The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart. ~ Psalm 17:3
Properties of Gold
Gold makes up only 3.5 parts per billion - yes, BILLION, of the Earth's crust. Platinum constitutes 45 parts per billion and silver 73 parts per billion. Gold is the rarest of the noble metals. That's why gold is so expensive.
Besides its rarity, gold has some other interesting properties. Of all the noble metals, it is the softest. Gold is so soft that in order for it to used commercially, it must first be mixed with other metals. In fact, the more metal that is mixed with the gold, the harder the gold becomes. Surprisingly, the alloys don't effect the color or sheen of the gold - it still looks like pure gold. In it's purest state a nugget of gold the size of a lump of sugar can be hammered int 108 square feet of gold leaf. That's an area that is just over 10 x 10 ft. That gold leaf is so thin that light shines through it. A single human breath can crumple it. That same lump of gold can be drawn out so thinly that it forms thread, which can be used for embroidery. Despite its delicacy, some of golds properties seem the complete opposite. It's extremely resistant to corrosion and oxidation, meaning that it won't tarnish or rust. Acids won't eat it away.
Let's take a minute and make some spiritual applications. Like natural gold, a heart of gold is rare. That rarity makes it very precious. When you turn your heart over to God, asking Him to purify it, it's not something done lightly. Your heart is you store away your real self. There may be areas where no one - not one single person has been allowed access. So when trusting God with your heart, you are entrusting God with your most valuable possession. Like that lump, a willing heart will be pliable and malleable; willing to take on any form God wishes. As stated above, alloyed gold looks identical to pure gold. A person can have a heart that LOOKS pure, but that heart might have added alloys, making it hard. The purer your heart becomes, the less it can be effected by the acid and corrosion of this world.
In the Bible, there are four words that are used for refine: purify, try, purge, and of course, refine. Looking at the Hebrew definition of these words, will give us an idea of what really goes on when God refines your heart.
- Purify. In the Hebrew, taher, meaning "to make bright."
- Refine is tsaraph, which means "to melt or purge away."
- Try is the word bachan, which means "to test metal or investigate."
- Purge is zuqaq. It means "to strain, extract or clarify."
In ancient days, there were two different methods of refining gold. In the first, the gold and was melted. As it melted, the impurities, or dross, would float to the top. The dross would be skimmed off. This process could be repeated over and over until there was no dross left. In the second method, the gold would be mixed with lead, salt and barley, When this mixture was fired in a furnace, the other ingredients would absorb the impurities in the gold. After five days in the furnace, the lead, salt and barley would be vaporized, leaving a pure lump of gold. Both of these methods involved work and patience. Like God's refining process, both were hot, hard and lengthy.
Our hearts can be refined over and over, so don't think that your last trip to God's refining furnace will be your last. Thankfully, each trip results in a purer heart. The impurities become less and less. The purer your heart, the softer and more pliable it becomes. The downside is that the purer your heart becomes, the more difficult the purging process becomes.
A Source of Light
One of the most amazing things about gold is it's makeup. Ready for some spiritual chemistry? The outer shell of gold's atomic framework has one solitary free electron. When you look at gold, and it's shining and almost translucent, it's that single electron that gives gold that luster. When light hits it, that free electron absorbs the energy from the light. This causes the electron to jump into a higher, faster orbit around the gold atom. The nucleus of the gold atom eventually pulls the electron back into its normal orbit. As the electron falls back into the normal orbit, the extra light energy is is released as visible light. Gold really does emit light.
Now for the spiritual chemistry lesson. A heart of gold will have one single source of radiance. He is the Truth and the Light. (John 14:6) When a golden heart absorbs The Light (Jesus), He is released. If we have a golden heart, then He should be visible to the world through us.
Old Gold and New Gold
In the Old Testament, the most prized possession was The Ark of the Covenant. It must have been beautiful. It was covered inside and out with gold. On top of it was the mercy seat, covered with angel wings, crafted out of gold. The Ark was kept in the Holy of Holies - an area of the temple that only the priests were allowed to enter - and then only one day out of the year. On the Day of Atonement, God would come down, manifest His presence and communicate with The High Priest.
There were three items within the Ark: the stone tablets on which The Ten Commandments were written, a golden pot of manna, and Aaron's budding rod. Most of us are familiar with the stone tablets and manna. Aaron's budding rod was God's sign to Israel that He had chosen Aaron as a priest (Numbers 17:10).
The Old Testament has shadows and types in The New Testament. Some of those parallels can be made between The Ark and our hearts. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says that "your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit." If your body is the temple, what would be your Ark? Your heart - your soul, will, emotions. The place where God communes with you, is your heart.
Hebrews 10:16 says, "I (God) will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them." His laws are written in you heart, just as they were written on the stone tablets. Also in your heart would be the equivalent of Aaron's rod. Remember, the rod was God's way of indicating that Aaron had been chosen High Priest. The Bible says that we are "a chose generation, a royal priesthood..." (1 Peter 2:9)..In John 15:16 we see that we are "chosen and appointed." Like Aaron's rod, we should be producing fruit (Galatians 5:22-25). Only god can supernaturally transform a dead, dried-up heart so that it blossoms and produces fruit. The last item is the manna. All through John chapter 6, Jesus refers to Himself as "The Bread of Life, which came down from Heaven." He is our manna - our God-sent life-giver and sustenance. We need to partake of His word daily in order to live.
God didn't place any of the items in The Ark for the Israelites. They had to put those items within the box. It's up to each and every one of us to gather up and work at making sure we possess these three things.
The three items - the word, the fruit, and Jesus - are what we need to have in our arks or our hearts. It all seems like a lot of work. It is. Refining a heart takes time and patience. Working hand-in-hand with God, communing with Him, spending time in His word, submitting to His work in our lives, realizing that we will have to allow our hearts to be refined more and more - all this might seem overwhelming. Remember, pure gold is refined more than once. It's a process.