“Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and call on the God of Israel. You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. . . .
“Yet for my own sake and for the honor of my name, I will hold back my anger and not wipe you out. I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering. I will rescue you for my sake—yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!”
(Isaiah 48:1-2, 9-11)
The people of Judah felt confident because they lived in Jerusalem, the city with God’s Temple. They depended on their heritage, their city, and their Temple. Yet this was false security because they did not depend on God. Because of their rebelliousness and stubborn resistance to repentance, he would allow them to go through the “furnace of suffering” (43:10). Sadly, their beautiful Temple and city would one day be destroyed by invaders. The people of Judah would be led away in disgrace as captives.
Yet God would not totally abandon his people. To do so is not in his nature. There was nothing in Israel’s actions, attitudes, or accomplishments to compel God to love and to save them. But for his own sake, to show who he is and what he can do, he promised to save them.
What kinds of adversity are you currently facing? Do you find it easy to complain or draw away from God when your life becomes complicated or difficult? This passage shows us plainly that God tests his people in the “furnace of suffering.” Rather than complain or blame God, we can turn to God in faith for the strength to endure (see Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4). Without the testing, we would never know what we are capable of doing, nor would we grow. Without the refining, we will not become more pure and more like Jesus.