Gold Refined in the Fire
There are a few different methods of refining gold. Depending upon the quantity of gold you are working with and the desired level of purity, the two most common methods for refining gold are the use of high temperature flame and the use of chemicals (very strong acids) to refine the gold.
Refining with flame is one of the oldest methods of refining metals. Mentioned even in the bible, refining by fire is the preferable method for larger quantities of gold. The tradition remains largely untouched today with the exception of a few advancements in safety and precision. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with flames reaching temperatures in excess of 1000 degrees Celsius (1832° F); this job was definitely a dangerous occupation for the gold refiner. As said above, the refiner sat next to the hot with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal. Once the dross was removed what remained in the crucible was the pure gold.
Some commenters on this week's study made an association with Amos vision of the fire and God being as consuming fire (Heb. 12:29). We will recall that in the second vision, "God was calling up a firestorm" (Amos 7:4). Love as agape is not a namby-pamby, mushy sentimentalism. The same God who is agape is also "a consuming fire" (Heb. 12:29). It is this same God that says, "I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir" (Isaiah 13:12). The point is that there is a parallel between making gold pure and making man as pure as gold. God uses trails and affliction as the fire to purify us.
We see that the burning bush in which was the Lord's presence did not consume away. The fire did not extinguish a fiber of the branches. However, to sin, wherever found, God is a consuming fire. If you choose sin, and refuse to separate from it, the presence of God, which consumes sin, must consume you (MB 62). But, that is not the case when Christ dwells in you who receive Him by faith. Although trials may come upon the soul, yet the Lord's presence will be with us.
The gold shines brighter because of the process of purification. Thus will it be with the feeble human agent who puts his trust in Christ. He will make a man precious by abiding with Him, by giving unto him the Holy Spirit (YRP 131). The furnace fire of temptation may burn, persecution and trial may come, but only the dross will be consumed. The impurities of the sinful character are consumed; only God's character, now indwelling in our souls, remains.
The Lord Jesus presents Himself to the church as that fire of Divine-agape, which consumes away selfishness and sin. That fire produces death to selfishness, sensuality, love of the world, pride and arrogance. It is death to lukewarmness as well. That fire is the message of the uplifted cross. It is God's clearest message from the sanctuary of His love for sinners. As the Sin-bearer, Christ was subject to the lightning bolts of wrath for the universal law demands death to the sinner. Jesus experienced "the wages" of the second death for sin on the cross. He went all the way to hell for you and me. Ellen White elaborates further on this,
"Greater is He that is in the heart of the faithful, than he that controls the hearts of unbelievers. Complain not bitterly of the trial which comes upon you, but let your eyes be directed to Christ, who has clothed His divinity with humanity, in order that we may understand how great His interest in us since He has identified Himself with suffering humanity. He tasted the cup of human sorrow, He was afflicted in all our afflictions, He was made perfect through suffering, tempted in all points like as humanity is tempted, in order that He might succor those who are in temptation" (YRP 131).
It is this message of the cross, which the Holy Spirit uses to induce us to repentance for sin that we might receive the atonement and come into heart-union with God. Hence, there are those who "were like half-burned firebrands snatched away from the fire [the Judgment]" (Amos 4:11). To all others who reject the message of the cross it becomes an all-consuming fire of self-destruction. The gold cannot jump out of the crucible, but a living sacrifice can. Let us then choose to remain in the fire, so we can shine as bright as pure gold.