Refined By Fire

Haftarah Reading: Acharei Mot/Kedoshim (Ezekiel 22:1-19)
Gospel Reading: 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Corinthians 3:13
Commentary by: Daniel Clayton

I’m a firm believer in giving credit where credit is due, so I would like to thank Matthew Day for helping me find a B’rit Hadashah portion to pair with this haftarah. My wife and I recently welcomed our first child into the world, so even though my joy and fulfillment in life has much increased, I’ve found myself lacking in time, energy, and the ability to think at full capacity. So thank you, Matthew, for getting me started here.

Human being, the house of Israel has become an alloy of base metals for me; they are all copper, tin, iron and lead mixed together in the crucible, the dross left over from the silver. Therefore Adonai Elohim says this: ‘Because you have all become dross, I will collect all of you inside Yerushalayim. (Ezekiel 22: 18-19)

Metals are used as examples often throughout the Scripture, and rightfully so, for they have much to teach. If you’re like me, then the extent of your knowledge of mining doesn’t branch far past Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or the TV show Prospectors. But I think I can fairly certainly say that, for the most part, when you take a pick-axe into a mine and start pickin’ away at the cavern walls, sterling silver rings and rose gold necklaces typically don’t come raining down. No, mining is more involved than that. You don’t just waltz on into a cave and start swimming through seas of coins—it’s a process. You have to build supports around the walls to ensure you don’t bury yourself. You have to toil with your tools, wiping the sweat from your brow as you desperately hope that you’ll find even a faint glimmer behind the wall of stone. Only then can you obtain the metals in their most basic, unrefined form. The cool thing is: this is similar to what God does for us.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, he is patient with you; for it is not his purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that everyone should turn from his sins. (2 Peter 3: 9)

As much as a miner pursues precious metals, God is in pursuit of us many times more. He goes out of His way to show Himself as good to us, to wow us, and to make us His. But assuming that we’re all human here, none of us really start out as a shiny gold coin, or even a copper one, when we accept God. He loves us as He pursues us, and He loves us as He perfects us, even though one of those things hurts much worse than the other.

In the verses following the ones quoted, the Almighty states that he will collect Israel and throw them into the fire. It is a difficult judgement to endure, and will come with much pain, but it is a grace nonetheless.

But each one’s work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire—the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:13)

It would be a sad day if the Father left us to our own devices. But He’s not that way. He sends us trials and answers us as we ask for help, helping us to emerge on the other side more refined than we were before. It is His desire to hold us in His hand as a perfect, incorruptible piece of gold, shining His light through the world, and when hard times come, we’re getting one step closer to being there.