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Into the Wilderness Devotional, Day 5: The Wilderness is Where God Refines Us and Purifies Us


Everyone has their own experience during this pandemic season, and some may feel this more than others. But to one degree or another, we all feel that this year has become a little less cultivated, a little more inhospitable. And we’re all wondering where to find the path through this season. The good news is that there is a well-worn path: the path of the wilderness in Scripture.

Day 5: The Wilderness Is Where God Refines Us and Purifies Us

My great-grandfather worked in a smelter. My grandmother still has some bars of copper. They look pure and shiny but they didn’t come out of the ground looking like that. It began as a rock full of other impurities. Men labored hard to pull the copper out of the ground, to refine it, to process it. That simple copper bar took a massive amount of effort to produce. 

This is another thing God does with his people in the wilderness: he refines and purifies them. 

This is exactly what you see when God’s people are in the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land: 

  • When Moses goes up to receive the 10 commandments, the people make an idol and worship it and God must bring purifying judgment 
  • When God brings them to the promised land the people don’t trust God and God decrees judgment to keep them out of the land
  • When God’s people complain and grumble, God brings purifying judgment 

You see this pattern several times: the sin of the people is exposed, God brings discipline or judgment, the people turn back to the Lord. Is God just being mean? No this is part of God’s purpose in the wilderness. 

In Isaiah God uses the metaphor of refining. He says in Isaiah 1:25 “I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy…” Isaiah 48:10 “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”

God refines and purifies his people not because he is mean, but because he means to transform them for their good and for his glory. 

In this year I believe one of the ways God means to transform us is by refining us. The heat brings up some things we didn’t know were in our hearts. We get heated up by insecurity and work stress and school district drama and testing scares and illness and what floats to the surface? What floats to the surface is what was in there all along but that we didn’t see we needed to deal with. 

What has floated to the surface of your life in this season? God means to use this time to refine you but you must embrace what God is doing. 

Hebrews 12:5–13 says, [5] And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. [6] For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” [11] For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. [12] Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, [13] and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (ESV)

Now that word discipline is not cleanly translated into English. It carries with it both a sense of painful correction but also a sense of athletic training. It carries both a punishment given to an unruly kid in school to help them learn and a tough set of sprints given by a coach. 

What is God putting his finger on in your life this year and saying you need to change?