Gold Tried In The Fire
We are grateful for more excellent material from Archie Naismith, a former Missionary and High-School principal in India. His series of three articles on the Biblical significance of gold is instructive and profitable.
Gold has always been cherished as one of the most precious of metals, and for this and several other reasons the British Empire in 1816 adopted a Gold Standard in the nation’s economy. A country now is said to be on the gold standard when a certain amount of gold can be bought with the paper money available: that is, when a nation agrees to buy and sell its gold at a fixed price. Certain qualities of gold, with which bankers are familiar, have made it outstanding as a metal —its durability, incorruptibility, stability, homogeneity, cognizability, utility and portability. Gold is a very soft metal, ductile so can be made into strips and woven into cloth, as in the ephod and curious girdle of the Levitical high priests; malleable, so can be beaten out as in the making of the golden lampstand for the Tabernacle sanctuary; and rust-resisting, as excavators have proved in their discoveries among ruined cities. Water boils at 100 degrees centigrade, gold melts at over 1000 degrees centigrade; in this respect most of us are more like water than gold, for we boil much more readily than we melt.
Gold mining is a very important and profitable industry. “The whispered word — GOLD — has acted on men like a fever since they learnt to cherish the glittering metal.” Last century and the early years of the present century have witnessed many a gold rush when tens of thousands of prospectors have travelled in every available way with the utmost speed to reach the gold fields. Gold is obtained in two ways. Underground gold reached by shafts is known as vein or lode gold. Placer gold in grains or nuggets, some of which are very large, is found in the beds of rivers and streams. South Africa produces more gold than any country in the world.
In the Bible gold is considered the most precious of all metals, and is typical of divine glory in its use in the Tabernacle and the Temple. Its first mention is in the second chapter of Genesis (v. 12), and the last Old Testament mention is in its second last chapter (Mal. 3:3). In the New Testament gold is first mentioned in its second chapter (Matt. 2:11) and its last mention is in the second last chapter (Rev. 21). Thus the first occurence of the word associates gold with Eden, the paradise of man; and the last occurence, with the Paradise of God.
There are certain things that God declared to be much more precious than gold. In one of the Bible’s oldest books Job says of wisdom, “It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir … The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold” (Job 28:15-17). David in Psalm 19:10, writing of the statutes and judgments of the Lord, says, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (Ps. 19:10). In the appraisal of wise King Solomon “loving favour” is rather to be chosen than silver and gold (Prov. 22:1), and Peter reckons that our faith, when tested, is much more precious than gold that perishes (1 Pet. 1:7). In a divine prediction through His prophet Isaiah, Jehovah declares, “I will make a man more precious than fine gold;” and this He has done in anointing the Man Christ Jesus who, though rejected by men, is “chosen of God and precious” (1 Pet. 2:4). “To you therefore who believe He is precious” (1 Pet. 2-7, R.S.V.). The Man Christ Jesus, the blessed Son of God, is more precious to His redeemed than all the finest gold in the universe; and to the Father a “man in Christ” is equally precious for the sake of His Beloved Son.
Twice in Proverbs the words occur: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold” (Prov. 17:3, 27:21), and in the former reference Solomon adds, “But Jehovah trieth the hearts.” Peter compared the sufferings of the Christians of apostolic days, scattered in times of affliction, suffering persecutions that subjected their faith in Christ to the severest of tests, to gold tried in the fire. The fire makes the gold bright by bringing to the surface of the refining pot the dross for easy removal. Job was experiencing the severe afflictions of the fiery furnace when he exclaimed from his grief-stricken heart, “He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). At one fell swoop he had lost all his material possessions, had suffered the bitterest domestic tragedy in the sudden loss of all his sons and daughters, and was suffering physically from a painful and loathsome disease. His wealth and his health gone, he was denied the solace and strength of those who might have helped to sweeten his lot, and subjected to the caustic cynicism of the miserable comforters who professed to befriend him. Before Job was cast into the furnace, Jehovah could speak of him as “My servant Job,” and when he emerged from it as refined gold, he was still, to his God, “My servant Job.”
Many centuries later three loyal young Hebrews, captives in the land of Babylon, were cast into a blazing furnace of fire because of their refusal to worship an image set up by the despotic emperor, Nebuchadnezzar. Man’s gold stood glittering on the Plain of Jura, an image of deified man to be worshipped at the command of King Nebuchadnezzar when his orchestral music began. The refusal of the three worshippers of the living and true God to conform to the idolatrous worship of the world brought down on their heads the rage of the infuriated monarch, and they were bound and thrown into the furnace. There was God’s gold tried in the fire. What happened to them? The flames burnt the ropes that bound them and gave them liberty: they were seen by the onlookers walking upright in the midst of the fire, they had as their companion one resembling the Son of God. Immediately on their deliverance from the furnace, the godless king had to confess, “There is no other god who can deliver after this sort.” The furnace did four things for them. It freed them from their bonds, displayed their upright walk, gave them as a Companion the glorious Lord who Himself was to pass through a more dreadful fire, and evoked from an unbeliever a striking tribute to the power of the God of Heaven.
Peter’s first letter has for its themes sufferings and glory, “The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11), and the sufferings of the Christian who is “also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Pet. 5:1). At the time of his writing to those scattered believers, strangers and pilgrims with their faces toward the city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God, were in great distress as the result of many trials.Peter shows them that through these afflictions their faith was being proved, and they were being improved that at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ they might be approved. The Proof, “The trial of your faith;” the process, “Tried with fire;” the purpose, “Might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:7). It has been truly said that God had only one Son without sin but has no sons without sufferings. This is borne out by Hebrews 12:7 — “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” For this reason the tested and chastened children of God can say with Paul who approved himself as a minister of God, “In afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,” “We glory in tribulation also,” as they from the divine standpoint see through the present cross the bliss of eternal gain.
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply:
The flame shall not hurt thee: I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”
Shall we, then, declare with Job,
“When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold,” Bright Gold?