There is a man at my church who has recently taken up the hobby of making jewelry of sterling silver and gold plate. Having commented on the various pieces his wife has worn to church (and maybe begged a little), I was so excited when he gifted to me two bracelets he had made. (It’s amazing what you can get from people if your life is pitiful and you aren’t above a bit of manipulation). With this thoughtful token of his labors, he encouraged me to let them be a reminder of the passages in the scripture that talk of silver and gold. I thought that was a lovely idea. So with my jewelry in hand (or on arm), I came home resolved to search out and meditate on the many references to gold and silver in the Bible. As this was a great encouragement to me, I thought it might be helpful to someone else. Thus I will share what I consider to be the most significant findings of my study.
The Temple: During my study, I began to wonder just what makes gold and silver more precious than the other metals. A quick search revealed that gold is valued for its unique color, along with the fact that it does not react to other substances. It’s lack of reaction means it does not rust or corrode, and thus, has a staying power other elements do not. Another aspect that makes gold valuable is its relatively low melting point, which makes it easy to purify and mold. Silver also has a lower melting point, and is a great conductor, making it useful for other applications besides just pretty jewelry. These things coupled with limited availability give gold and silver their worth.
It is no wonder, then, that gold and silver were used for many of the temple accouterments. They were of great value, they were of lasting value, and they were easily molded into the various forms needed. The beauty of the gleaming metals would add to the overall splendor of this earthly building that was a type and shadow not only of the new heaven and earth, but also of the beautiful spiritual dwelling place of Christ with his bride, the Church. Think of it, the temple was greatly embellished with gold, silver, precious stones and the most luxurious materials. And yet, we are told that this is just symbolism of that which is of far greater value. And what would be the fulfillment? What were these symbols pointing to? The accomplished work of Christ on the cross. The accomplishment of peace on earth and good will towards man; the condescension of the Triune God to make a way of reconciliation for His people; the beauty of Christ and his Church. John Bunyon, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, has written a work entitled Solomon’s Temple Spiritualized. I have not read it all, but have had my appetite whetted to read it just by having read the introduction by the editor of The Works of Bunyon, a Mr. George Offor, Esq. He writes, “The cost of Solomon’s temple has been estimated at eight hundred thousand millions of money: if this is true, still how infinitely inferior is that vast sum to the inconceivable cost of the eternal temple, with its myriads of worshippers, for which the Son of God paid the ransom, when he made the atonement for transgression, and built that imperishable temple which neither human nor satanic malevolence can ever destroy, and in which every spiritual worshipper will be crowned with an everlasting weight of glory.” So the earthly temple in all it’s glory teaches us the great value of the gift we receive when the Triune God sets His heart on us and calls us into His spiritual kingdom.
There is another aspect to the gold and silver of the Temple that I think is fitting to remember. Intense heat is used to refine these metals, and then hammers are used to pound them into the proper shape. They are engraved with sharp objects, and polished with much friction. Malachi 3 refers to the Messiah as like a refiner’s fire. His people are like that gold and silver that comes out of the ground full of impurities and looking for the world like dirt. It is through the heat of the fire, and the blow of the hammer, and the friction and poking of sanctification that we begin to shine like precious metal. While it is never pleasant to experience the heat of that fire, it is necessary to purify us that we might be the jewelry that adorns His bride, the church. Could there be a more beautiful picture?
What is more important: Throughout the Psalms and Proverbs we are told of things that should be more valuable to us than gold or silver. In Psalm 19 we are told that these things are more to be desired than gold:
1. The law that converts the soul
2. The testimony of the Lord that makes the simple wise
3. The statutes of the Lord that rejoice the heart
4. The commandments of the Lord that enlighten the eyes
5. The fear of the Lord that endures forever
6. The judgements of the Lord that are true and righteous.
Here I am reminded of the passage in Galatians 3:24 “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The law shows us our sinfulness and our need for a Redeemer. So yes, it is more precious than gold. And beyond that, God’s word both written and in the person of His son (see John 1), is a gift beyond price to the heart of a believer. We see these truths echoed in Psalm 12:6, 119: 72 & 127.
Proverbs tells us that wisdom should be sought more than silver or gold. This idea is repeated in Proverbs2:4, 3:13-14, 8:10-11, 8:19, 16:16. Closely related to this is the wise rebuke being of more value to those with an obedient ear (25:9), as well as lips of knowledge (20:15) (10:20) and words fitly spoken (25:11).
I have to confess that I am a worrier about silver and gold. Despite my resolve as a young adult that I would not spend my life worrying about money, I have often done just that. We have always been taken care of, sometimes miraculously (see this post), but as I am now ultimately responsible for making our fixed income outlast our lives, I can get more than a bit flustered at times. I needed this reminder. Do I appreciate the value of what I have? Do I seek to store up wisdom the way I seek to hoard my money? Do I seek out and value the wise words of those who are knowledgeable of spiritual things? Do I have an obedient ear to the wise rebuke? When I need help on a particular subject is my first inclination to search the web for the wisdom of the world, or to search the Bible for the principals that should guide my thinking?
I live in a culture that is full of slurred lines and grey areas. We would all agree that stealing is wrong, but we are constantly looking for ways to get something for nothing. We would agree that murder is wrong, but are quite ok with hate and intolerance and the killing of unborn babies. Adultery is wrong, unless we can come up with a good enough excuse to justify our actions. It’s easy to find myself buying into the compromise that is such a part of the world I live in. And yet here I am told that the law of the Lord is to be desired more than gold. Is this my attitude toward God’s law? Do I seek to live a life of integrity that looks for ways to obey instead of excuses to disobey? Do I pick and choose which laws are important and which don’t apply to me? If I truly understand the value that God puts on them, then I will do my best to give them my utmost respect.
Outward versus inward: Because of the value put on gold and silver in this world, we have a tendency to give it higher esteem in our interaction with other people. We are warned in James 2 not to show deference for the man with the gold rings and fine clothing in the Assembly of God’s people. Both rich and poor should be treated with the same amount of grace and respect. In James 5 the other side of the coin is addressed, instructing those with much gold and all of the power that comes with it not to abuse that power or to expect certain advantages because of it. We are reminded that all the gold in the world will not save the oppressor in the Day of the Lord. As a woman I am instructed that I should be more concerned with my heart’s condition than I am my outward adornment of silver and gold and pretty clothes (1Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter3:3).
All these verses acknowledge the value of precious metals in our earthly economy. The possession of them is not the thing in question here. The obsession of them is the issue. This is a sort of application of the passages on the Temple and the ones on what is to be more important. If we understand the great price that was paid for us to become children of God (1 Peter 1:6-9) and to give us access to the Mercy Seat; if we understand the great value of the Word of God, both written and in the person of Jesus Christ, then we will not be distracted with the lesser economy of this world. If God has adopted me as His own, then I don’t have fear of need. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23). I am freed, then to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and know, without a doubt, that all these things will be added unto me (Matthew 6:33).
That last reference brings me to my conclusion. I think it is safe to say that when I put on one of my bracelets, I will, indeed think of the many references to silver and gold found throughout the scriptures. But I will also be reminded of the community of fellow pilgrims that I am privileged to be “boiling” with in the Refiner’s fire. I will remember the thoughtful gift from an old friend I have come together with week in and week out for 20+ years to worship the King. I will remember those who have rejoiced when I have rejoiced and wept when I have wept. I will think of those who have carried my burdens and shared theirs with me. I will remember the pastors who have taught me to value God’s word above all things: Men who have labored to keep the truth shining before me. This little group of believers that make up my earthly church: they are His Kingdom in part. It is their welfare that I seek. And I pray that God will keep his mouthpieces faithful to the truth that His kingdom may come and His will may be done here in our midst.