Proverbs 17:3

“The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,

  and the Lord tests hearts.”

Proverbs 17:3 ESV

Having been a bench jeweler in my earlier days, I always enjoy Bible references to gold and silver. Here, the writer uses a word picture from the artisan’s shop to make a spiritual point.

Jewelers place precious metals into a crucible, then add fire. This causes the metal to soften until it is eventually liquid. In the liquid state, the molecules spin, which causes the impurities to surface. These impurities – sometimes called sludge or dross – can then be separated off from the precious metal, thus purifying the whole.

Using that analogy, the writer indicates that it is God who tests and purifies our hearts. Here, the testing seems to be multi-faceted. First, there is the sense of examining the condition or purity. Second, the crucible can be used to increase the purity. Finally, precious metals are heated for shaping purposes. If we put all these purposes together, we might say, “God examines our hearts, purifies our hearts, then shapes them into something beautiful for His glory.”

Most of my readers have heard of 14K gold jewelry, but many may not know exactly what that means, … except that it is “real gold.” Most gold jewelry is an alloy, which means it is part gold and part some other metal(s). The rating of gold purity is based on the number 24. Each part of the 24 parts that is gold is indicated by a number followed by k or karat. So, a 24 karat gold item is 24 parts gold and 0 parts any other metal. The common 14 karat gold chain or ring is 14 parts gold mixed with 10 parts of some other metal, which is 58.333% pure gold. 18K is equal to 75% pure gold. The higher the k-count, the higher the purity.

Paul uses this same imagery in 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (ESV) to describe how he was made fit to be a Gospel witness. “For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” In these verses, the words approved and tests, are the same Greek word (dokimazō), which corresponds with the Hebrew word (bāḥan) translated as tests in Proverbs 17:3

Using this analogy, when you measure the purity of your heart, are you a 10K, 14K, 18K Christian? Are you happy with that number, or would you like to get closer to 24K? Remember, it takes heat to purify precious metals. Are you willing to have God test your heart, to put some heat on you to purify your heart?

Proverbs 17:10

“A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding

  than a hundred blows into a fool.”

Proverbs 17:10 ESV

This proverb speaks to the stubbornness of a fool, his unwillingness to be corrected.

Lord, please make me a man of understanding.

Proverbs 17:4

“An evildoer listens to wicked lips,

    and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.”

Proverbs 17:4

Note the parallels. I think most people would consider a liar to be untrustworthy or someone to avoid. However, I doubt many people would normally substitute the word evildoer in place of liar. Nor, do I think many people would normally think of someone who lies as having “wicked lips.” My natural reaction is that those substitutions sound harsh. Yet, God interchanges these words in these ways.

One thing I think this reveals is the contrast between how people tend to view sin and how God views sin. It seems to me that God sees sin as exceedingly sinful (or evil) and I tend to soften it a bit. Does that make me kinder than God? Not at all. It makes me less accurate than God.

Lord, help me to see how evil sin is, resulting in a greater desire to avoid it and to walk in righteousness.

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