Leonard Cohen sings “Who by Fire, who by water… who by high ordeal…” (the words and melody of which echo the Unetaneh Tokef, an 11th-century liturgical poem recited on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Unetanneh Tokef, Unethanneh Toqeph, or Unesanneh Tokef (ונתנה תוקף) is a piyyut that has been a part of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy in rabbinical Judaism for centuries. It introduces the Kedusha of Musaf for these days. Describing the important place this prayer has in the service, the ArtScroll machzor calls it “one of the most stirring compositions in the entire liturgy of the Days of Awe.” It is probably the best-known piyyut after Kol Nidrei). But this is for a Jew. Yet, we as Christians (even those yet to be re-born) – and all humans for that matter – sit with the same issue of correctly understanding this Fire.
Note at Ps 100:4. It does not say you must praise God in order to buy [deserve, obtain] any blessings; it says that if you truly know God, you will not but praise Him – Rom 11:6; Jn 1:17; 14:6! ! Refer to Lk 17:12-19. All ten lepers were healed without them first praising God. After they had received their healing out of God’s grace, one returned and then praised God [Jesus] (v 15).
Because this is such a major issue and so greatly misunderstood, we’ll take some time to consider this (Ps 19:14). We’ll commence by having a closer look at the meaning of gold and silver and how it is purified.
What is the Biblical meaning to be refined as gold and silver?
It was once said that money was “as good as gold” because it was either made of gold or backed by gold. Today this is no longer the case. The United States abandoned the gold standard in 1933. Since then the paper dollar has been gradually losing its value and its purchasing power. Today, gold and silver are too valuable to be used in ordinary money and low value alloys are used instead. Inflation (devaluating money) continues to eat away at paper money, and more and more people are taking an interest in the precious metals which seem to increase in value during times of inflation. Let us now consider gold and silver, and why these metals remain in such demand; then we can try and make sense of the purification that God uses as an analogy. Bear in mind throughout, 1 Cor 3:11; 2 Tim 3:15-17; Eccl 12:10-14; Rev 22:12-13, 18-21.
If the reader wonders what this fuss is all about, the problem is to unite this purification process we seem to have to endure, with the accomplished work of Jesus Christ. The popular preaching [theological explanation] comes across (pardon the pun) that we are put on trials by God just as fire [heat] is applied to gold or silver, so that the impurities [in us] can be forced out. How accurate is this interpretation? What about Js 1:13?
Some interesting facts about gold
- Gold is scarce. It cannot be created or manufactured by humans or governments. Paper money can be made but new supplies of gold can only come as a result of mining. Men have dreamed of discovering some way to have the Midas touch, but all attempts to transform non-gold into gold have failed. Even in an age of science and advanced chemistry, it is impossible to make or manufacture gold. Only God could create gold, and He did not make too much of it! Gold is about four times as scarce as silver. From 1493 (in the days of Columbus) to 1940 the world production of gold was only about 1 222 million ounces. This amount of gold would only fill a 44 foot cube. (If you want to know how much this cube would be worth, multiply the current price for an ounce of gold by 1 222 million).
- Gold has tremendous compact value. It is easily concealed and easily transported. Gold, unlike many other valuable possessions, is very portable. Gold allows its owner to easily carry with him the wealth of a lifetime (compare, for example, with your house).
- Gold is divisible. A piece of gold worth $2 000 can be cut into 10 pieces and each piece would be worth $200 (assuming the pieces are of equal size). When a diamond is split its value may be destroyed. A painting is worth something only while it is whole. Gold is gold, and its value cannot be destroyed by dividing it or even melting it!
- Gold is consistent. There are no different grades of gold, so there is no danger of being stuck with an inferior quality. There is no such thing as “poor quality gold” and “top quality gold.” Gold is gold, and thus all gold is top quality gold! The term “karat” is often used in describing gold when gold is combined with other metals. A piece of jewellery that is 24 karats would be considered pure gold (99.999%). One that is 22 karats is 91.75 % pure; 18 karats is 75%; 18 karats would contain about 58% pure gold; 14 karats about 58.5 %; and 9 karats about 37.8 %, and so on. Interestingly, do certain societies [cultures] traditionally prefer certain karats of gold in their respective jewellery.
- Gold is the most malleable of all metals. This means it is capable of being shaped by the beating of a hammer. It can be hammered into sheets less than 5-millionths of an inch! It is also the most ductile (capable of being drawn out very thin). A single ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire 35 miles long (and an ounce of gold in coin form would be only about as large as a half dollar!). Note that, the more gold is mixed with other metals the harder it gets, but so becomes less malleable and less ductile. This trait can be good or bad, depending on what role it is required to fulfill.
- Gold was once used primarily for jewellery (1 Pet. 3:3; Js 2:2; 1 Tim. 2:9) and for money. In more recent times, gold has become of great value to industry. This precious metal is uniquely useful in the manufacture of everything from precision instruments to gold fillings for teeth.
- Gold is indestructible and imperishable. It is a very stable and durable metal. Gold will not evaporate, mildew, rust, crumble, break or rot. It can always be recycled. Gold can stand indefinite immersion in salt water (consider what salt water does to glass!), it does not tarnish in air and it can resist almost any acid. The articles of gold discovered from ancient times (such as in Egypt) are of the same quality as when they were first made several thousand years ago!
Yet, God – that created gold – views gold not so durable. God’s point of view far supersedes that of man. God measures in terms of eternity (1 Pet 1:7,18; 2 Pet 3:12; Js 5:3; 1 Jn 2:17; Mt 24:35). The reader might perhaps agree that we observe a similitude with human traits in the above qualities. This is what we’ll contemplate further when we consider what it really means to be purified as gold and silver.
But first, let’s briefly also look at silver.
Some interesting facts about silver
- Silver is one of the 92 natural elements (as is gold). Of all the elements, it is the most conductive of electricity and heat (this is why silver is in great demand in the field of electronics) and the most reflective of light (this is why silver is in great demand in the field of photography).
- In Bible times, silver was used primarily for money and for jewellery. Today it is industry that uses the greatest amount of silver.
- Silver is the second most malleable and ductile of all metals after gold.
- The USA industry consumes more silver than is mined there, and as a result the U.S. must import millions of ounces of silver each year to meet the demand.
- New production from the world’s silver mines is rapidly dwindling. The photographic and electronic industries alone consume more than half the annual silver production.
- The USA Treasury once made coins out of silver. Before 1965, dimes, quarters and half dollars were made of 90% silver. They are now made from an almost worthless copper-nickel alloy. Prior to 1936 the USA treasury minted silver dollars. Four of these silver dollars equal slightly more than 3 ounces of pure silver (each silver dollar weighs slightly more than 3/4 of an ounce). It is highly unlikely that the USA will ever mint any more real silver coins for general circulation.
Lastly, before moving on, we’ll consider the elementary meaning of the word “trial”. It is vitally important for us, in order to get to the Truth and real meaning of what God could have meant by using the analogy of gold and silver when He referred to our purification. This correlates to the correct understanding of the sovereignty of God. Is He a manipulator (we could then take to fatalism), and if not; to what extend can we determine our [own] destiny? How exactly are we purified and what does it truly mean to be “heated by God’s fire”? How are we to interpret the trials and tribulations that seem to befall all humans?
We will discover that the “fire” is too hastily [ignorantly] accepted as “from God’, while it more possibly is only “allowed by God” so that we can be “disciplined” [guided, redirected; but also benefited, rewarded – all by our Perfect Father-God (Heb 11:6)!] as results of our own choices (Jn 3:17-21; Rev 22:11)! This is expanded on in the paper “The Will” on www.gospel-truth.co.za.
Basic meanings [applications] of the word/term “trial”
- The examination in a court of law. It goes to court [on trial] because of the inability of particular person(s) to resolve a matter [peacefully, satisfactory]. This process will determine innocence or guilt and result in charges and claims. If it is a civil case, the aim is to enforce, redress, and protect privileges. If it is a criminal case, guilt or innocence will be determined that results in a sentence [verdict, judgement, punishment, condemnation], or an acquittal [freeing, exoneration, mercy]. A case will be dismissed for a lack of evidence [proof, results]. Truthful witnesses can give evidence.
- The act of trying, testing, or putting to the proof in order to test [claims of own] ability; or to determine [examine, judge] quality, value, or usefulness.
- An attempt to do something. A tentative or experimental action to ascertain certain results.
- An annoying or troublesome event (not something to remain in any longer than necessary).
It basically means to find out more accurate facts about something. It will illustrate the truth [validity] and usefulness of something. By implication, it also means to determine the components contained within, including the presence or concentration of infectious agents.
So then, how pure is our gold?
How pure were those 30 silver coins that were thrown on the floor?
What God says about these metals
It cannot satisfy (1 Ki 10:11,14,16-23,27; Ecc 5:15; job 31:2,14,28); Ps 66:10; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 4:12-14-19.
What is “gold tried in the fire”?
Refining gold from the ore in which it can be found involves a process in which the ore is “tried” (the English words try, tried and trial all originated from a word meaning to refine, or to purify) or melted, in order to separate pure gold from the other elements. Refining of gold has been known to humans since early times, and The Lord used the familiar “gold tried in the fire” as an analogy for growing in faith and Truth (Is 1:25). How this works, however, is what is misunderstood. 1 Pet 1:7-9 says that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perish, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: “… Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls”. The purpose of the analogy is purity of character (Mt 5:8). Note that we have to do this ourselves (2 Tim 2:21,22; Rom 12:1-3)! It envolves our free choice [will, faith, trust demonstrated].
Why? Contemplate 1 Pet 1:22-23. We again read this purifying is something we must do by obeying [the] Truth (Jn 8:32,36) in His Holy Spirit (Jn 4:24; Rom 8:14) so we can love one another with a pure heart fervently – not the self – being born-again not of corruptible seed but by the Word of God which abides forever. Compare this with 1 Jn 3:1-3. Again we that [have] hope [to continue to live] will purify ourselves as Jesus is pure! Also, 1 Jn 3:20; Eph 4:12-15 (but continue reading to – and note – Eph 6:24)! This is to be considered with Gal 6:7-8. Refer to the paper “The Testimony”, if you will.
The analogy of pure gold for spiritual purity continues in the description of the New Jerusalem in which nothing, and no one, that or who is impure will be allowed to enter (Rev 21:1-4; Is 60:14; Mt 5:14). We read of precious metals used for this city in simile (Rev 21:18-21). Note the one street of pure gold as it were transparent glass – the one and the same Holy Spirit through and serving us all, because of His initiative and Him enabling us to regain our authority again on earth (Mt 28:18; Jn 3:15-21; Acts 4:12). And we have been given a free ability and choice by God’s grace alone (Rev 21:14-15; Josh 24:14-15). This is discussed in more detail in the other papers such as “The Will” and “The Gospel” on www.gospel-truth.co.za.
Note on Ps 26:2. Consider the next verses as well (note vv 3,4,9 with Jn 16:9). God is not double-minded – Heb 13:8,9; Js 1:13,16-17 (Lk 4:18). The word in Ps 26:2 is בּחןbâchan (H974), a primitive root; to test (especially metals); generally and figuratively to investigate, with the idea to examine, prove – but not to tempt in the sense that we understand temptation that is of the devil. Even contemplating the paper “The Voice of God” can reveal a perception of Truth (Jn 14:6; 1:1-4,14) as Solomon experienced in Prov 24:32 (vv 30-33). Take special heed to Is 5:18-21; 54:12,13; Prov 6:16-17; 11:20; 12:22; 16:25; Rom 12:9. It is thus us that get opportunities in trial to show our mettle (Phil 3:9; 4:12-13). Selah.
Drastic difference between “gold tried in the fire,” and “Baptism of fire”
To be “tried by fire” is desirable; while a “baptism in fire” is undesirable!
When it comes to religion, you don’t want a “Baptism of Fire” (yet)! This is also a military term referring to the first experience of actual combat. In matters of religion, it refers to something different, something that no one would ever want or ask for while unprepared [unsaved]. This is not necessarily contradicting 2 Tim 1:7-8; 4:1-5; but merely saying that the “baptism of fire” can for a non-spiritual person mean his end, while “trials by fire” can still offer a process whereby the unbeliever, the ignorant, or misled [darkened, misinformed] person can still come to his senses and be “purified” by making right choices. Note that the old nature of a saved person (Rom 10:9-10) should be dead as all that sin was paid for once for all by Jesus Christ with His Blood (Heb 10:14) – not by anything the person does, whoever he/she is. The paper “The Gospel” expands on this. This is why we have to renew [“purify”] our minds to align with what God has said and have provided (Eph 1:3-14). You are either pure in Jesus Christ or not (1 Jn 1:7). You cannot purify yourself in the way most people seem to think, but we can only “purify” ourselves in our thought-lives [“hearts”] which will produce the desirable results (Rom 12:9 and 8:14-17 and so on) when in Christ, filled and operating with Holy Spirit. Neither is there any requirement [or logic, or Scripture] saying that we still have to be purified in fire when our bodies die and before our soul and spirit can enter heaven, as the Roman Catholic Church propagates (see “Church part two”). Especially not by paying an earthly institution claiming to [be able to] shorten this “Purgatory”! This is what it means to be re-born (Jn 3:3; 1 Jn 3:18-24) and to [can] LIVE…
The judgement of 1 Cor 3:11-15 is for believers (Mt 5:8; 7:15-29; 13:41-43; Jn 1:12; 12:48; 15:1-5; Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 4:4,5; 2 Cor 5:9,10; Col 3:23-25; Heb 13:21; 1 Jn 2:28,29; 3:17-24). Note that this judgement is not “the lake of fire” (Rev 21:8) when all evil will be destroyed once for all (see the paper “Hell”). The basic problem, once more and still, is that the self gets in our way (Gal 5:4,16-21). Why don’t we go for purified gold (Ps 19:14; Eccl 12:10-14; Rom 8:8; Eph 5:5-17; Phil 3:9; 1 Pet 1:7-8; 2:5)?
Note on 1 Jn 1:8-10. This is explained in papers such as “The Gospel”. There are generally two erroneous teachings related to God’s grace, and they are the following:
(1) Antinomianism. From the Greek άντί (473), anti, meaning against; and νόμος (3551), nŏmŏs, meaning law [of Moses], prescriptive regulation. This teaching claims that man cannot be held accountable to any moral law, and that it is only required to believe [with intellectual cognizance] and then can continue doing as he pleases. (Try Rom 6:16-23; with 12:9…). Remember that Jesus Christ paid for us to be free of sin, not to continue in sin.
(2) Perfectionism. This propagates the idea that the sin nature in man is eradicated as if it was surgically removed from man’s capacity [to sin]. These heretical teachers even claims that Jesus keeps on removing your continual sin as if it does not exist [by your habitual choice]. No, you retain your will [as an ability to freely choose] as it was given by God and we must (should as re-born Christians in unfeigned love), “cling to” Jesus Christ (2 Cor 10:3-6; Heb 10:26-31…).
No, what John (in 1Jn 1:9-2:2) is talking about, is a particular action [slip, mistake]. John was using the aorist tense, mentioning one specific point in the past when an unintended error slipped in. Pre-meditated, habitual, and continuous actions against God’s will [intent] is none less than animosity mocking [challenging] God! John is clear that merely acting good can impossibly make anyone righteous – hence the corruption in the world and the hiding behind religion(s). Other references are Scriptures such as 1 Jn 3:6-9; Rom 6:1-4; 11:6; Heb 10:26-39.
It is very important to understand I Jn 1:9 correctly. The confession of sin does not save anyone; confessing the Truth that the Blood of Jesus Christ paid for all sin once for all, is what saves the sinner. Neither do we have to confess sin in order to remain saved, but we admit wrong to come back into agreement with God and out of agreement with the devil. The confession, then, is aimed at killing all double-mindedness (Js 1:5-8; Jn10:27), not to pay for that sin. Jesus Christ paid – once for all – for all sin of all mankind on His cross at Calvary – it is done (Heb 10:14)! Confessing [admitting] sin stops Satan [a defeated foe, Col 2:15!] from dominating us [our thought-life] through that sin – by our choice – and we admit [submit to God’s grace] that we draw the forgiveness and purity of Jesus Christ, that is already in our born-again spirits, out of our flesh [unrenewed way of thinking, Rom 8:6-15; Gal 2:4-6,14,19; 3:11-13]; and get in Him when He is in us. If we genuinely love Jesus, we will hate what He hates (Rom 12:9), and follow Him [His teaching, Spirit-Words that is Life continually and habitually with joy because we see results on prayer and prophecy].
Spirituality (righteousness) is therefore not achieved by any self-centered efforts to control lust and greed, but by clothing yourself with Jesus Christ, and so get in Him. He is the perfect garment, armor, image (Eph 6:10-13; Rom 13:14)… When you do this, you will remove what is contrary to His will [teaching, Word]. True wisdom is to follow His Spirit inside of you (Jn 14:26; Rom 8:14), not man-made philosophies and dead religious preaching’s of empire-builders. The renewed mind of a re-born Christian will be “purified” by fire in the sense of demonstrating the obedience (right choices) to our living Lord God (Jn 4:24; 12:48), that can be a process by which we rid ourselves of impure thoughts, and not as a means of saving ourselves or obtaining a righteousness of our own (Phil 3:9). We simply “purify” our hearts by cleaning our unrenewed thoughts and resultant deeds in an unfeigned love, hence scriptures such as 1 Cor 3:11-20; 6:9-20.
The “baptism of fire”, as John the Baptist warns (Mt 3:10-12), seems to be an example (as for that Fig tree – the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes), of Holy Spirit given to those who do repent and produce “good fruit” (Mt 7:15-23; 12:32-37; Jn 15:1-6), the “wheat” of the analogy. Note that baptism in water is a personal pledge of repentance, and a profound symbol of death and resurrection and not the liturgical ceremony where a babe is sprinkled with water (see the paper “Baptism”). Holy Spirit will ultimately be the means for those who have it to survive the “baptism of fire,” the baptism in fire that awaits the rest, the “chaff.” More references to the immersion in fire (the literal meaning of the original Greek word for baptize means to immerse) can be found in Mt 13:37-43. Jesus said “Who have ears to hear, let him hear…
When the earth is purified with fire, only those who have been transformed by the Holy Spirit into actual spirit beings (that which is born of the Spirit) will survive (Lk 12:49; 17:29-30; 1 Cor 3:13,15; Heb 10:26,27; 2 Pet 3:7,10). Terrifying stuff for the light-hearted and inconsistent, indeed.
How are we purified as gold and silver?
From the paper “Christian Suffering”, the following Note on Mal 3:3; Tit 2:14: It is a catastrophe to buy into the misconception [lie] that God will bring calamity over you in order for you to be “purified” in increasingly more demanding steps! It became popular to preach that, to be purged as gold or silver, means to be heated by (God’s) fire to scoop off the impurities as it boils to the surface until you have been purified – step by painful step. This might sound good, but is not true and a terrible mix-up of truth and error.
How did Jesus present God as a Father to us (Mt 7:9-12)? Think about it. Would a perfectly good God [the Source of all good, ethic, etc.] need anything bad to reveal His goodness [Himself]? This is the reasoning of a confused [darkened] human mind, not at all who God showed Himself to be – Mt 5:45; 7:9-12; Rom 3:8; 6:16-23; 2 Cor 9:8; Eph 2:4-13; Ps 34:8; 86:5; 136:1-4; 145:9; (Is 29:13); and so on! God = Love, Life, Good, etc; God has NO evil or bad and therefore never causes [has no need for] evil, calamity, disasters to let us know He is only Good (1 Tim 4:4-7; 2 Tim 3:12-14; Rom 10:17)!!! Phil 4:7 (Mt 11:28-30; 2 Tim 3:11) also says that re-born Christians can [should] fear nothing from God. Then, also, is there only one way [closer] to God, and it’s not via calamity (Jn 14:6).
Refer to the basic meaning of the word “trial” at the beginning of this paper. Yes, difficulties and adversities (“fire”) will give us a means to purge impurities but it is not God that brings “arranges” any bad! If God as a Spirit is inside of you [your thought-life, “heart”] constantly and consistently – by your choice – then you will certainly have the opportunity to prove 1 Jn 4:4; Phil 4:13,19; and so on. In other words, God already gave you [only] what is good! In times of “trial”, you get to prove this to the world. The world (self, or devil) does not give you good qualities, you use God’s imparted good to overcome evil and adversities. The impurities that will “come out” are similar to not having time for nonsense when you are tired or in a life-threatening situation – you will not tolerate any “impurities” then, and this is when we realise we should in fact never tolerate what is not True. It has always been due to our own chain of poor choices that we have accumulated impurities in our soul and this is where “fire” gives us the opportunity to take the time and effort to get this out of our system – for good! We get a crucial wake-up call and get to choose – for good. It is not the circumstance [devil or self] that imparts good to us, it is God’s goodness inside that now reveals its true treasure hidden deep inside of us as patience, endurance, kindness, mercy, love… (Gal 5:22-26). It is equally prudent to take note of the verses just prior to this listing, what is not of God (Gal 5:17-21).
Crux of the matter
We learnt earlier that [all] gold is pure gold. Only when mixed with other metals can we grade it (by karat). Similarly, mixing good and bad taints what is [perfectly] good. It’s not the one against the other, but the mixing of two incompatibles that can blend, be tolerated, mixed, to produce a different quality/function. Jesus Christ performed a perfectly good work in “preparing the place” in our hearts by perfectly representing all humans as sons [children] to a perfect Father-God. Jesus Christ of Nazareth paid with His Blood for all sin of all mankind and that makes us all pure – only if we believe this [trust in it sufficiently to act – and live – accordingly and not mix it with other ideas and dogmas that men came up with as in Eccl 12:10-14. Recall what we have to bear in mind (p.1 above)]. We should follow Jesus Christ and His Spirit available to dwell inside of us]. Impure thoughts must be removed by us to renew our minds. This will happen habitually when we are sufficiently alert [enlightened] to recognise crucial choices in every circumstance and situation when “the heat is on” [a choice has to be made]; knowing God is not the source of trouble, evil, adversity or calamity; but instead is the Father stretching out His hands to help.
Carefully contemplate 1 Jn 3:20. Note the “self-accusation” of guilt. Contemplate thus Rom 8:2-4 (Rom 5:12-17) and bear in mind that “devil” means “false accuser”, the one that enters as impure thoughts when allowed by a mind suspicious of a perfect God, hence hints such as Js 4:7! Consider the paper “The Testimony”, if you will. We might be at a calamitous juncture of unbelief shunning the Light of Jesus Christ and the salt might just have lost its strength [by ignorance, pride and religious traditions – Mt 5:14-16]. This quite possibly is the reason why Jesus has not returned yet (Heb 10:13). Yes, He is waiting on us!… God has the initiative but we are too stuck in our conceited and puffed-up minds (Rom 8:5-11,14). God help us!
We can thus see the danger of burning (destroying) ourselves when “playing with fire”. This implies a frivolous and ignorant handling of matters where a serious choice is (again, pardon the respectful pun) at stake with an eternal result. A crossroads where the right choice [action, result, as in 2 Cor 10:5], will “purify” us because our impurities [old nature that was cleansed by Jesus’ Blood but was not realized by us (1 Pet 1:18)] came to the surface [was revealed] due to “fire” when “the heat is on” [when circumstances or wicked people make us realise a choice has to be made] and these “impurities” are then so removed by our scooping it off [removing it]. What is then left is separated and set apart [“holy”, pure]. We will do well to remember Eph 4:12-15 and Rom 8:30-39. The list of “impurities” can be impossibly long with also things such as wrong teachings, false concepts/ideas/beliefs, distrust [suspicion] towards God, suspecting God of using evil, etc. – Prov 6:16-17 (Ps 120:2-3); 11:20; 12:22; 14;5; 16:5,18,25; 17:3,7,15; 20:23; 21:3; 24:16,24,25; Rev 22;15; and so on.
When we contemplate Scriptures such as Num 19:12,19,20; 31:19,20; Job 41:25; is 66:17; Ez 43:26; Jn 11:5; and Acts 21:24, we see that it is the self [our own thought-life, “heart” of Rom 10:9] that must be purified such as read in Rom 12:2; 2 Cor 10:5; Js 4:8 with Js 1:6-8. This is why a coward is such a disaster and disgrace to God’s Kingdom (Rev 3:15-22; 21:8; Rom 1:16-22). What, in fact, therefore should happen to the real re-born Christian is that your Source inside (1 Jn 4:4; Phil 4:13) will show to be real when misfortune strikes for whatever reason; but never the reason that God caused any misfortune in any way, shape or form (1 Jn 3:18-24; Js 1:13). God does not need any mishaps, tragedy, disaster, etc. for any human to [be able to] go to Him! There is no other way than via Jesus Christ crucified (Jn 14:6; 3:15-21; Acts 4:12); hence 1 Cor 1:21-2:2! There is no requisite anywhere in God’s Word, and it is illogical (screams against Who God is and is not), to think you have to be “tested” and then found good on your own merit to be able to go to God as if God’s salvation plan in Jesus Christ failed and needs God to manipulate us in addition to what is said in Heb 10:14 (and the rest of the Bible, in context, as expanded on in the papers such as “The Gospel” and “Christian Suffering”, “Visitations to heaven and hell”, “Pornography and witchcraft”, etc. in www.gospel-truth.co.za)!
Note on Eccl 7:14 (The joy of the Lord). Carefully refer to Is 64:5; Ps 35:9; 63:1-11. The crucial, vitally important distinction must be made between good and bad (even the mixing of the two, Gen 2:9; Rev 2:7; 22:14,19). God alone is the Source of Life and all good; and the devil (even the self) is behind death and all things bad. Do not confuse the two (Is 5:18-21)! A fatal error in reasoning is to connect these two extremes by thinking that, because you ended up closer to God after an ordeal, that God must have caused [orchestrated] the dread in order to get you closer to Him – this is wrong (Js 1:13; 4:4-8; 1 Jn 4:4)!!! The fact that bad had happened, and that you could [always] have turned to God for help, does not make Him the culprit!!! He is just always there for us. He is not an insecure, underhanded manipulator! Rather think how you got where you were [by yourself or because of wicked people]. Of course you’ll be closer to Him after dropping the false guides and self-righteousness and going to Him; but this does not mean He needed anything bad or evil for you to go to Him! You could [should] have been that close – even in Him and Him in you – as He invited us to do from the beginning! Consider the “roadmap” in the paper “The Will” as well as the note on Js 1:3 and Is 45:7 in the paper “Christian Suffering”. No, the joy that is of the Lord, is when you realize that – despite any trial and difficulty – you can always rest assure in the fact that God did not cause it and is always available as your Saviour, Guide, Teacher, Intercessor, Comforter, and so on (Jn 14:26,27). Only once we know Him to be above reproach, we’ll have that joy… and peace, not between men but between us and God (Mt 10:34-40; Heb 1:8; 4:12-16; Is 9:6-7) – always. This is what Jesus Christ overpaid for with His Blood on His cross – Eph 1:3-12 (Rom 10:1-3); and now we can rejoice in Rom 8:29-39; Phil 3:9-10; 4:6-9,13,19).
We can conclude with Asaph’s Ps 73 (compared with Jer 12) as a beautiful example of the difference perception [the right attitude, spiritual place] makes. Self-righteous self-pity had Asaph initially blind, and then in verse 17 comes the turning point – he turned toward God, and from verse 18 onwards start to being enlightened by God as a result of his conversation with God and trust in God as a perfect Father. Verses 1-16 were typical of a wrong frame of mind with questioning [doubt, Js 1:6-8] of God’s righteousness! From verse 18 onwards, we see a clearer insight so that he actually starts to pity the poor lost souls he just recently envied. He turned from being like an animal (self-centred, v 22) to being spiritually more mature (God-centred). The conclusion in verses 27-28 is so true: those far away from God shall perish; but it is good to draw near to God and place our [absolute!] trust in the Lord God and to make God our refuge. Then we can tell of His good works and this is the joy of the Lord we can rejoice in – we know for a fact that God never causes any harm at all in any way, but is instead always our ultimate refuge, our Rock through all the ages.
The simile between the purification of humans and that of gold and silver is possibly used because heat causes impurities – lesser traits that does not belong and only spoil the original – to separate [come out] and results in a precious unit that is pure and thus truly useful, beautiful, and to the glory of God. Fire produces heat, and can both destroy and sterilize, depending on what is on the receiving end. God needs nothing bad to show He is good and always at hand to help. He is no extortionist. He just is (I AM of Ex 3:14).
The paths [thought patterns and actions] we follow will determine in what place we end up [due to our own choices]. This can be a place called calamity or a place called blessing. But alas, this we don’t want to hear, especially if we are religious [self-righteous] and “not responsible”. These choices, if they were wrong, can now still be rectified by asking God for His help (Js 1:5; Mt 11:28) and so we rid ourselves of what was impure [in our hearts]. We get these chances because God is Love and extraordinarily patient (2 Pet 3:9) and will discipline us just like a perfect Father would. These corrections can be called discipline, guidance, even rebuke; but will ultimately be for our good. Sometimes, we might end up in situations “innocently”, and still God will always be there in whatever way or form that will be effective, efficient and sufficient (Heb 13:5). We might not want to know it, but even being at an unfortunate place when disaster strikes, can very possibly be because we went there without consulting, or not having had a dialogue with God first (similar to Mt 6:33?).
And yes, our Perfect God is a consuming Fire (Heb 12:25-29; Jn 15:1-8,12). As the Source of all righteousness He should be! Selah (Ex 3:14)! But note that God is Love (1 Jn 4:8) and so genuinely does not extort but just leaves our choices up to us (Jn 12:44-48; 1 Jn 3:3-10). “The heat is on” when we realize what our part and responsibility is, and that Jesus has offered a finished work (Eph 1:3) but that we have to update and align our minds to remove the impure thought-life (be obedient) or be consumed – our choice. Really.
Be blessed in our beloved, in Jesus the Christ of God. Go in peace and happiness and joy.
1 Thess 5:23 to you and those you love!