For You, O God, have proved us:
You have tried us, as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction upon our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water:
but You brought us out into a wealthy place.
Life Is Hard
Life has been hard lately, really hard. There is no need to go into detail, for we all face hard times, so we all can apply these truths to our unique situations. As I read this psalm, what I came to realize is that God is in complete control of my hard times. Trials are not arbitrary, but they each come with a purpose.
Look for a moment at all the things the psalmist and his friends endured.
For You, O God have proved us; You have tried us, as silver is tried…. To refine silver by fire, it has to be raised to a very high temperature. The silversmith must watch it the entire time because if the fire gets too hot, the silver will burn up; but if the fire is not hot enough, then the impurities will not all be drawn out.
God wants to purge the dross out of my life so that I may come forth as something useful to Him, and valuable. He wants to purify me. Purity is a process, and a painful one at that. It is not easy going through the furnace of affliction, but oh, the end result is so worth it!
The silversmith knows the silver is fully refined when he can see his reflection in it. Similarly, when we have been refined, then God (and others) will see in us the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
Romans 8:29 For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is not punishment; it is purging. What’s the difference? Consider this. Would a smith put iron into the fire and expect it to come out as silver? No! He puts silver into the fire to purify it. In the same way, God does not try the unbeliever to bring him to salvation (there are other means for that). Instead, He tries the believer to rid him of impurities.
You brought us into the net…. God allowed the Israelites to be taken into captivity. It was no accident or series of unfortunate events. It was deliberate; God had a purpose in it, and that purpose was to cause them to repent. As the trying as of silver is meant to purge, so the net is meant to bring men to repentance. When we who belong to God refuse to follow His commands, then He has promised us that He will make life difficult for us in order to draw us back to Himself. This is the same reason why a parent punishes a child. He wants to make the child uncomfortable in the sin so that he will desire to turn from it and follow the right.
Deuteronomy 30:1-3 And it shall come to pass, when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations, where the LORD your God has driven you, and shall return unto the LORD your God, and shall obey His voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul; that then the LORD your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion upon you, and will return and gather you from all the nations, where the LORD your God has scattered you.
You laid affliction on our backs…. The KJV uses the word loins, which represents the seat of strength. The idea here is that God put their strength to the test, He tried them to see how much they could bear, and He did it by testing them at their strongest point.
1 Corinthians 10:13 There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.
So you see that God tests our strength and our endurance, but He is standing right there beside us, serving as our spotter to make sure the weight does not crush us. His purpose is to make us stronger, just like a body builder must push himself to the limit in order to increase his strength.
You have caused men to ride over our heads…. The image here is of a people defeated in battle, lying prostrate in the field as the victors ride over them. Not only is this humiliating, but I’m sure it is also quite frightening, as you wonder whether the horse will step over you or step on you.
Deuteronomy 8:2 And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or no.
Again, there is a purpose to this form of suffering: this one is educational. Do you suppose God needed to know what was in their heart? No, He already knew. But He tested them to show them what was in their heart. I have thought at times that I would obey God no matter what. I’ve even said so. But when the going got tough, I did not always choose the right thing. Sometimes I got quiet to avoid confrontation. So God caused men to ride over my head to show me that I was not yet ready to obey Him. He humbled me, and when I was humbled, then I was ready to obey.
We went through fire and through water…. The nature of their trials was as if they had been made to pass through burning flames and raging seas. Daniel’s three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) literally did pass through the fire. And on two occasions in the history of the nation of Israel, God miraculously parted the water, allowing the people to walk through on dry land. This verse, however, suggests that the waters were not parted, but they had to pass through the midst of the floods. The journey was different, but the end result was the same: they came through safely on the other side. Whether God chooses to part the water or to send us into it, He will always deliver us safely to the other side.
Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon you.
The purpose of these perils is to make us aware of God’s presence. When I was younger, I accepted the fact that God exists. But now that I have been through some hard times, I can say with conviction and assurance that God is real because He has gone with me through the fire and through the water.
God Is Good
But You brought us out into a wealthy place…. They went through all these dreadful things—refining, captivity, affliction, humiliation, and perils—according to the divine will of almighty God. But He did not leave them in the hard place any longer than necessary. When the time of testing was over, God brought them out into a place of overflow and abundance. Isn’t God good!
Psalm 36:8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of Your house; and You shall make them drink of the river of Your pleasures.
Psalm 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
John 10:10 The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Romans 5:17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
2 Corinthians 8:2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.
Recently I was reading about the yellow pine, which is native to the area where I live. I found it interesting that the yellow pine depends upon ground burning in order to survive. The heat of the flames breaks open the seed so it can germinate. The flames also burn up the mulch, allowing the seed to reach the soil underneath so that it may take root. The sap from the trees is highly flammable, which is conducive to the fires necessary for its growth. It is also very sticky, and if it did not get burned away from time to time, the seeds would never reach the soil, and eventually the forest would die.
The God who knows that the yellow pine needs fire to survive, who understands that impurities are drawn out of the silver by the refining fire, the God who allows us to be defeated by the enemy, humiliated and led away captive, the God who sends the storm upon the sea and then sends us out into that storm—He is the same God who knows exactly what you and I need for purification, repentance, edification, and sanctification.
Malachi 3:3 And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
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Photo courtesy of firesmith from Pixabay