27 “I have made you a tester of metals
and my people the ore,
that you may observe
and test their ways.
28 They are all hardened rebels,
going about to slander.
They are bronze and iron;
they all act corruptly.
29 The bellows blow fiercely
to burn away the lead with fire,
but the refining goes on in vain;
the wicked are not purged out.
30 They are called rejected silver,
because the Lord has rejected them.”
(Jeremiah 6:27-30 NIV)
Today’s passage ends chapter 6 as well as the first major section of Jeremiah’s record (chapters 2 – 6). Chapters 2 – 6 establish God’s standard for His people, reveals their guilt for not following the Lord’s commands, and foretells the discipline His people will endure for walking away from their Creator and Sovereign.
In today’s text, the Lord speaks to Jeremiah and appoints him as a “metallurgist” of sorts, to test and see if there is any righteousness (“silver”) among His people.
This passage can be read two different ways, but the outcome is the same. The first way is to see the Lord giving Jeremiah his role as “metallurgist” (v. 27), then Jeremiah reporting his finding to the Lord (vv. 28-30). The other way is to see the Lord giving Jeremiah his role as “metallurgist” (v. 27), then the Lord telling Jeremiah the outcome (vv. 28 – 30). In either case, the outcome is the same – nothing good can be found.
To understand this passage, we need to know how the metal refining process worked in Jeremiah’s day. Silver ore (with its inherent impurities) was placed in a crucible and heated to a high temperature. Then lead was added to the crucible and melted with the silver ore. When air from a bellows blew onto the melted mixture in the crucible, the lead oxidized (burned) and took away any impurities with it. All that was left was silver. This process was repeated multiple (up to seven) times to get pure silver.
In the case of Judah and Jerusalem, the nation was heated up in the crucible of life, the lead was added, the air was applied, but no silver was found. Remember in chapter 5 (starting in verse 1) how God told Jeremiah to search Jerusalem for one righteous person, and neither God nor Jeremiah could find a single soul? Now the Lord uses the analogy of Jeremiah the metallurgist looking for any silver (righteousness) whatsoever in His people. God says even when He burns away all the impurities from His people, nothing of lasting value (“silver”) can be found, not even in trace amounts.
What was the resulting action? Judgment. There was no use in trying to refine the silver out of this mess anymore. Reject the entire batch and throw the whole mess out on the slag heap.
May our commitment to Christ be full and rich. When the refining fires of life burn away the impurities in our character, may the Lord find precious silver in abundance.