Pots, Furnaces, Sheol, and Abaddon

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace is for gold,
but Yahweh assays hearts.
                                                                        Proverbs 17:2
Sheol and Abbadon are known to Yahweh,
how much more the hearts of the sons of men?
                                                                        Proverbs 15:11

The assayer uses the refining process to determine the quality of the metal; it is a testing process to see what is genuine and what is dross (useless residue).

Our covenant God, Yahweh, likewise determines the genuineness of individuals as the Assayer of Hearts. He knows the places most inaccessible to living human beings—the place of departed spirits (Sheol) and the place of “destruction” in Sheol (Abaddon). If He knows these, the writer argues, how much easier it is for Him to determine what is happening in human hearts. That is the import of these verses.

But just as it is simple for God to know our inner beings, so it is all the harder for us. We know so little even of ourselves—let alone knowing the hearts of others.

Yet, in spite of these facts, and many other verses that reserve heart knowledge exclusively for God (see an earlier blog), there are those who seek to do what it is impossible for them to do. There is no admonition for believers to determine how to counsel others by looking into their hearts, yet there are those who continually attempt the impossible.

When Christian counselors can determine who is and who isn’t in the place of punishment, then we may be able to put some faith in their assaying of hearts.

Until then, we will satisfy ourselves with the clear test we are to use: “By their fruit you will know them.” We can listen to what they say, and we can look at the works they perform in order to make our tentative judgments of others, but we can’t look into their hearts. Because this is so, our judgments are always tentative (e. g., “treat him as a heathen and a publican”—the word “as” is crucial in describing how far we can go on the basis of external evidence).

So, since you are neither a furnace nor a pot, you’d better leave it there!


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