Smeagol is Free!
A hermitudinal view of...stuff...


Testing, Refining

Psalm 105:17 - 19
He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They afflicted his feet with fetters, he himself was laid in irons; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him.

In reading Psalm 105 yesterday morning, these verses made me pause and give thought, but I didn't get a chance to truly pull away and reflect until later in the evening. As I pondered them while journaling, I was struck by two perspectives: Joseph's, and God's. Joseph had a very human point of view on the entire situation. He was the one whose feet were in fetters, who had been betrayed by his brothers. His life was the one that, from a finite standpoint, was going nowhere fast. Yet from God's perspective and in light of His purpose, Joseph was precisely where He needed to be.

It's easy for me to say that, easy to make that assessment. I look at Joseph's life and think that Joseph would have been foolish to lose hope. After all, the grandeur of what God did through Joseph was nothing short of breathtaking!

Yet, is it that cut and dry? My thinking on Joseph's life is forced to take a seat when I see the word "tested" in verse 19. Being that it could also be translated as "refined", Joseph's stunning rise to prosperity and power is properly seen only when painted against the backdrop of God's greater purpose: saving a people who would truly follow Him with their whole heart, that they might proclaim His glory. In other words, God's purpose for Joseph's life was but a single thread woven into the tapestry of redemptive history, a great work of God that displays my life, as well.

Tested...refined...tested...refined. I don't like the idea of being refined, quite honestly. I don't like being tested, either. If anything, I prefer tests that I know I'll do well at. What I often find, however, is that God's testing and refining involves so much more failure and humbling than I'm prepared to handle. This type of testing is vastly different than that which I recieve in school; the emphasis is different, as is the methodology. Think about it. In school, there's generally a standardized type of grading whereby we are told how well we've prepared and studied. That doesn't tell us how much or how well we've learned, nor how well we'll employ what we've learned. God's testing and refining is far more practical, despite being quite unwieldy to our impatient and narrow human minds. I think safe to assert that God's lessons for us often lie in the testing itself as much as in the answers to the test.

Since Joseph is the one whose life is on display in these three verses, I'll use him as an example. He knew that God had a purpose for His life. He also knew, at the very least, something of God's character, for he refused to sin against God when enticed by Potiphar's wife. But what of it? In God's sight, he still had much testing and refining to undergo. It is no accident that God did not give him all that He intended to ultimately give him when he was a much younger man. Why? He was first to be tested, to be refined.

Think also of Peter. When Jesus asked Peter who he thought He was, Peter replied with the correct answer; he passed the test! Or did he?

Paul also comes to mind. Before his infamous experience on the way to Damascus, he would easily have passed any exam on the Law. Yet, what about the test of his heart before the LORD? How did it weigh in?

Despite my often phlegmatic attitude toward education, I still hate to fail an exam. Still more, I hate to fail those given by God. What I have a hard time remembering is that God tests and refines to reveal impurities and to purify. Failing does not necessarily mean that I've failed, for if God desires to draw me nearer to Him in humble obedience, isn't His greater purpose fulfilled? In looking at Joseph's life, and those of many other biblical characters, I see a great deal of the same humanity and frailty I see in my own life. Like those characters, I know many of the right answers in my head. And like those same characters, I know that I still have a lot of refining to undergo before I really learn my lessons.

posted by Bolo | 1:58 PM
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