Refining Moments

As I was rushing to get ready for church recently, I began quickly grabbing my jewelry to add the final touches to accessorize my outfit. My eye caught…just a little longer than usual…the silver ring I had just slipped onto my finger.

This particular ring isn’t just an accessory to me. It has great sentimental value as it belonged to my mother who passed away 5 years ago.

And just maybe the actual day of her death just a few days prior had prompted my sudden emotions at this moment as I reflected a bit longer on the silver ring. I had acquired most of mother’s silver and gold jewelry after her passing and cherish it very close to heart.

Silver and gold…precious pieces of metal that continue to gain value in our world today. And with our modern technology who would ever stop to think about the time and effort it took years ago to refine these metals.

We live in such a modern culture where machines and computers have taken over that we don’t tend to hear much about silversmiths and goldsmiths these days. But the process of refining silver and gold is quite interesting and truly an art…and actually has some life application for us as well!

The silversmith and the goldsmith start their work with impure silver and gold ore. Through the refining process they extract and mold the pure gold and silver by removing all of the impurities in the ore. These impurities are referred to as the dross.

This process involves fire and the close attention of the smith. The smith puts the ore in the fire to burn out some of the impurities…then takes it out and shapes it…and then he puts it back in the fire. All the while he keeps a close eye on his precious metal.

The goal of the silversmith or goldsmith is to fashion and mold the precious metal until it is pure and shines bright. He heats and works with his metal until he can see his image reflected in it.

The word refine is defined as “to become pure; to become more fine, elegant, or polished.”

It is through this refining process that we can enjoy these pure…fine…elegant…and polished pieces of silver and gold jewelry that may have sentimental value to us and as women so love to accessorize with!

How about in your life? Have you ever gone through the fire? Maybe you are in the fire right now…

As Christians, we will certainly have moments where the heat is turned up in our lives….where the fire may seem so hot…where the challenges may seem to consume us…where the struggles seem unbearable. Because…after all…the Bible never said “if” we face trials but “when” right? (James 1:2)

We will have moments in the fire…and it is in the fire that we will be tested…Because whether we like it or not…whether we feel ready or not…life is full of tests.

Tests that will test our character…test our patience…test our loyalty…test our faith…test our obedience…test our faithfulness…test our commitment…test our love…test just about anything!

Just as the silversmith and goldsmith use fire to mold and shape their precious metals… It is in the tests…it is in the fire… that we too are molded…we too are shaped…we too are fashioned into the image of Christ.

It is in the fire we are tested…It is in the fire that we are refined. And God says…

I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. Zechariah 13:9 NIV

The Bible actually characterizes God as our Refiner…

For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, Malachi 3:3 NIV

For he will be like a blazing fire that refines metal, or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes. He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver, so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD. Malachi 3:3 NLT

There are some very interesting and encouraging points to note about this verse from these 2 bible translations.

First of all, He [God] will sit like a refiner…This is so significant because just as a smith will sit to refine his metal, God will sit with us to refine us as we go in…and yes through the fire! (through has much better ring to it than in…doesn’t it?!)

This clearly demonstrates that God will never leave our side! He is with us the entire time…no matter how hot the fire seems!

And to drive this point even further…The smith keeps a close watch…close attention…on the piece of metal in the fire to make sure it isn’t destroyed or consumed by the fire.

Wow!

So not only is God merely with us in the fire…God is also actively keeping a close watch…close attention…on us to make sure the heat isn’t too hot to destroy or consume us!

He cares so much for us that even though He may turn up the heat…He will pull us out before we are overcome by the flames. He is only interested in turning up the heat hot enough to melt away the impurities…to melt away the dross…to melt away those areas of our lives that may not be pleasing to Him…to refine us!

Can you see any specific areas God is trying to melt away and refine in your life?

We will have these refining moments in our lives…we will have many refining moments in our lives…Because God is interested in making us look more and more like Him. He is interested ultimately in seeing His image reflected in us…just like the smith knows his metal is refined and finished when he sees his image reflected in it.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears. Philippians 1:6 MSG

The following two commentary excerpts continue to paint the picture of God as our refiner even further…

He shall sit as a Refiner. Christ, by his gospel, shall purify and reform his church, and by his Spirit working with it, shall regenerate and cleanse souls. He will take away the dross found in them. He will separate their corruptions, which render their faculties worthless and useless. The believer needs not fear the fiery trial of afflictions and temptations, by which the Saviour refines his gold. He will take care it is not more intense or longer than is needful for his good. Mathew Henry’s Concise

As a refiner sits and observes his metal while it is melting, and waits the proper time to pour it out and separate the dross from it; so Christ is here represented as sitting, while his people are purifying and refining by the various ways and means he makes use of: it denotes the continued care of Christ over them; his eye is upon them, that nothing be lost but their dross and corruption; and his patience in waiting to be gracious to them, and do them good; and his diligent attention to the proper season of doing it; designing by all that he does, not their hurt and damage, but their real good, for he saves them, though it be by fire; and indeed every trial and affliction is for the purifying of their souls, and the brightening of their graces, and increasing their spiritual experience, light, and knowledge. Gill’s Exposition

I love this! Don’t you?

God doesn’t want us to be fearful or afraid in our lives when we go through the fire because…

With Him in control…we will not be consumed or destroyed.

With Him in control…we will not be left alone.

With Him in control…we will become more fine, elegant, and polished.

With Him in control…we will become more like the image of Christ…more like Him!

With Him in control…we will be refined!

So…Be encouraged today!

We will have refining moments…and the fire may seem real hot…but God the Master Refiner is in control…He will never leave you and will keep His eye on you the entire time…and in His time He will pull you out…more refined than you have ever been!

After all, God and His word are far “more precious than silver and gold” …even the silver and gold we so cherish and accessorize with! (Psalm 19:10, Psalm 12:6, Psalm 119:72)

Reflection Points:

  1. Have you ever gone through the fire? Are you are in the fire right now?
  2. Does the fire seem so hot that your challenges and struggles seem unbearable and ready to consume you?
  3. Can you see any specific areas God is trying to melt away and refine in your life?

Action Points:

  1. We all will have moments in the fire. It is important to understand God’s plan and purpose in the fire. That he is the Master Refiner refining you.
  2. If you are going through the fire…pray and ask God what specific areas he may be trying to melt away and refine in your life.
  3. Trust Him that the fire will not consume or destroy you. Trust Him that He is in control. Know that He will never leave you and is keeping close watch over you.
  4. Know that He loves you and cares for you so much!
  5. Rejoice in the refining process…because the result of this process is that you are looking more and more like Him!
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Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me

There will come a time in all of our lives when we want to be comforted…whether we are currently seeking comfort in a difficult circumstance we are going through right now…. whether we are still seeking comfort in a challenging situation we went through in our past…or whether we will seek comfort in a tough trial we may face in the future.

Who or what do you look to for comfort?

Do you look to your spouse, family, friends, or church? Do you look to things in this world to comfort you like drinking, eating, smoking, drugs…even TV, social media, shopping or working out?

How about God? Do you lean on Him for comfort first and foremost or only after seeking comfort from other people or things?

Now I am not saying that people cannot provide you with comfort…because they certainly can…but why not go first to the source and creator of comfort?

The Bible is very clear that our God is a God of comfort….And not only is He a God of comfort but the God of all comfort!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV

As I have been focusing this week on this truth of God being the God of all comfort, I was reminded of verse 4 in Psalm 23…which really heightened my interest and curiosity!

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV

Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me… NLT

Your rod and your staff reassure me… NET

Your rod and your staff give me courage… GW

Have you ever thought…what is so significant about the rod and the staff?

I mean I have read Psalm 23 over and over again and even memorized it in Sunday school as a young child and never really thought about the meaning of the rod and the staff! Have you?

If you aren’t familiar with Psalm 23…it’s ok! I highly suggest you read through it as there is so much beautiful imagery of the Lord our God being our Shepherd.

This Psalm was written by David…the greatest king of Israel. And many years before David became king, he was a shepherd boy and tended flocks of sheep in the hills around Bethlehem…which FYI…was where many years later an angel would find shepherds and tell them about the birth of our Lord Jesus!

And so, therefore, David was very familiar with sheep…and just as he was a shepherd to sheep, he uses this imagery of the Lord as a Shepherd to us…His sheep.

So why exactly are the rod and the staff a comfort to David…and to us?

Why do they give us comfort, protection, reassurance, and courage as the different bible translations imply??

A better understanding and greater perspective can be developed by digging deeper into the Hebrew meanings of these two words.

The Hebrew word for “rod” is shebet and has the idea of a “stick”. It originally referred to a part of a tree.

In the Old Testament, the rod was used to count sheep (Leviticus 27:32).

The “rod” was also used to protect the sheep from other animals. The rod was a club about 2 feet long with a knob on the end of it about the size of one’s fist. It was used to ward off enemies such as a bear or a lion because with one quick blow you could put to death such an animal.

The “rod” is also described in the book of Proverbs for discipline (Proverbs 13:24).

This “rod” was the shepherd’s symbol of authority, power, discipline and protection from danger.

The Hebrew word for “staff” is mishena and has the idea of “something to lean on,” “trust,” or “support.”

The “staff” was slender stick with a small prong on the end of it which served as a hook. It was used to help get the sheep out of trouble such as when it was stuck in thick branches or to help get the sheep who wandered off. It usually came from an almond tree which was a tree that represented long life. It was very strong so one could lean upon it for strength and support.

The “staff” was the shepherd’s symbol of strength, support, guidance, and direction.

The same Protector, the same gracious and merciful God, will be still with him – leading him, guiding his steps, shepherding him, keeping him from evil. Thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff – i.e. thy shepherd’s crook, and thy staff of defence – they comfort me. They make me feel that, however long and however dreary the way through the dark vale, I shall still have thy guidance and thy protection. Pulpit Commentary

And to further grasp a greater understanding of what exactly this means for us…I think it is important to examine the sentence just before David describes that the rod and the staff comfort him.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV

Whether we are going through the daily challenges of life or walking though the darkest valley we have ever walked through…Jesus is there to comfort us with His rod and His staff. Jesus is with us to protect us…strengthen us…support us…guide us…direct us…and even discipline us.

Not only does He tell us to not be afraid or discouraged, but we can find comfort that the Lord actually goes ahead of us! Isn’t that what a guide does? As a guide walks with us, he also walks a few steps ahead of us.

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT

There’s more here! Check this out! In Psalm 23:4, David isn’t talking about just a rod and a staff…He says your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

This is significant because David is talking about the Lord’s rod and the Lord’s staff! The Lord’s rod and the Lord’s staff comforts us!

And what is the Lord’s rod and the Lord’s staff?

I believe the Lord’s rod and the Lord’s staff refers to God’s Word. God uses the Word as His rod and His staff.

Think about it…The Lord…our Shepherd…can use His Word in just the same ways as a shepherd uses his rod and his staff.

God uses His Word to protect us…strengthen us…support us…guide us…direct us…and discipline us.

What God does with His Word is very much like what a shepherd does with his rod and his staff.

So if we allow God to use His Word in our lives…if we read and listen to His Word and try to do what it tells us…God will not leave us comfortless. His rod and His staff will comfort us!

The rod and the staff…His rod and His staff…paints a picture of a strong protective Shepherd who we can trust to comfort us no matter how dark and how difficult our valleys in life may be!

Do you trust Him and His Word today enough to experience the comfort from the God of all comfort?

Reflection Points:

  1. Who or what do you look to for comfort when you are faced with difficult circumstances…past…present…and for the future?
  2. Do you look to your spouse, family, friends, or church? Do you look to things in this world to comfort you like drinking, eating, smoking, drugs…even TV, social media, shopping or working out?
  3. How about God? Do you lean on Him for comfort first and foremost or only after seeking comfort from other people or things?
  4. What is so significant about the rod and the staff in Psalm 23:4 and why are they a comfort to us?
  5. Why does Psalm 23:4 say your rod and your staff, they comfort me?

Action Points:

  1. Many times it’s easier to just to lean on our family and friends for comfort…and there is nothing wrong with that. But how much more comfort will we find if we leaned first and foremost on the source and creator of comfort…the God of all comfort?!
  2. Understand that the “rod” was the shepherd’s symbol of authority, power, discipline and protection from danger. In addition, the “staff” was the shepherd’s symbol of strength, support, guidance, and direction. This clearly demonstrates how the rod and the staff can serve to comfort a shepherd.
  3. Moreover, understanding that God’s Word is the Lord’s rod and the Lord’s staff we can receive the Lord’s comfort during difficult circumstances. We must trust in God and His Word. Trust develops when we have a relationship with Him and grows when we spend time praying and reading the bible.