Smith. This surname is wildly popular and ranks above all others in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. It is number two in Canada.
The name comes from occupations that work with metal such as goldsmiths, silversmiths and blacksmiths. The type of furnace they use is called a forge or smithy, which is designed to reach superheated temperatures to allow metals to hit their melting points.
Those who work with gold and silver craft fine jewelry, cutlery and regal pieces. The more purified the metal, the more it takes on ideal qualities. In this state, precious metals become shinier and more malleable and can be easily crafted into delicate ornate items of incredible value.
Since mankind began to mine rock from the earth, the job of a metal smith has been extremely important and influential to society. The prevalence of people with the surname Smith today is evidence of their long-standing history and widespread influence in the world.
It is interesting that the name Smith tops the charts in most modern nations descended from ancient Israel. This takes on additional meaning when one understands that the God of the Bible is also a type of “smith.” Notice Malachi 3: “And He [Jesus Christ] shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (vs. 3).
The Hebrew word for “refiner” is tsaraph, which Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible defines as “to fuse (metal), that is, refine.” Elsewhere in the King James Version, it is also translated “founder” and “goldsmith.”
Jesus Christ—who is the “same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8)—is the ultimate “smith.” He previously worked with the physical nation of Israel, yet this people would not allow themselves to be refined and they ultimately rejected Him.
Today, the same Refiner has chosen to work with us, spiritual Israel (Gal. 6:16). As Christians, we carry the name of Christ. It should come as no surprise that we are also to take on the role of spiritual “smiths.”
For true Christians, the most important time of year to consider our role as metalworkers is in preparation for the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread, which constitute the first of God’s annual Holy Days.
Notice what I Corinthians 11 commands before partaking in the Passover service: “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” (vs. 28).
In this verse, the Greek word for “examine” is dokimazo. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines this term as “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing be genuine or not), as metals” and “to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy.”
Dokimazo comes from the root word dokimos. Thayer’s reveals that this word is also tied to working with metal: “…accepted, particularly of coins and money. Therefore, once purified, weighed and measured the metal is deemed of sufficient worth and able to be used as an item of real, acceptable value.”
Strong’s adds even more: “…properly acceptable (current after assayal), that is, approved.”
The word “assayal” holds critical meaning for Passover preparation. In Bible times, the metallurgical “assayal” process generally included three steps, each of which brings further meaning to how we must “examine” ourselves. First, a smith placed chunks of ore (mined rock) into a clay crucible (vessel). Next, it was placed into a fire where the metal was melted and the impurities (known as slag) floated to the top. Finally, the slag was removed. The gold or silver was then allowed to cool and the process was repeated. How much slag came off the metal determined its purity.
Assayal takes serious heat. In order to melt metal to separate it from slag, the fire must reach tremendous temperatures. Consider that gold melts at about 1,945 degrees Fahrenheit, silver at 1,761 degrees, and iron at 2,800 degrees.
Just as smiths test the quality of their metal, we should examine the quality of our mettle—the content of our character. Before Passover, we must “test our mettle” as the old saying goes.
“Mettle” and “metal” used to be synonymous. In the late 1500s, these two English words were used interchangeably. This analogy of character being likened to physical metal originated in the Bible. God’s Word repeatedly relates personal character (mettle) to precious metals.
Take I Corinthians 11:28 for what it says. Each year, in advance of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we must allot sufficient time and energy to apply heat through vigorous, fiery self-examination. We must test our spiritual metal!
Cannot Do It Alone
Throughout millennia, there was generally only one way to learn to become a smith: apprenticeship. Those who wanted to work with metals had to learn from someone who had already mastered the craft.
The same goes for Christians. We cannot alone sufficiently “heat” our character to locate and begin to remove the spiritual slag from our lives. Instead, we need God’s help.
Prior to taking the Passover’s yearly symbols, it is imperative that we individually go to God and ask Him to reveal to us where the impurities exist in our own lives. Then, through His Spirit leading us, we are able to go to His Word, which will bring the areas of weakness to the surface to be removed.
It is only God who has the power to forgive sins. Christ already paid the required ransom of death for us individually. Each year we should take the time to be reminded of God’s incredible love and mercy for His people. We are to remember Christ’s act of selfless sacrifice. We remind ourselves of the covenant we made with God the Father and Jesus, our Lord, Master, High Priest, and soon-coming King, at baptism as we re-dedicate ourselves to this way of life.
I Corinthians chapter 11 introduces the Passover symbols and cements the importance of self-examination: “…the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me.
“After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (vs. 23-25).
This account shows that Jesus introduced new Passover symbols in the hours before His crucifixion. True Christians now partake of them once a year “in remembrance” of that sacrifice.
Elsewhere in the Bible, we find that Christ’s sacrifice has a twofold importance. His body (the bread) represents forgiveness of physical sin. Isaiah 53:5 summarizes this by stating that “with His stripes we are healed.” The blood (the wine) represents forgiveness of spiritual sins. Matthew 26:28 quotes Jesus, “For this is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
Back to I Corinthians 11: “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine [dokimazo] himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks [condemnation] to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (vs. 27-29).
Verse 30 shows what happens when a person does not properly examine himself before the Passover: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.”
This passage brings home the crucial importance of self-examination. It must be thorough, fiery and complete.
Until we put ourselves through a type of “assaying” process, we cannot know what our character is actually worth because it is masked by the slag that is mixed within. We must take the time to separate the two through the heat of vigorous Bible study to see how much of the precious metals (growth of godly character) we have actually built over the last year.
Again, this cannot be done alone; we must rely on God as the Master Refiner during the process. King David knew this well. Psalm 26 states: “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart” (vs. 2). “Try” here is the same Hebrew word, tsaraph, translated “refiner” in Malachi 3:3.
King Solomon also realized this: “The fining pot [crucible] is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the Lord tries the hearts” (Prov. 17:3).
We must heavily rely on God’s help in preparation for the Passover. Otherwise, there is no way we can do a sufficient job. Pray that He will show you your true self: both where you have grown spiritually and the areas that are still weaknesses.
God promises to assist in the assayal process, but it is ultimately up to the individual: “But let every man prove [dokimazo] his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Gal. 6:4).
Each of us must put forth sufficient time and effort to assay our spiritual metal. During New Testament times, metalworkers would use a type of pump called bellows to provide a continuous flow of oxygen to the furnace, which helped fuel the fire. High quality metals could have required the smiths to work the bellows in excess of eight hours at a time. Exhausting!
Similarly, proper self-examination takes hard work over a period of time before Passover.
The book of I Corinthians contains a treasure trove of information pertaining to the spring Holy Days. In fact, it was written by Paul and read by the Corinthian congregation during the Days of Unleavened Bread. Chapter 10 is a fitting place to begin for the assaying/self-examination process. It brings up the example of ancient Israel and how the Exodus story applies to Christians today.
The apostle Paul outlined the Israelites’ miraculous journey out of slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that you should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness” (vs. 1-5).
Verse 6 states the reason for bringing up these events: “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.”
When reading the account of the Israelites exodus from Egypt, the actions of stiff-necked Israel can seem ridiculous. How could they so quickly forget the 10 plagues that decimated their captors’ nation, a parted Red Sea, and God’s presence in the form of a pillar of fire or cloud and still fall into sin?
Fiery self-examination must start with knowing that we are capable of forgetting the incredible blessings of God and falling into sin. We must remember the lesson of Jeremiah 10:23: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.”
Ancient Israel’s journey provides a physical analogy that types the spiritual conversion process. They left Egypt, as a Christian leaves the world, which can be likened to a “spiritual Egypt.”
Israel was “baptized” in the Red Sea, just as we were submerged in baptismal waters and became part of “spiritual Israel,” the Church. As the Israelites were led by God to the Promised Land, Christians will enter the kingdom through God’s guidance.
The Days of Unleavened Bread are an annual reminder of God’s incredible blessings. He wants us to remember the gift of salvation during Passover. On the following day, He wants us to meditate on how He brought us out of the world during the Night to Be Much Observed. The event of Israel leaving Egypt is commemorated on this evening through a special dinner as the First Day of Unleavened Bread begins.
Throughout the weeklong spring festival, God commands us to focus on another spiritual analogy: leaven. Similar to the impurities in metal, the spiritual leaven of sin must be removed from our lives. Leaven spreads, however, just as sin that is not removed will spread and ultimately lead to death (Rom. 6:23).
For this reason, God commands us to remove all leavened products—including bread, baking soda, and yeast—from our homes before the Days of Unleavened Bread. This physical action illustrates the spiritual concept of a sin-free life. For more detailed explanations of the biblical commands surrounding the spring Holy Days, read the Pillar article “Unleavened Bread: A Taste of Our True Home” found in the Member Services section of rcg.org.
Overall, this special season helps us to see where we have gone off track and re-commit ourselves to the Christian walk. All of this starts with realizing that we can fall into the same problems as ancient Israel.
For us in the last days, the example of ancient Israel takes on even more importance. Notice: “Now all these things happened unto [ancient Israel] for ensamples [types]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world [age] are come. Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (I Cor. 10:11-12). By reviewing Israel’s examples and seeing how they apply to our own lives we can remove the slag in our character by “taking heed” so we do not “fall.”
The Israelites desired to return to Egypt, despite being enslaved while there (I Cor. 10:5-6). God stated that these were “evil things” and that “he was not well pleased” because Israel desired to go back to the world they had known.
We are instructed in I John 2:15-16: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever.” Seeking after the lives that we once had is a vain exercise that disconnects us from God.
During your examinations, you should ask: How much do I put my own desires of modern convenience and luxury ahead of the needs of others or that of God’s Work? How much do I focus on “getting” for myself? Am I trying to keep up with the Joneses and buying the latest and greatest toys?
Take time to seriously consider these points. Do you reflect covetousness or contentment? (See Hebrews 13:5.)
Paul also warned of idolatry in I Corinthians 10. Verse 7 states: “Neither be you idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Israel, enslaved for approximately 239 years, got used to the many pagan gods of Egypt, including their holidays, filthy celebrations, and lewd religious rituals.
Think how quickly they reverted to what they knew when Moses went to receive the commandments of God.
Ask yourself: How much have I allowed this world’s gods to be ahead of the God of Creation? Where do I spend the majority of my time? What am I dwelling on? Where do I put my trust?
In verse 8, we find another of Israel’s sins: “Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.”
Multiple times, Israel fell into the sins of the surrounding nations, including fornication. Today, like no other time in history, sex in all of its misrepresented forms is pushed in our faces. Many television programs, books, movies and music endorse wrong ideas, all of which lead to unhappiness and confusion.
How are we doing in this area? Do we put ourselves in positions where we imbibe these attitudes or tolerate them? How are we spending our time in regard to entertainment? Never forget that fornication—in all its forms—is a sin against our own bodies, and that our bodies are temples for God’s Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:18-20).
Further, we should regularly ask ourselves if we are tempting God as Israel did: “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents” (I Cor. 10:9).
The Israelites grew tired of God’s perfect heavenly food, manna. They complained about the way God was providing for them and meeting their daily needs. Do we trust that God will provide? We should ask whether or not we have learned to be content (Phil. 4:11), no matter our circumstances. What about in our jobs (Luke 3:14) or living arrangements (I Tim. 6:8)?
Christ’s example when He was tempted by the devil to throw Himself from the Temple and expect angelic protection is also instructive: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Luke 4:12).
Are we putting ourselves into situations we should not? Are we expecting good health while not practicing God’s laws of health? Do we take physical risks?
Finally, I Corinthians 10 concludes with the final warning, “Neither murmur you, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer” (vs. 10).
Do we feel that our voices need to be heard in the Church? Are we taking it upon ourselves to “rule, judge and decide?” How willingly do we receive instruction or correction from those over us (Heb. 13:7; 17), understanding that this is the way God works with us? Are we generally thankful (Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:17; I Thes. 5:18)? Or do we take things for granted (II Tim. 3:3; Num. 14)?
Turn Up the Heat
Remember that precious metals will only melt when they reach superheated temperatures—well over 1,000 degrees! The same is true for spiritual assayal. We must ask ourselves difficult questions that will help locate the slag and reveal the true quality of our character. Thankfully, the Bible has many lists that can be used to “turn up the heat” during self-examination. Coupling this process with fasting will also allow us to draw closer to the ultimate Refiner and see ourselves as He sees us.
Galatians 5:19-21 is a list of the works of the flesh: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest [obvious], which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Meditate on each of these negative character traits to see if they can be found in your life. Looking up what they mean in the original Greek adds additional depth.
A similar list can be found in Ephesians 5:3-7. Verse 11 calls these “works of darkness.” Ephesians 4:25-31 can be used in a similar manner.
Also be sure to examine areas in which you should be growing. You can read Galatians 5: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (vs. 22-23). How are you doing with love? What about joy? And so on.
Positive lists are also found in Ephesians 4:26-32 and Matthew 5:3-7.
The more comprehensive our lists and thorough our studies, the better the result of our spiritual assayal will be.
Fire from Another Source
Although vital to the process, prayer, Bible study, and fasting are not the only sources of heat prior to the Passover season. Many in God’s Church experience severe trials in the form of job difficulties, amped-up family pressures, or matters of health beforehand.
When this onslaught of problems comes, it can be natural to wonder, “Why is this happening to me now?”
Yet we should not be shocked: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you” (I Pet. 4:12).
God, the original “smith,” is in the process of refining us. Smoldering-hot trials should be expected! They are designed to put our precious metals—godly character—to the test.
When pre-Passover trials come, realize their purpose, and “count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations; knowing this, that the trying [dokimon, which is a variation of dokimos] of your faith works patience” (Jms. 1:2-3).
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Enduring and overcoming trials takes real faith! We know that God “will not suffer you to be tempted [tested] above what you are able” that He will give us the strength to “be able to bear it” (I Cor. 10:13).
Easy to say—hard to do! But realize that the heat of trials will also reveal weak points in your character. They will greatly help the self-examination process.
The apostle Paul recorded: “…we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; and patience, experience [dokime, which is Greek for “test, proof, trial”]; and experience, hope: and hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:3-5).
Trials provide the heat to purify us. They make us stronger. Forged faith is incredibly valuable in God’s eyes: “…the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 1:7).
For more about this topic, read the article “Pre-Passover Trials – Inseparable from True Christianity,” also found in this issue.
A Way of Life
If we commit to fiery self-examination leading up to Passover, we can be assured that we will take the symbols in a “worthy” manner.
Yet the spiritual assayal process should not just occur once a year. The meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread shows this. The festival lasts one week, which symbolically represents an entire lifetime of removing the leaven of sin from our lives. Similarly, we should always be on the lookout for spiritual slag in our character. It is not only a once-a-year exercise.
The apostle Paul understood this. In II Corinthians, which was written outside the Days of Unleavened Bread, Paul exhorted Christians: “Examine”—Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines this as “to try, attempt, assay”—“yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates [adokimos]?” (13:5).
We are to examine—assay— ourselves throughout the year as well!
During the Days of Unleavened Bread, we are commanded to eat leaven-free bread each of the seven days. This is a type of us studying God’s Word each and every day of our lives.
After Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, we must with God’s help constantly remove sin from our lives.
It takes multiple, detailed assayals to produce 24-karat (100 percent pure) gold and the best silver. These numerous steps in the end yield a more valuable product. Similarly, we must also be willing to be refined numerous times, always being ready to put our character into the fiery furnace throughout the year. This too will lead to a more valuable result and a greater reward.
With regular self-examination and a period of intensive assayal before Passover, you can qualify for a place ruling in the God Family.
I Corinthians 3:10-14 states: “…But let every man take heed how he builds [upon the foundation of Jesus Christ]…Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”
If we wait too long between refinements, impurities will build up and we will begin to lose our shine and luster. The gold of our character will corrode and our silver will tarnish. There is no room for simple or light refinement. Learn the lessons from ancient Israel, actively remove the slag from your life, and become white hot, preparing your metal for the ultimate test when Christ returns.
As we approach this coming Passover, and regularly throughout the year, never forget that we are all “smiths.” Allow God, the ultimate “Smith,” to purify, refine and correctly assay each of us.
With God’s help, take the necessary time to examine yourself, knowing that your salvation depends on it: “Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).