3. What was involved in the ancient refining process?
3 But, first, why does Jehovah expose his people to testing and sifting? As “the examiner of hearts,” he has purposed to refine his organized people. (Proverbs 17:3; Psalm 66:10) In Bible times the refining process involved heating a metal to the melting point and then skimming off the impurities, or dross. We read: “The refiner watches the operation, either standing or sitting, with the greatest earnestness, until . . . the [liquid] metal has the appearance of a highly-polished mirror, reflecting every object around it; even the refiner, as he looks upon the mass of metal, may see himself as in a looking-glass, and thus he can form a very correct judgment respecting the purity of the metal. If he is satisfied, the fire is withdrawn, and the metal removed from the furnace; but if not considered pure, more lead is added and the process repeated.” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by J. McClintock and J. Strong) Such refined gold or silver was more valuable.—Compare Revelation 3:18.
4. Why does Jehovah allow testing and sifting among his people?
4 Jehovah allows testing and sifting so as to refine, or purify, his people, helping them to reflect more accurately his image. (Ephesians 5:1) In the refining process, he skims off the dross by clearing away unclean teachings and practices. (Isaiah 1:25) He also sifts out from among his people those who refuse to submit to the refining process and who “cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness.” This clears the way for “the sons of the kingdom,” the spiritual Israelites, to shine with brightness so that an earthly class can also be gathered and cleave to them organizationally for survival.—Matthew 13:38, 41, 43; Philippians 2:15.