Gold Tried in the Fire
We are grateful for more excellent material from Archie Naismith, M.A. a former Missionary and High School principal in India. His series of three articles on the biblical significance of gold is instructive and profitable.
In the divine reckoning there are two kinds of gold — man’s gold and God’s gold. The church of the Laodiceans, to whose angel the Lord Jesus, through his apostle John, addressed one of His letters from Heaven, had man’s gold in abundance and in its vain conceit could boast, “I am rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing.” But the Lord had to reproach it for neglecting God’s gold, and to counsel those in the Laodicean church to buy from Him “gold tried in the fire.”
In the Old Testament days there were several examples of man’s gold which became, as it is today, an object of veneration. The Israelites assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the revelation which Moses had ascended the mountain to receive from Jehovah who had redeemed them from Egypt and emancipated them from bondage, cried to Aaron, “God has forgotten us: make us a god to take us back to Egypt.” They prevailed on him to fashion for them an object of worship, a golden calf, from the abundance of gold which they had brought out of Egypt. Gold was the symbol of the prosperity which had been conferred upon them by the living and true God, but they turned from Him to worship an image of gold in the shape of a calf, one of the creatures venerated by their Egyptian taskmasters. Jereboam, who led ten of Israel’s tribes in revolt against their fellows, had no sooner made himself ruler of the Northern Kingdom of Israel then he set up two golden calves, one in Dan and the other in Bethel, as objects of worship. The one golden calf had become two: the course of years had made it productive. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in his palace in Babylon was concerned with another image that had a head of gold; and the Prophet Daniel’s interpretation of it was, “Thou, O king, art the head of gold” Prosperity, productivity, personality — man’s gold to be highly valued and venerated! Are not these just what man in the world, man without God, worships in these last days also?
“Rich and increased in goods” — that is the claim that Christendom today, worldly and self-satisfied, makes for itself. It has plenty of man’s gold and, when other sources of revenue and evidences of affluence fail and a nation’s currency is devalued, the man of the world and the nations of the earth rush to buy man’s gold.
Three early New Testament Christian churches were in close proximity to one another — Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colosse. The Gnostic heresy had invaded the assembly at Colosse, as we gather from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and had doubtless spread to Laodicea and Hierapolis also. The Apostle designated that heresy as “science falsely so-called,” and “philosophy and vain deceit.” The pre-eminent glory, fulness and authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is Paul’s answer to the blasphemous and derogatory doctrine of the Gnostics that assigned to our glorious Lord who had lived on this earth as “God manifest in flesh,” a position inferior to those angels who, they considered, were honoured in other planets of greater magnitude than the earth. How fitting, then, it was that in his message to the Laodiceans the Lord Jesus should introduce Himself as the “Amen,” the centre of all the promises of the Omnipotent God (2 Cor. 1:20), as the faithful and true Witness on earth when here, and now in Heaven till His enemies are made His footstool! How fitting, too, that He should appear — as He is described in the letter to the Colossians and in the Lord’s letter to the Laodiceans —as “the beginning of the creation of God,” the firstborn of all creation, who is before all things and by whom are all things!
The city of Laodicea, founded in the year 250 B.C. and named after the wife of the founder, was extremely wealthy and prosperous. It was a commercial metropolis and the chief centre for banking transactions in Asia Minor. Twice shaken by earthquakes that occasioned tremendous destruction of property, the city’s councillor’s after the second earth tremor, refused all offers of financial aid and rebuilt the city with their own wealth. They had in effect replied to the custodians of Caesar’s treasury in Rome, “We are rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing.” Laodicea was also a cosmopolitan city and in it resided many affluent Jews who were very interested in another city, Jerusalem, in which they were anxious for the temple to be rebuilt. So, in spite of a ban placed by the Roman Governor of Asia Minor on the export of gold, they had subscribed 20 lbs. weight in gold to help rebuild the temple. The Jewish community in Laodicea also declared in that way, “We are rich and increased in goods and have need of nothing.”
But how sad it is that this should be the language of those who professed the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was rich yet for their sakes had become poor! Three things that were characteristic of the church of the Laodiceans are the marks of self-complacency in many a Christian community and in many an individual Christian today. They were afflicted with the Blight of Self-seeking, concerned entirely with their own affairs and not with the “things which are Jesus Christ’s” (Phil. 2:21). They gave no heed to the words of the Lord who walked on earth and walks in the midst of the churches: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you.” The Boast of Self-satisfaction had also infected them, for they were saying, “We are rich: we don’t need anything from God or from man.” What smug complacency! But the Lord points out the true state of that church. “Thou knowest not that thou art blind;” the eyes of their understanding blinded by Satan, dimmed with the Blindness of Self-deceit. How tragic that today the same sad symptoms are stamped on assemblies and on individual believers!
With what sadness does the Lord address the church of the Laodiceans from the outside place it had assigned to Him! He does not now speak to the mass of mere nominal Christians as a company, but to the individual when He says: “Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). He stands at the door as a salesman offering to supply the need of anyone willing to admit his poverty. “I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire that thou mayst be rich …” for, He says, “as many as I love I rebuke and chasten.” The price of God’s gold is submission to His chastening, willingness to be refined in His fire until the dross has vanished and His image is reflected in the child of His love. Are we in possession of this bought gold, God’s gold? There seems to be no rush to buy this gold, such as there is to acquire man’s gold.
But what is this gold, and where is it to be found? The church of the Laodiceans was represented by a golden lampstand, but the gold had become tarnished and the light had become dim. “Gold tried in the fire” is part of the immense wealth of Heaven and is to be found in the sanctuary of God. It is stored up there, and to that place the Lord will lead those who are willing to pay the price for it. In the tabernacle in the wilderness, within the holiest of all, with the Shechinah glory ever resting upon it, stood the mercy-seat all of gold, of one piece with the cherubim of gold. On the Mercy-seat and before it the blood of the slain victims was sprinkled on the great day of atonement. It spoke of sins remitted on the ground of sacrifice, because the blood had been shed. That was the place, too, of communion, for the Lord had said when He gave directions concerning its construction, “There I will commune with thee from above the mercy-seat, from between the Cherubim” (Exod. 25:22). God’s gold which is to be bought is therefore our unbroken communion with a holy and righteous God who has become a loving Father on the ground of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
But all of God’s gold is not of one piece. In the Holy place there was one article that was entirely of pure gold that had been beaten out. That was the golden lampstand whose light continually illuminated the holy place and revealed the shining brilliance of the vessels that were overlaid with gold. The golden lampstand is symbolic of the Christian’s witness to Christ his Saviour. That too is “gold tried in the fire,” and that too the believer must buy from his Lord.
From the inner sanctuary to the holy place, and from the holy place to the court we proceed in search of more of God’s gold. The high priest is approaching and on his forehead, as part of his mitre, he wears a plate of pure gold, with the inscription in Hebrew letters, “Holiness unto the Lord!” Another equally accurate translation of the words is “Set apart unto the Lord!” “Buy of Me gold tried in the fire,” counsels our great High Priest: buy of Me holiness unto the Lord.” God’s gold — bought gold — is real estate, Heaven’s wealth that lasts for ever and that can be purchased here and now in the enjoyment of communion with God on the ground of the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, in constant witness for our Lord as shining lamps in this world, and in a holy life through Him who is made unto us sanctification.
“A sacrifice to God
In life or death are we:
Then keep us ever, blessed Lord
Thus set apart for Thee!”