Pure Silver

Following Jesus in the storms of life was the focus of our sermon last Sunday—literal wind and weather storms, but also circumstantial, emotional, and relational storms of our everyday lives. All the way through I was reminded of something that was shared with me many years ago:

Sometimes God calms the storm.

Sometimes he lets the storm rage, and calms his child.

None of us really wants to be in a storm. Watching a storm from some safe vantage can be exciting, the kind of excitement we sense from being near danger, but not so much in danger. But if for some reason we find ourselves in the middle of a storm, well, that’s different. We’re not all like 19th century naturalist John Muir who, some say, during thunderstorms clamored up pine trees or redwoods just to get a better view. Most of us think tornados or typhoons can be terrifying!

What does it mean to follow God through a storm? How do we trust God in a storm? My guess is it depends on what we think of God as guide or shelter, and how dependable to us is his word.

The Psalms in various places liken God’s word to precious metals we have come to treasure. In Psalm 19 we read:

The precepts of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold, even much fine gold.

Psalm 12 also draws the comparison:

The Lord speaks purest truth, like silver seven times refined.

These psalmists essentially declare that the word of the Lord is pure, without blemish or defect, unalloyed. It isn’t just any word or anyone’s word, but God’s word—without dissimulation, completely reliable and trustworthy.

Psalm 12 illustrates this with a metallurgical metaphor about the refining of silver through intensive, successive heating. I’m no silversmith, but I’ve heard that in years gone by skilled craftsmen heated silver to such a degree that impurities in the ore continually rose to the top of the molten metal where they were skimmed away until the artisan saw his own image reflected in the surface of the liquid. It was then considered to be pure.

Allen Ross writes, “Obviously the word of God was never at a stage where there were impurities in it. David is simply emphasizing how perfect the word of God is. It can be trusted completely in everything it says. It is the only word that can be so trusted… Because God’s word is pure, what that word has promised is certain.”[1] Some Bible translations here even render “word” of God as “promises” of God. We trust God’s promises because they are utterly dependable.

Whether God calms our storm, or lets it rage and calms us in its midst, we can trust God’s word that we will never be left or forsaken, that our Lord is with us always. Because of God’s pure word, never means never, and always means always.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in God’s excellent Word!

What more can be said than to you God hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

“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.”

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,

I will not, I will not, desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”[2]

Michael Denham

[1] Allen P. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2011), 357.

[2] Author: Designated only as “K” in John Rippon’s A Selection of Hymns, 1787.

Author: expositionalvision

Michael Denham has served many years as Director of Music Ministries at The National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.

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