God gives us tests. Trials. Tribulations. They seem unfair, they seem unnecessary, and they seem harsh. And they are of the above. Some tests are unfair, but life isn't fair. Some tests are unnecessary, but a lot of things in life are unncecessary. Some tests are harsh, but life can be very harsh. These things help to refine you. Do mold you. To train you. Training can be painful, seem unfair, and harsh... but the other end of training can be wonderful, when you are ready to be tested, when you are ready to be certified and proven. Don't begrudge the training, the pain, the hardship, for it is those very things that help to refine and purify and create a more valuable, strong, and beautiful piece of art.
The fact that God tests us, fairly or otherwise, is a fact. That's "just the way it is..." whether we humans like or agree with it or not. And there is a wisdom in that. This concept and school of thought is nothing new. It may not sit well in today's advanced and more "even and level playing field" society, but the fact remains: There is a God. He tests his people. His people pass or fail and learn from those tests and become ultimately better. The concept is simple really...
There are several times in various scriptural writings where God and his testing is compared to metallurgy, or where God is compared to a metallurgist or silver-/gold-smith:
Psalms 66:10 "For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried." So, this is obviously a metaphor taken from melting and refining metals; And what SHOULD be obvious is that the afflictions and trials of various kinds are represented as a furnace where ore is melted, and a crucible where it is refined. And this metaphor is used especially to represent cases where there is doubt concerning the purity of the metal, the quantity of alloy, or even the nature or kind of metal subjected to the trial. Directly correllated is that God is said to try His people that He might know what was in them; and whether they would keep His laws, word, and testimonies: and ONLY then, according to the issue at hand, his conduct towards them would be made clear and appropriate for His people.
1 Peter 1:7 "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:" This epistle is addressed to believers in general, who are strangers in every city or country where they live, and are scattered through the nations. These are to ascribe their salvation to the electing love of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the sanctification of the Holy Ghost; All possessions here are stained with defects and failings; still something is wanting: fair houses have sad cares flying about the gilded and ceiled roofs; soft beds and full tables, are often with sick bodies and uneasy stomachs. All possessions are stained with sin, either in getting or in using them. Gold does not increase by trial in the fire, it becomes less; but faith is made firm, and multiplied, by troubles and afflictions. Gold must perish at last, and can only purchase perishing things, while the trial of faith will be found to praise, and honour, and glory.
Isaiah 1:25 "And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:" Dross may shine like silver; but it's not silver. It's not pure. Wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine, but it's not wine and it's not as good. It's not as strong. It's not as pure. Matthew Henry said, "Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them." I know that as "MichaelK", I have much to answer for and we, as humans, may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The refining power of God is a blessing, regardless of the process. Why? Because by the process of the trials of God, and the burning away of our "dross" and the taking away of our "tin", we are set free from the prisons of our birthright, being born into sin and slavery to that sin.
Isaiah 48:10 "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." We, as humans, and as (hopefully) followers of the Judeo-Christian faith, have not one thing. Not one. Nothing. We have nothing ourselves to plead with God, so why should God have mercy upon us? Really think about that and let it sink in for a minute. You, in and of yourself, have nothing to bargain with. You are born sinful. You are infantesimally small and insignificant next to God. So, what is His interest? What is your value? What can you do? Nothing. It is for HIS praise, to the honour of HIS mercy, to spare. It is God and His bringing men into trouble, that is for their better good - to do them good. God does this to refine us and to make us better. It takes time, and it takes effort, and it takes skill. The ancient silversmith could not make the fire too hot, it would burn up the silver. He could not extract and purify the silver all at once, because it would have destroyed it... So the silversmith took his time, and through process after process, refined and re-refined the silver. He takes them as refined in part only. And if God delivers his people, he cannot be at a loss for instruments to be employed.
Zechariah 13:9 "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." You have to love the faith that God puts in us, as people that are fallible and ultimately so, so human. We fail. We make careers of failure. Yet, God trusts that the tests we fail, the fire and trials/tribulations we endure will REFINE us, not CONSUME us.
Malachi 3:3 "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness." Please note that he begins at the priests, that they might be lights, and shine unto others. The truth is that when God chooses people, he doesn't always choose PERFECT people, and he doesn't always work through and use PERFECT people... God has this sardonic sense of humor and tends to use people that NEED perfecting and God will use them as examples. Through their testimonies, trials, tests, failures, and ultimate successes... God uses all of it to inspire others, to reach others, and sometimes, just to be an example of what NOT to do for others...
The refining process is not an easy one. It's not easy on the original material, it's not easy on the metal, and it's a tiring and trying process on the REFINER as well. Think about that for a minute, God doesn't HAVE to care about you. God doesn't HAVE to care about your needs, and what might make you a better person. But, He does. That's why it is I am incredulous at the fact that God would take time and put in the effort on ME. When you consider that a metallurgist would have to find the silver. Silver is found in native form, as an alloy with gold (electrum), and in ores containing sulfur, arsenic, antimony or chlorine. The principal sources of silver are the ores of copper, copper-nickel, lead, and lead-zinc.
The key is to separate the precious metal from the crap. Ancient techniques used pyrolysis. That's just a really fancy way to say they "burned it." In pyrolysis, the crap products are released from the other materials by solidifying in a melt to become cinder and then poured off or oxidized. Ancient silversmiths would burn the ore/alloy and oxidize the bad stuff and then put the purified silver back into the fire. This process would occur over and over until the silversmith could see himself as a reflection in the silver. THEN and only then was it was pure enough. I love that. So re-read it, and think about it. I LOVE that. God, as a silvesmith, keeps us in the fire, and keeps working on us, and refining us, UNTIL He can see himself IN us. He wants to work with us until he can see his own reflection in our lives, our works, our beings. And that's a great comfort to know during the test!
So, while I still hate being "tested", and I still LOVE passing tests and proving myself... this is one test, trial, affliction, tribulation, and life test that I intend to pass. ツ