My thoughts (Vivian Wyatt):
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, so a person is tested by being praised.
Kay Arthur, in As Silver Refined, describes how a silversmith, in biblical times, would use a crucible to refine silver. First, with an experience eye, he selects a lump of ore that has streaks and veins running through it because he knows that silver is intermingled with the ore. He lays the ore on his worktable, after pausing to build a fire, and begins to crush the lump into smaller pieces.
When the fire is raging, he picks up the bits and places them in a crucible, which is a container that can withstand very high heat. He places the crucible in the fire and sits beside it because silver is too precious to leave unattended. The ore begins to soften and the silver liquefies first. The still solid impurities rise to the top and the refiner skims them off.
He tends the fire, adds more fuel and the relentless heat surrounding the crucible causes more impurities to rise to the surface. The refiner skims them off and begins to see a hazy, smudgy image of himself. He repeats this process several times and then lets the fire cool and sets the crucible aside. Then once again he builds the fire up, even hotter than it was before, and the process starts all over. New impurities rise to the top and he skims them off. He looks into the liquid silver and while his image is not sharp it is more apparent than it was before.
More hours pass, more fuel is added to the fire and more impurities are skimmed off. And then, he looks into the crucible and he sees what he was looking for — a clear image of himself, distinct and sharp. The silver is refined.
Kay Arthur uses this imagery to introduce the theme of her book: learning to embrace life’s disappointments. She feels that our struggles are God’s tools for refining us. They are the heat that causes our impurities to rise and God, the refiner, sits beside watching and attending to us, controlling the heat until we are in the image of God. However, this verse in Proverbs seems to compare being praised, not ones trials or struggles, to the testing of silver and gold.
The New Living Translation seems to agree as it translates this passage:
Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.
Wow! Praise tests a person like really high temperatures test metal. The Bible in Basic English puts it this way:
The heating-pot is for silver and the oven-fire for gold, and a man is measured by what he is praised for.
Wow! I can be judged by what I am praised for.
How can this be? Praise is a good thing right? Well, I guess it depends on how I respond to it. Impurities can arise if I begin to think that I deserve the praise or have to have praise. I read somewhere that vain people pursue praise, weak people are puffed up by it and wise people disregard it. My attitude toward praise and how it affects me speak to my character.
Thought for today: How does praise affect me? Does it make me proud and conceited or does it make me humble and thankful to God?
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.