Proverbs 17:3

Tried Hearts

3a The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold:

A. Silver and gold

1. These were precious metals mined from the earth.

2. When found in their natural state, they were often riddled with impurities…

3. Pieces of raw earth would cling to the metal… other worthless metals and rock would be mingled into a vein of gold or silver in the earth.

4. Hence, when these precious metals were taken from the earth they were impure and needed to be cleansed and purified…

5. There were two processes for cleansing metals (and both are used as metaphors in cleansing and purifying people too)

a. Water – used to wash away sand and gravel from the chunks of metal mined from the earth.

b. Fire – used to burn and melt the metals to purify them.

6. Once refined, they were good to be made into coins or expensive jewelry.

7. When purified, the metals were much more valuable and useful. (pure gold!)

8. Gold was used often in ancient times… and was quite abundant, yet still prized and given great value.

9. One man noted that there are 13 words for gold in the Bible.

B. The Fining pot

1. A crucible, a refining pot.

2. It indicates a metal pot in which the impurities of precious metals were separated out

3. The fining pot was used for gold and silver and for the process of refining metals before they were worked into fine vessels (Prov. 25:4).

4. Mal. 3:3 – a fining pot was used to REFINE and purify silver or gold. (going from the figurative to the literal…)

5. Used only in: Prov. 17:3; 27:21.

C. The Furnace

1. Smelting furnace for metals; a kiln; an oven.

2. The furnace was a construction that was able to attain to extremely high temperatures to melt metals and remove the dross-impurities.

3. The furnace was source of the heat on which the fining pot was placed.

4. Through this process, the metal mined from the earth is melted in the fire… and the dross removed.

a. It might appear that the gold would be destroyed in the fire, but in fact, the gold is purified by the flames and only the dross is removed…

b. The ore mined from the earth is both proved and improved.
• Proven to be true gold or silver by the results… (fools gold and other shiny particles would not stand up to such a test…)
• Improved in quality—refined and purified.

c. Apart from the furnace, the dross would remain permanently in the metals.
• The purpose of the smelting is to REMOVE the pieces of raw earth that attach to the metal.
• Until the metals go through the fire, they are unfit for service… to be used various ways.

d. The refiner knows exactly how much heat to apply so as to purify and not to cause the metal to boil over and lose it.
• The refiner knows how valuable the gold is. He is extremely careful not to lose one ounce of gold in the process.
• Some sources tell us that the refiner allows the silver to be refined until he can see his image reflected in the pot. Then he knows it’s pure…

3b But the LORD trieth the hearts.


A. The heart of man is likened to silver and gold—precious metals.

1. The heart of a child of God is valuable to God.

a. The refiner knows the value of the precious metals once refined.

b. He goes through a lot of effort to bring about that refinement.

c. God knows the value of the child of God once refined too.

2. But it is also defiled… and earthly… and in need of purification.

a. Just as metals mined from the earth have earthly impurities attached to the metal itself, so too our hearts!

b. God seeks through trials and afflictions to separate from us those earthly attachments.

c. The Lord tries the HEART…

d. Psa. 139:23-24 – Since we KNOW this, we should pray like the psalmist… (Search me O God!)

e. Psa. 26:2 – the psalmist ASKS God to test his heart… to refine it… and purify it.
• Try: verb meaning to refine, to test. This word describes the purifying process of a refiner, who heats metal, takes away the dross, and is left with a pure substance.
• The psalmist prays that God would undertake this process in his heart… knowing the heat that it would require.
• This is the acknowledgement of a godly man that his heart IS defiled and that it NEEDS to be purified.
• If we’re honest, we’ll ALL admit this…
• If we’re courageous and really want to be used of the Lord, we will pray this prayer.

f. Like silver and gold mined from the earth… we too retain way too much earthliness… and need to have it removed… though the removal process is painful.

g. Isa. 48:10 – God uses a furnace to purify our hearts, but He doesn’t use a literal furnace. He uses the furnace of affliction. God uses affliction for our good.

3. And, once cleansed and purified, it is useful in God’s service.

a. Isa. 1:25-26 – God seeks to remove the dross from the lives of His people… and restore them to a place of useful service.

b. As defiled metal is not useful, a defiled city or a defiled human heart is not useful in the service of the Lord.

c. Such defilement requires the process of refining to BRING it to the place of usefulness.

d. Job 23:10 – when He hath tried me I shall come forth as gold (meaning purified gold).

e. Gold comes forth from the refiner’s fires shiny and fit for use… as we come forth to shine forth His glory in our lives.

f. God chastens us for our good… that we might partake of His holiness in ways we did not previously. (Heb. 12:10)

g. Chastening isn’t necessarily punishment. It is child training… a process we ALL need to undergo.

B. God is likened to the fining pot and furnace.

1. Jer. 17:10 – God is the searcher of the heart… and refiner of men.

2. Rev. 1:14 – His eyes are a flame of fire!

a. He alone is responsible for putting the heart of man in the refining pot…

b. God is the Source of the heat (furnace).

c. God is also the Refiner… the One doing the work of refining… and putting everything into place so that the process will work.

3. Psa. 66:8-12 – God brings us into the furnace, but He also brings us out… refined… purified… better than ever!

4. God is the Refiner who allows us to be melted by the heat until He sees His image reflected in us! That’s the goal of trials and afflictions—to make us like Christ.

5. God knows the hearts of men and knows exactly what we need. (I Kings 8:39)

6. Men might be able to purify metals, but only the Lord can purify the heart and remove dross from the heart. This is HIS work in us… for us… to us… and IN us.

7. And since it is GOD who works in us… we can place our confidence in His goodness and wisdom…

8. Dan. 3:19-26 – a good application for us: in the trials of affliction, He walks in the furnace WITH us.

9. He will never leave us nor forsake us… not even in the furnace of affliction.

D. The purpose: Refinement and Usefulness

1. Pieces of raw earth cling to the gold ore—and smelting removes that which defiles and depreciates the value and usefulness of the metal.

2. This is likened to the things of earth which cling to us and must be removed… till the things of earth grow strangely dim…

3. And when the metals are purified and the dross removed, that metal is then useful and can be formed into whatever purpose the refiner has for it. When we are purified we too are fit for service to God.

4. Jas. 1:2-3 – trials bring us to perfection… maturity… Christlikeness…

5. Trials and afflictions are for us what the furnace and fining pot are to precious metals: painful but necessary processes of refinement and purification.

6. I Pet. 1:6-7 – when our faith is tested and tried, it may bring heaviness in the here and now… but ultimately, it will bring praise and honor at the Bema Seat of Christ.