Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, ‘Fear not; I will help thee.’”
Isaiah 41: 13
“‘Lean not to thine own understanding,’
But let the Lord manage for thee.
Oft when I seem to tread alone
Some barren waste with thorns o’er grown,
Thy voice of love, in tenderest tone,
Whispers, ‘Still cling to ME!’”
Mrs. Charles Cowen
Words of Comfort and Cheer
Today’s Study Text:
“Then God spoke to (Elijah): ‘Get up and go to Zarephath in Sidon and live (stay) there.’”
1 Kings 17: 8, 9
The Message Bible
“Life in Zarephath” – Part 3
Living in a Smelting Crucible”
“Crucibles create Christlikeness”
Do I feel like I am in a “smelting crucible” in my life right now?
What has my crucible of affliction taught me about God?
“One and the same violence of affliction proves, purifies and melts the good, and condemns, wastes and casts out the bad.”
Augustine of Hippo
“The purity of silver and gold is tested by putting them in the fire.”
Proverbs 27: 21
The Message Bible
As a young girl, I spent many a summer at my grandparent’s ranch, located in Aravaipa Canyon in Southern Arizona. Back at that time, in order to get groceries, we went to the town of Winkleman which was located right next to the small town of Hayden. What put the town of Hayden on the map was that there was a large smelter in the center of the city. A smelter is an establishment that melts or fuses ores, separating the metallic constituents. From the smelter in Hayden, by use of heat and chemical reducing agents, ore was decomposed, driving out the other impurities as gasses or slag, leaving behind the pure metal. At the Hayden smelter, the final product produced was copper.
As I’m certain you know by now, I’m a very curious sort. Seeing a large chimney rising in the sky in a town really heightened my childhood interest. So one day when I was out and about with my grandpa I asked him to take me over to the “smelter” and let me see what happened there. He agreed and found one of the foremen at the plant, whom he knew, to treat us to a tour of the facilities. Now let me just say this, I remember the day very well for one reason -- heat! First of all, it was hot outside. No surprise! It was Arizona, in the middle of the summer! But let me tell you, the temperature inside the building was, to put it bluntly, unbearable. I looked at the faces of the workers and they were so red with sweat pouring down their cheeks, I thought they might faint! And by the time I got outside the building and into grandpa’s pickup truck, all I wanted was to feel the air conditioner blowing cold air on my face. I’d learned firsthand what a smelter was and what it did and I knew I didn’t want to work in one.
At this point, maybe you’re scratching your head thinking that Dorothy has really gone off on a tangent today. However, that’s where you would be wrong. Here’s why. The word Zarephath comes from a Hebrew verb which means, “to melt, to smelt.” But here’s something even more interesting, the word Zarephath in Hebrew as a noun, means “crucible.” A crucible is a vessel made of a substance such as porcelain or graphite which can be used for melting materials at high temperatures. A crucible is also defined as the bottom of an ore furnace, in which molten metal collects -- the pure metal! But there’s one last definition of a crucible and it is this: a severe trial!
Now let’s put this jigsaw puzzle together. God sent Elijah to the Brook Cherith. When the brook ran completely dry, He came to Elijah and said, “It’s time to move on.” But, God didn’t send Elijah to the Jezreel Ritz Carlton Hotel. Oh, no. This was something Elijah could never have dreamed of in his wildest dreams or in his worst nightmares.
God’s instruction was for Elijah to put on his best walking sandals for he had a 100-mile expedition in front of him. Right through the country of Israel where Ahab and Jezebel had their minions prowling about, seeking to find the most-wanted man in all the country. And these bounty hunters carried signs that said, “Elijah -- WANTED! DEAD OR ALIVE!”
But this wasn’t the only directive God gave Elijah. There was more bad news! God told Elijah he was to go to Zarephath, which belonged to Sidon and dwell there or stay there as one version of the Bible states. Zarephath, the city that was a “smelting crucible.” The city that was in the heart of Baal worship, ruled by none other than Queen Jezebel’s daddy. Talk about walking into enemy territory with a target on your back -- it couldn’t have gotten any worse for Elijah. And here’s the deal. He had 100 miles of walking to think about the situation God had put him in. Yes -- don’t forget, it was God’s directions that Elijah was following or let me say it this way -- Elijah was being obedient! One hundred miles he trudged through the dusty desert, where creek beds were dry and where once green fields were now barren dust beds. With each step Elijah took, he was a little closer to the “smelting crucible.” I have to tell you, I don’t know how Elijah did it -- except that at a brook named Cherith, he had learned what it meant to depend on his God and now, he was putting that trust to the test. He was acting in faith and obedience to his God!
I have taken great comfort and been courageously inspired on more than one occasion by the powerful words penned by George MacDonald. I’ve shared this thought before but it is so appropriate today in describing the “crucible” in which Elijah was confined that I want to repeat it again:
“No words can express how much the world owes to sorrow. (And I’ll add, to the affliction brought on by adversity!) Most of the Psalms were born in a wilderness. Most of the Epistles were written in a prison. The greatest thoughts of the greatest thinkers have all passed through the fire. The greatest poets have “learned in suffering what they taught in song.” In bonds Bunyan lived the allegory that he afterwards wrote, and we may thank Bedford Jail for the Pilgrim’s Progress. Take comfort, afflicted Christian! When God is about to make pre-eminent use of a person, He puts them in the fire.”
Don’t misread that last line -- “in the fire.”
Just as Elijah made his way across a 100 miles of lonely desert land, led by his Father to a place of purification, a place where he would be refined as gold tried in the fire, so today, you may be in the depths, right at the bottom of a crucible where God is working to bring you forth to the pinnacle of service for Him. As John Dawson so eloquently describes, “If the path we tread be rough and lowly, it is that in which our great Exemplar has gone before. Going down into the valley of humiliation we walk in His footsteps.” We aren’t in the “smelting crucible” alone. Our Father has gone before and He is by our side, right now.
Are you in the crucible? The smelting vessel of fiery heat which is turned up to the point that survival seems nearly impossible? As Rebecca Lusignolo explains, “We all come up against our own version of the Red Sea -- Seas of Divorce, Debt, Death, Depression, Guilt, Fear, Loneliness. Or Hopelessness. And hey, if you’re anything like me, you might look around for a boat when God wants to display His glory by parting the sea instead!” Never forget, it was our God who parted the Red Sea. And it is our God who walked every step of the way from Cherith’s dry creek bed, across a desert expanse, right into the “smelting crucible” of Sidon’s town of Zarephath along beside His servant Elijah. The obedience that Elijah showed by following God right into the fiery test and trial in Zarephath reminds me of the words found in the old-time hymn, How Firm A Foundation:
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
Rippon’s Selection of Hymns
If right now, you feel the heat of the smelting process and if you are in the lowest point in the crucible of affliction as Elijah was, take heart, the same God who walked with Elijah is walking with you, too. And, in the words of Charles Spurgeon, “As sure as ever God puts His children in the furnace, He will be in the furnace with them.”
“Only in the hot furnace of affliction do we as Christians let go of the dross to which, in our foolishness, we ardently cling.”
“God will never permit any troubles to come upon us unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.”
“O Lord God, I thank Thee that Thou leadest me by a way which I know not, by a way which is above the level of my poor understanding. I thank Thee that Thou art not repelled by my bitterness, that Thou are not turned aside by the heart of my spirit. There is no force in this universe so glorious as the force of Thy love; it compels me to come in. O divine servitude, O slavery that makes me free, O love that imprisons me only to set my feet in a larger room, enclose me more and more within Thy folds. Protect me from the impetuous desires of my nature -- desires as short-lived as they are impetuous. Ask me not where I would like to go; tell me where to go; lead me in Thine own way; hold me in Thine own light. Amen.”’
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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