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The Iron Crucible

“‘As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the LORD have poured out my wrath on you.’” — Ezekiel 22:22

The Torah portion for this week is Kedoshim, which means “holy,” from Leviticus 19:1–20:27, and the Haftorah is from Ezekiel 20:2–20.

This week’s Torah portion was filled with laws regarding service to God and moral relationships between people. Here in the Haftorah, we read about a time and place where the people behaved in the exact opposite manner that God had commanded. So God sent the prophet Ezekiel to point out the many flaws of the Israelites living in Jerusalem. The people were guilty of immorality and acting unethically. They had sinned greatly before God. The Haftorah concluded with the consequences of such derelict behavior. God told them, “As silver is melted in a furnace, so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that I the LORD have poured out my wrath on you.”

That wasn’t such a rosy picture for the future of Israel — at least, on the surface. However, digging a little beneath the surface revealed a much brighter outlook for Israel’s destiny, one that shone brightly like, well silver — polished, beautiful, gleaming, sterling silver.

The Jewish sages have a term that they use in describing the experience of the Israelites when they were enslaved in Egypt. They call it the kur habarzel, the iron crucible. This is a reference to the tool a silversmith uses to refine silver. Just as a crucible purifies silver, the suffering in Egypt served to purify the children of Israel.

This metaphor relates to all kinds of suffering, one that is used elsewhere in Scriptures. We read in Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” God Himself is the silversmith, and though we may be “on the fire,” we are still in His hands.

A woman who was studying this verse wanted to understand it better, and so she went to see a silversmith in action. The silversmith explained that he had to put the silver in the hottest part of the flame in order to burn away the impurities. The woman asked if it was necessary for the silversmith to be present at all times. “Absolutely,” he answered. “If the silver remains on the fire for a moment too long, it could be destroyed.” The woman asked, “How do you know when the silver is refined?” The silversmith answered, “That’s easy. When I can see my image in it.”

Friends, let us remember this metaphor when life gets tough. Although it may feel at times that we are called to walk through fire, remember that God is our purifier. He never leaves our side for even a moment, and when He is done, we will reflect His image. We will shine brightly and reflect the glory of God.

The Iron Crucible,

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