The other day, Sam sent me an email which does the rounds from time to time, a reflection on Malachi 3.3. It is quite lovely, and in case you haven't read it, I'll print it here.
Malachi 3:3 says: 'He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.'
This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God.
One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining Silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: 'He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.' She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.
The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, 'How do you know when the silver is fully refined?'
He smiled at her and answered, 'Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it.'
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire , remember that God has his eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
Pass this on right now. This very moment, someone needs to know that God is watching over them.
It's a lovely story, but I wanted to know if it was true. So I emailed Rauni Higson, a silversmith in North Wales, who has made some beautiful silver articles for us here at St Catherine's. The chalice and paten in the picture at the top are hers. I asked her if the story rang true.
This was her reply.
The story works quite well. The details are basically accurate, but of course it glosses over some technical aspects that might get in the way of the flow! It's talking about melting silver in a crucible, I think, which does get rid of impurities for sure, but it's not quite refining in a metallurgical sense... The bits about the hottest part are quite right. You also need bellows to get the fire hot enough, another reason why it requires constant attention and tending. The fire will burn away plenty of impurities alright, but not every one. I think the reflection of the image, is referring to when the silver becomes liquid; at first it has a kind of crinkled crust, then it suddenly becomes mercurial, and the surface is totally reflective, flashing and rolling in the heat. It's very beautiful.
So - the Malachi image may or may not be referring to this kind of refining; but this picture of careful purifying rings true, and the beauty of the reflection of the refiner being made clear at the point of purity is a wonderful and striking image.
You may not have needed the detail; but when I use this illustration, I shall do so now knowing that it is more than a pretty story.