We have the picture of a “fining pot" (refining pot NASB) (4715). It is not an isolated image of God preparing His people. This is a way of explaining the daily sanctifying process. After the washing of the blood and the cleansing of the Holy Spirit the sin issue has been settled. Now we have to deal with all of those habits and conditioned responses that make us so clumsy. We are the silver and the gold. Life turns up the heat to remove the dross.
Here God uses the picture of the pot as a contrast. The Lord “trieth" (tests NASB) (974) His people. This needs to be discussed in light of the words of James.
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.Obviously testing must be different from tempting. How? The key here is the focus on the melting process. The heat is to separate the dross from the precious metal. The goal is purity, to remove that which should not be there. The word “trieth" (tests NASB) (974) used here means to examine. God wants to know if we are ready to be taken out of the fire or whether we need more heat. It would seem that life is a test of readiness. We are challenged to see how we respond to the basic pressures of life. Testing turns up the heat to see if we are ready. Tempting looks for extreme circumstances to try and make us fail. Testing prepares for success. Tempting seeks failure.
Picture a classroom. A test is announced. What is the purpose? There can be many. A pretest is given to evaluate how much is known before the class gets in gear. A sample test is to show the students the kind of things that will be asked on the real test. Some tests are checking to see if the student knows the material. In a perfect world the teacher can then mold future classes to fill in the gaps. Much of the standardized testing today is to evaluate whether the teacher has been successful.
Since it is questionable whether students are learning today we have developed exit exams. After years of high school and college, students are required to take a test to see if they can read and write. If they do not pass they are not executed, they are sent back to class. Life is full of this kind of thing. Lawyers muss pass the bar. They can keep taking it. In California we have a test called the CBEST. You must pass to get a job in teaching. You can keep taking it. The question is not are you the best but have you met the minimum qualifications.
A few years ago I was talked into swinging a golf club and I was hooked. I don’t expect to get very good but I enjoy the game. Once I took a few lessons. I was amazed at the insight of the golf pro and how much those few lessons helped. One of the ways you can be taught is to pay the professional to go out on the course with you and actually observe you play. What a way to play! What a cost! God offers to go with us in our lives. We have a teaching pro with us every step of the way. We are always in OJT.
What significance is in the location of this testing: Our “hearts” (3820)? This probably points to the fact that the real test is not in the physical world but in our inner response to it. Remember that earlier Proverbs 16:2 tells us that God is watching our motivation.