Remove the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith; remove the wicked from the king’s presence and his throne will be established through righteousness. Proverbs 25, verses 4 and 5.
I’ve never worked in a refinery or a metals plant. I toured one once, and my father in law used to work in a plant where they made aluminum engine castings. From what I understand, in that process, they would take melted aluminum and machines would mold it into car parts. As the metal melted, any impurities in it would be skimmed or filtered off and thrown away. That way, the desired engine parts could be made of only pure metal so they would be durable and of the highest quality.
Is this principle any different from other things in our lives?
This morning, I was on the Facebook page of a friend of mine. This man an atheist who uses his page as much to advance and defend his disbelief in God as much as I use mine to advance my belief. He’s a good man and a good friend, even as I reject his belief in atheism. A fire and brimstone preacher (or even a soft spoken one well-versed in his Bible) might say that such people are the dross who will be skimmed on Judgment Day. That’s true…but it isn’t yet that day; I’m not in charge of that one so I won’t worry about it. Until that time, because my friend embraces reason as a basis for his life, I hold that there is hope for him to see the foundation of reason and truth that is faith in the Almighty. His heart can be a work in progress, ripe ground for the Spirit to walk in and get to work if only my friend will open the gate. Were I a king, would I remove such a ‘wicked,’ unbelieving man from my throne room? To be honest, probably not.
Probably not because he’s as much a child of God as you or I. Children don’t have to acknowledge their parents to still be their children. I know many people who are estranged from their parents, even a co-worker who is currently in a big fight with his mother. He is still her son and she is still his mother, even when they can’t see or won’t speak with each other. Why is it so different with people and God? I don’t think it is. It’s a good thing I’m not a king.
And it may seem like all this is digressing, but perhaps it isn’t. The concepts of purifying metal, my atheist friend, and parental estrangement are more related in Scripture, and in verses like today’s, than they are anywhere else. I think you can’t believe that Scripture is a love letter from God without understanding that He wrote that letter (and translates it into our hearts today) to people who were the dross that should be filtered from his holiness. If I died without Salvation, I couldn’t stand in front of God, face to face, which is foretold for the believer and unbeliever alike. Wearing the purity of His Salvation, God will see past my wickedness and see it has been made clean in His own way. Without wearing it, I would be removed from the King’s presence and cast out with all the other unholy impurities.
Just as an induction furnace melts metal to remove undesirable, just as a skeptic uses reason to try to understand the world in which he places himself, and just as people struggle in relationships, so we are purified, reasoned, and struggling every day in this world. We weren’t made for this: we were made for better. We were made for eternity, which matters whether you’re stuck in the undesirable dross of your own junk or hip-deep in the rejection of things that you haven’t let really work on your hurting heart. We matter; you matter. You, me and all of us matter because we were made to share His love here, which is ultimate reason (remember: freedom is love is truth is life and all are Him and from Him) so that we might all share it together forever. We’re better than this.
It hurts to be refined. I know metal doesn’t have feelings, but if it did, I’m sure it would hurt to have things bonded to you melted away. It hurts to confront your feelings and emotions, and to think that things that most of the world believes are the reason for that hurt. And it hurts to love other people sometimes…or does it? Maybe the source of all these hurts isn’t the love – or God – itself. Maybe the source is what is opposite to God, which we let influence our lives and actions. That’s a proposition as old as humanity itself, going all the way back to the first pair of naked humans, going even farther back into eternity, before humanity, to a timeless battle from heaven in which rebellion first presented itself. We struggle with it today; I do in the pride of these words, and I’m sure you do in your own way too. When we allow Him to go to work on us, we are being purified, made ready for Him as the silversmith to make us into something beautiful, useful and valuable. The hope for the day is to have the dross of what makes us struggle refined out of us by the purifying wisdom of Salvation, letting Him take away what matters least and replacing it with eternity, which truly matters most.