The Promise of Refinement

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 27 May 2010 


[Ed.: We are on a series of studies based on the great and precious promises in the Word of God based on 2 Peter 3:1. In this series, we hope to traverse the Scripture and draw out one promise from each book of the Bible for our mediation. We have so far covered the 17 historical books that stand at the first section of the Old Testament. In this article, we are entering into the poetic section of the Old Testament, beginning with the book of Job.]

“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)

Many Old Testament scholars believe that the book of Job is a very ancient document written even before the Pentateuch. Indeed, it appears that at least a couple of dinosaurs were still alive (cf. Job 40:13; 41:1) when the book was written.

This book begins with Satan seeking permission from God to make Job suffer to see if he would blaspheme God. God granted him permission and so he began to torment Job. Job lost his wealth, his flock, his children and his health. But by the grace of God, he remained steadfast.

The rest of the book comprises a series of conversation between Job and his friends who had come to comfort him. Apparently, however, Job and his friends, with the exception of Elihu had a slightly faulty theology.

They had the idea that if a person suffers terribly in this life, it must be because he had sinned terribly. Otherwise, God would not chastise so severely, or so they thought. So one by one, Job’s friends, out of good intention, sought to get Job to confess and repent of his sins.

But Job was a righteous man who feared the Lord. Though he was not perfect, he sought to live a life that bought honour the Lord. As such Job, started to defend himself against his friends. He never claimed to be sinless, but neither did he sin as grievously and shamelessly as his friend suggested he must have.

At the same time, as Job also entertained to a degree the same proverbial idea that suffering in this life should be meted out according to the sinfulness of the individual. Therefore, Job was quite indignant and on several occasions questioned the fairness of God.

Job’s friend Elihu saw Job’s and his other friends’ errors and tried to correct them. But ultimately it was when God spoke that Job was silenced and realised how he had spoken unadvisedly. And God did not even address Job’s question of fairness. All he did was to ask Job to consider how infinitely greater and wiser God is compared to him.

But now, despite his error in thinking and the LORD’s admonishment, Job was a saint in suffering whose patience is worthy of our emulation (cf. Jms 5:11).

In particular, Job makes several very beautiful statements which many of us, I believe, find to be extremely encouraging in times of trials. One of these statements is essentially an expression of faith in the Lord that He is always good and considerate towards his saints—even in trials. I am referring to Job 23:10—

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Let’s consider these words under three sub-headings according to the natural divisions of the promise:


1. The LORD knows our Path

Job says in the context:

8 Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: 9 On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: 10 But he knoweth the way that I take…” (Job 23:8-10)

What is Job saying? Essentially what he is saying is that although I do not see God, He sees me. Although I do not always understand his ways, He always understand my ways. “He knoweth the way that I take…

God is omniscient. He knows all things—including everything about me: how I think, what I see, what I hear, what I say and what I do.

But is He only a bystander watching the world go by? No, when Job says: “He knoweth the way that I take,” he is implying that God is sovereignly in control of his life. He knows my way in that He has ordained my ways and directed by ways by his providential power.

Look at Proverbs 16:19—

“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”

The Spirit who inspired Job is the same who inspired Solomon. A man may have many plans and devices. He may make many decisions, but ultimately it is the Lord that directs his steps. The LORD knows his ways because He directs His steps.

But how does the LORD direct the steps of man? Does he do so in a neutral way—just like the way he directs the lives of animal to sustain their existence in this world as much as it serves His glory?

Well no; the Scriptures is clear. Look at Psalm 1:6—

“For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” (Ps 1:6)

Now, there is an antithetical parallelism in this verse that implies. What that means is that the two parts of the verses are antithetical. So if the way if the ungodly shall perish, then what is implied is that the way of the righteous shall be blessed. What this also means is that the Lord knows the way of the righteous for good!

The same truth is taught in Proverbs 3:6—

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:6).

Job was confident that the Lord knows his ways and direct his steps for good because he feared the Lord and sought to follow after him.

You too can have the same confidence, beloved brethren and children. When you love the Lord and seek first His kingdom, you can have the assurance that He knows your ways and will direct your steps for good. You can have this assurance day by day. You can have this assurance when the sun is shining brightly and the breeze is blowing. You can also have the same confidence when the storm is brewing and the sun is hidden behind dark storm clouds.

This is exactly what Job is saying in the second part of his statement, for he reminds us that…


2. Every Suffering is a Trial in the LORD’s Hand

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

When Job says that God knows the way that he takes, he is saying that God is in sovereign control over life. But you know it is one thing to think that God is directing your steps when things are going well in your life. It is quite another thing to believe that when things are really bad, God is still in control.

Job believed. He knew that nothing is outside God’s control. Even when things are really really bad, God is in control.

Satan may indeed be involved. In the case of Job Satan was involved. Indeed, we know from what the Lord told Peter that Satan sometimes ask for permission to sieve God’s children like wheat. So there are times when a child of God could go through very severe suffering where Satan has a hand in it.

However, we must remember that God does not loose control. “When he hath tried me…” says Job. Whatever may be the circumstance. Whoever may be involved. It may involved a loved one. It may involve a superior at work; a brother in Christ; or a stranger. It may involve a bacteria or virus. It may involve a neuro-chemical. Or it may even be Satan. Whoever it may be, the LORD is in control.

Beloved brethren and children, remember: Whatever suffering you may have to endure, you must know and believe that it is the sovereign Lord who is trying you. It is not chance. It is not an enemy. It is the LORD the lover of your soul.

Sufferings are a means by which God would try you. This is why James says: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations [i.e. trial]” (James 1:2).

By why does the LORD try us or chasten us?

Job gives us the answer in the third part of his statement of faith —“I shall come forth as gold.” Here, we see that…


3. The LORD is Refining us Through Trials

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Gold when it is mined must be refined before it can be useful. How is gold refined? By subjecting the nuggets to intense heat in a furnace which would melt the gold and burn away the impurities (Prov 17:3).

Then the liquid gold is poured into the mould and moulded according to what the craftsman wants to make of it.

This is what God was doing with Job. Job was a righteous saint; but God would refine him further. He had to be tried and proven. He had to be subjected to intense heat so that the dross might be burned away and he becomes a vessel even more useful to the LORD.

Although Job felt indignant that he had to suffer so terribly when he did not commit some terrible sin, he understood that God was refining him and he would come out stronger and better. Though he had rather not go through the process, he was confident that when he came out of it, he would be a better person, moulded for the LORD’s glory and use.

This, beloved brethren and children, must be our own confidence when we suffer trials. James put it this ways:

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas 1:2-4).

Are you going through a difficult trial? I know many of us are. Whatever your trial may be, remember that God is in control. He is seeking to cultivate your faith and your Christian character of patience, hope and love for the Lord (Rom 5:1-5). He is as it were, burning away your sin and sloth, your bad habits, your errors and wrong thinking patterns, etc.

Remember that he is working all things together for your good.

Remember that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6).

Remember that when he knows the way that you take, when He has tried you, you will come forth as gold. This is the Lord’s promise for all His children.


Conclusion

Learn therefore to rest in the Lord. Stop fighting against the circumstances in your life—even if it involves suffering. Pray not so much for deliverance from the trial as for Lord’s strength and wisdom to grow in the trial.

Remember that the Lord is knows your way. He is in control even when apparently bad things happen to you. And He is refining you so that you may enjoy him and glorify more both in this life and the life to come. Amen. Ω