Two weeks ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Three weeks from now we will celebrate Christmas. Now is the time when one expects to hear words of gladness and joy at all the wondrous blessings the Lord has provided us this year. But at this moment the last thing I feel like doing is thanking God for His blessing; sharing my gladness for God’s loving-kindness. You see, I don’t feel all that thankful and the last thing I feel right now is gladness or joy. You see the one thing my wife and I have been looking toward and preparing for this year was the adoption of a child. And we learned a few weeks back that this will not be happening. The birth mother has chosen not to go through with the adoption and this has left my wife and I lost and devastated. We feel as if our expectant child has been lost to us and the pain we feel is no less than when we lost a child through miscarriage. So at this moment I find it difficult to say anything thankful or joyous. But it is for that very reason that I know I must.
Our thanksgiving and joy for all the things we receive as pleasing to us tends to make us look inward. Isn’t OUR God great? Look at the great things He has done for me, or in other words, look at me. But when we face hardship and struggles, we tend to look out to God. Help me oh Lord, for only you can. I look to you as my only help. Our text for this morning makes this clear by the stark contrast of the thanksgiving and joy expressed by the Psalmist and the events for which He is thanking God. He writes:Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name”
Can you imagine more jubilant praise? It is like the heavenly host assembled and singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth!” But for what is the Psalmist giving thanks; for what is he expressing such great joy?For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water;
These are grounds for lament not joy, for imprecation not thanksgiving. What great gift have we been given? With what great blessing have we been bestowed? God has not saved us from the nets that ensnare us; He brings us into them. God does not free us from the burdens we bear; He lays crushing burdens on our backs. God does not rescue us from our oppressors; He lets men ride over our heads. And for this we give thanks? For this we sing His praises? How can this be?
Well the secret is to be found in the trying of silver. You see, what the Psalmist is speaking of is the ancient refining process of silver called cupellation. First, the raw ore is heated and beaten, then quenched in water. Then this is repeated again and again. Each time more impurities are forced out of the ore and scraped away. Over and over the ore is heated and beaten and scraped and drowned. And slowly the ore is reduced to a metal amalgam of lead and silver. Then the metal is placed in a crucible and fired until it melts away from the heat. And while in this molten state, air is blown across the surface and very slowly the lead dross solidifies into a powder and is blown away, leaving only pure silver behind.
You see, when we suffer, this is what the Lord is doing with us. When He brings us into the net; when He lays a crushing burden on our backs; when He lets men ride over our heads, He is testing us; He is refining us as silver is refined. He is passing us through the fire and the water. In the crucible of our struggles, He melts us away, and the Spirit comes and blows away the dross of our lives and He reforms us as precious and pure.
Now it is important to understand that apart from the free gift of faith in Jesus Christ, all we are is dross; we are nothing but lead destined to be blown away. But Jesus – the most pure and precious – came and took upon Himself all our dross; all our sin, and endured the fires of suffering, humiliation, and death for our sake. And God raised Him pure and holy from the dead. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, our sins are burned away with Him and we are raised from the crucible – pure and holy – with Him. But now we remain justified and sinner, silver and dross. And through God grace, we are now being refined so that we might be formed (ever so slowly and never completely until Christ’s return) in Jesus image.
We read the words of the Apostle Paul in chapter five of his letter to the Romans, “Therefore, a having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
So give thanks to God for all of your suffering; rejoice in your tribulation. For as you have been made new, so through them you are being made new – purified through fire and water.Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!