1 Kings 17:8–9
Then the LORD said to Elijah, “Go and live in the village of Zarephath, near the city of Sidon. I have instructed a widow there to feed you.” (1 Kings 17:8–9)
As we did earlier, let’s first examine the significance of the name of this place where the prophet was told to go. Zarephath comes from a Hebrew verb that means “to melt, to smelt.” Interestingly, in noun form it means “crucible.” The place may have gotten its name because there was a smelting plant located somewhere near there; we don’t know for sure. But whatever the source of its name, Zarephath would prove to be a “crucible” for Elijah—a place designed by God to further refine the prophet and make a major difference in the remainder of his life.
It was almost as if the Lord were saying to His servant, “I first took you to Cherith to wean you away from the bright lights and the public platform, where I could cut you down to size and reduce you to a man who would trust Me, regardless. It was there I began to renovate your inner man through the disciplines of solitude, silence, and obscurity. But now it’s time to do an even deeper work. Now, Elijah, I will turn up the heat in the furnace and melt you so that I might mold you far more exactly into the kind of man I need to fulfill the purposes I have in mind.”
If you walk with the Lord long enough, you will discover that His tests often come back-to-back. Or perhaps it would be even more accurate to say back to back to back to back to back. Usually, His preparatory tests don’t stop with one or two. They multiply. And as soon as you climb out of one crucible thinking, “Okay, I made it through that one,” you’re plunged into another, where the flame is even hotter.
Crucibles create Christlikeness. This is precisely what the hymn writer had in mind when he wrote:
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.1
That’s what a crucible does. That’s what a furnace does. It brings all the impurities to the surface so that they can be skimmed off, leaving greater purity.