Often, fire in the Bible is seen as a consuming force but, in reality, fire is used in many forms and for different reasons. Research has shown that fire was used in the normal sense for such purposes as cooking (Exodus 12:8; John 21:9), providing warmth (Isaiah 44:16; Luke 22:55), and refining metals (Exodus 32:24; Jeremiah 6:29), but also for destroying such things as idols (Exodus 32:20; Deuteronomy 7:5, 25), chariots (Joshua 11:6, 9), cities (Joshua 6:24; Judges 18:27), and the culprits in two cases of sexual breach (Leviticus 20:14; 21:9). It also played an important part of the worship services in the tabernacle and temple where the altar of incense and altar of burnt offering constantly required it. The fire on the latter, having been started by God (Leviticus 9:24; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3), was kept burning continuously (Leviticus 6:13) and was special; hence, offerings by means of “strange fire” were not acceptable (Leviticus 10:1; Numbers 3:4; 26:61).
However, fire used to refine metals always gets my attention. Malachi 3:3 (NKJV) says: “He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver.” This verse reminds me of a popular illustration from an unknown author that I read some time ago about some women in a Bible study who wondered how this scripture reflected the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to further investigate the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible study.
The woman contacted a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. While there, she curiously observed as he held a piece of silver over the fire for the silver to become heated. The silversmith explained that in refining silver, it was most effective to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where it is hottest and allow the flames to consume all the impurities.
The woman thought about how God “sits as a refiner and a purifier of silver” and sometimes holds us in “hot spots.” She asked the silversmith if he, in fact, had to sit there in front of the fire for the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered, “Yes.” He explained that while sitting there holding the silver in the flame, he had to keep careful watch during the entire process—never taking his eyes off it—because if the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment, then asked, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s easy! It is fully refined when I see my image in it.” You might be feeling the “heat” from financial difficulty, social pressure, stress, mortgage deadline, declining health, or divorce. Remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
One last verse: 1 Peter 1:6, 7 (ESV), says, “ In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let your tests become your testimonies of the way God holds you each minute of your life.