"For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, and for My praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another." (Isaiah 48:9-11)Everyone who has ever attended school is familiar with taking tests. Teachers administer tests to determine what their students have learned and to identify areas of their education that need further improvement. These tests are diagnostic in nature, they serve to identify what the student knows. Similarly, medical tests are given to identify physical problems within a patient, even problems that may not be immediately evident from just look at them. However, the "testing" of gold if a bit different. The testing of gold has less to do with judging the quality of gold and more to do with the process of purifying gold. The process of testing gold (and silver) involves heating it in a furnace until it melts. Any impurities (known as dross) in the gold will either be burned off or will float to the top. The impurities are then skimmed off leaving behind pure gold.
God is committed to the process of purification in our lives, a process known as sanctification. God calls us "just as you are" but He doesn't want us to stay "just as you are." "For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification." (1 Thessalonian 4:7) This process of sanctification is often not without cost. Often, God will use the furnace of affliction to accomplish our sanctification and to purify our hearts, minds, and souls. Some things in our lives are easily dealt with, but others must be driven our. Some of our impurities are obvious to all while others are hidden and unknown even to ourselves.
When the children of Israel were preparing to enter the promise land, God warned them to be diligent to rid their new land of the enemies of God. To that end, He tells them "I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you." (Exodus 23:28) There have been times when I have felt like my life was full of hornets. My life seemed to be full of difficulty and pain. Everywhere I turned there seemed to be trouble, and I seemed to be facing issues in my life at every corner, issues that I thought I had already overcome. Was it the work of the devil in my life? No, it was the merciful hand of God exposing and driving out the sins that lay hidden inside. God is so committed to my sanctification that, if need be, He is willing to send the hornets to expose them. The furnace of affliction is not the punishment of a mean God, but rather the merciful purifying hand of our heavenly Father. Thank God that He doesn't leave us to our selves and our sins!