts“ – TODAY. And the technique He uses is illustrated with heat.
The goldsmiths in Solomon’s day didn’t have the kinds of furnaces which we have now. For them it might have been as simple as putting ore into a special pot and setting it over the flame. The ore would then slowly heat up and eventually melt under the rising heat.
It probably can it be said that every saint is in a pot with a different degree of heat under him. Like the old story about the frog in the pot of water on the stove, we may not as yet feel the heat. Our refining may be related to health, and that could be such a variety of intensities. You might have a cold and sore throat today, but next week it could turn into pneumonia. Is the Lord purifying you with your sniffles? Will it require pneumonia to get your attention? There are financial tests which the Lord throws at us throughout our lives. Sometimes they are nothing but nuisances, but at other times they are truly severe. And those financial tests might even come in the form of windfalls and wealth. Or a friend comes to us with a new twist of doctrine, turning up the heat for us to alter our thinking and to leave the doctrine of our church. Periodically there are the fires of decisions – sometimes life-changing decisions. Will we respond in faith, or will the flesh take over and we disappoint our divine goldsmith? Perhaps that decision will mean the excision of something ungodly from our lives. Will we cling to the dross, or let it go?
For years, the Mason family has been in a crucible over and intense flame while they were fighting for the life of their son. When Matthew died a few weeks ago, each member of the family, from little siblings to the mother and Father, were cast into differing degrees of fire. Mrs. Mason in particular needs our prayers; the flame under her is extremely intense right now. And it may be just as hot for you some day, even long before the Bema. Under the sovereign grace of God, we can always say, “For the Christian this heat is for our refinment.”
We need to remember that our day-to-day lives are under the Lord’s scrutiny. He is in the process of improving the purity of our gold in order to better glorify Him. We may not actually feel the flames because they are at this time somewhat mild, but they are there. Jeremiah 17:10 – “I the Lord search the heart, and try to reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” Don’t think that you are hiding your hay and wooden sins from the Lord and from His refining. Jeremiah 23:24 – “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him” saith the LORD. Do not I fill heave and earth? Saith the LORD.” “And though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence, and though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and he shall bite them” – Amos 9:3.
“The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.“ Keep in mind, the Refiner is working to produce positive results, not judgment. He wants you and me to be without tarnish – eventually even beyond tarnish. 24K gold, 99.9% pure gold is the most resistant to tarnish.
One of the newer songs in our repertoire is called “Rejoice in the Lord.” “God never moves without purpose or plan When trying His servant and molding a man. Give thanks to the Lord Though your testing seems long; In darkness He giveth a song. Now I can see testing comes from above; God strengthens His children and purges in love. My Father knows best, and I trust in His care; Through purging more fruit will I bear. Oh, rejoice in the Lord. He makes no mistake. He knows the end of each path that I take. For when I am tried and purified, I shall come forth as gold.”
Brethren, this is the work of God in our lives today. And the more pure we are, the better we represent and illustrate our Saviour.