I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10 KJV)
When God says He has chosen us, we need to interpret this deep, biblical truth in two parts of speech: First, as a verb, because God has made a decision to select us into His service; and second, as an adjective, because God’s choice makes us choice (of very good quality).
Understanding this order is critical to understanding the Gospel. God does not choose us because we are choice on our own, worthy of His choosing and affection. Rather, because He chooses us, we are made choice by His sovereign action of choosing us. Now, if that does not bring you great comfort and light the fire of your faith . . . your wood is wet!
But notice this: we are chosen as an afflicted people, not as affluent people. God does not place us on a pedestal in the palace. Rather, our God ordains that we, in His strength, will work our way out of one pit after another, just as Joseph did because of the sinful jealousy of his brothers who sold him into slavery. In God’s mercy and grace, we are put into the furnace of affliction in order to prove, purify, and perfect us—again, just like Joseph. It is in the furnace of affliction that we are formed and fashioned into the image of God’s beloved Son Jesus Christ, beause, as the apostle Paul wrote, “Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4).
So what furnace of affliction have you been placed in today? Even if it is heated seven times hotter than ever before, remember that you are not alone. When the three Hebrew youths where thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar because they refused to bow down to a pagan image, the king saw four men walking around in the furnace, and he exclaimed that “the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). God’s deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was a great victory and an awesome demonstration of His care and concern for His people. And He exercises that same care and concern for you today.
God could have kept those young men out of the furnace. But instead, He joined them in it for their good and ultimately for His glory. Every furnace of affliction is designed for that end. God will use whatever furnace you are facing to bring you to the end of yourself. His faithful, refining fire finds out what is worthless and purges it from His people. Remember, the same God who sends the sunshine and the rain also sends His people into the searing furnace, but that trial is always far less than we deserve. “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10).
God has chosen you, and that makes you choice. He uses the furnace of affliction to fashion you into the faithful follower He is calling you to be.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!