Water purifies by cleansing; fire purifies by refining.
In Numbers 31, as a result of the Israelites’ victory over the Midianites, they brought home the spoils of war – clothing, leather goods, gold, silver, iron, tin, and lead. To remain ceremonially clean, God told them to purify everything – some items by water, but most by fire. What couldn’t survive the fire was to be purified with the water of purification.
Everything that can endure fire, you shall put through the fire, and it shall be clean. But all that cannot endure fire you shall put through water. (Numbers 31:23, NKJV)
Different purification methods are needed based on the stubbornness of the impurity. Clothing stains are easily removed with washing while gold impurities require an intense refining fire.
In my daily prayer time, the Holy Spirit convicts me of those areas where I fall short of God’s holy standard. I am quick to surrender the “easy” impurities, e.g., gossip, evil thoughts, or anger. But I find myself overlooking or rationalizing pride, built up resentment or bitterness against someone who has wronged me, or the sin that so easily ensnares me (Hebrews 12:1).
When I surrender a bad habit, offensive characteristic, or sinful action, God’s gives forgiveness and cleansing. They seem fairly effortless. This is when God purifies me with the water of His Word and Spirit.
However, when I stubbornly hold onto judgmental attitudes or a prolonged sinful lifestyle, a deeper purification method is needed. Unfortunately, these obstinate impurities require God’s refining fire. This fire may come in the form of His providential interference where He sovereignly brings disciplinary events into my life. Or it may also come by way of natural consequences that result from my sinful, unrepentant actions.
God’s Loving, Purifying Discipline
Either way, His loving discipline is aimed at purifying me more and more each day. In His love, mercy, and grace, He softens my heart and burns away all those things I don’t need and He doesn’t want. As a loving Father, His goal is to transform me into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). He seeks to purify, but never to consume.
As you experience God’s purifying process, surrender to the work He is doing. Willingly and readily yield the impurities in your life to His cleansing. As He reveals things to you, be ever mindful that, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13) and “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).