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Reading Time: 3 minutes

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
    and the Lord tests hearts.
Proverbs 17:3

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
    and a man is tested by his praise.
Proverbs 27:21

God Takes the Heat with You

There’s an old story that many preachers have told about a ladies’ Bible study that was confused about Malachi 3:3, “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” As luck would have it, one of the ladies knew a silversmith and asked if the class could come to observe the process.

Preacher note: I’ve heard this illustration many times and told in various ways. I’m pretty sure my first hearing was from Chuck Swindoll. There, it involved a ladies’ Bible study, but this version I found online made no such distinction.


Watching the craftsman at his work, he explained that he must sit at the crucible the whole time the silver is heated. He also must keep the silver in the very center of the heat to purify it.

One of the class members asked how he knew when the silver was pure. The silversmith replied, “That’s easy. I know it’s pure when I see my reflection in it.”

Life is a Test

Some look at the trials of life as evidence of God’s cruelty. They say that if he were really a loving God, he wouldn’t let horrible things happen to people. Others choose to view the circumstances of life as meaningless. Paraphrasing a popular bumper sticker, “Stuff Happens.” Still, others see difficult times as entirely unfair and ask, “Why me?”

I find peace in choosing to view all of life as a test. The struggles we face, along with the joys, call us to look deep in our hearts to find the centering presence of God. Proverbs 17:3 tells us, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold.” Times of heat will happen. That’s what makes a crucible a crucible! But as the proverb continues, it doesn’t point to what’s happening on the outside, but on the inside. “And the Lord tests hearts.” What’s happening inside us? Are we getting better, or are we getting bitter?

“I See My Reflection”

Ten chapters after Proverbs 17:3, we encounter the same phrasing in a proverb with a different point. Proverbs 27:21 starts out, “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,” familiar words to us, but then it points to a different testing. “And a man is tested by his praise.”

The first proverb pointed to the internal (the Lord tests hearts), but this one points to the external, the praise or compliments that others offer for a person’s character. Having been through the fire, they now see the reflection of the silversmith in the person who has been tested.

Let Your Friends Know You See God’s Reflection in Them

You have friends who have been through difficult times. The testing they’ve endured is sometimes disheartening and, in the midst of the fire, they start to wonder if it’s all worth it. So, if you know someone who has been through a trying time, let them know that you see God’s character growing in them. Give them the praise they deserve for standing firm through the fire.

How Did It Go?

The simplicity of preaching proverbs is refreshing. However, there are challenges to preaching them. How do you write a sermon of any length with such a short text?

Of course, its beauty is that the thesis/dominant thought is usually just the text itself!

This sermon was well-received and seemed very relatable. I could tell the audience was engaged and thinking of those of our own number who had been through the fire.

At the end of each sermon on Proverbs, we give everyone a card with the verse (verses) on it and instructions to either keep it as a reminder, give it to a friend, or do both. This week, many people asked for multiple cards. I take that as a sign that they want to share this message with others.