The prophets served an important role in the history of Israel. They applied God’s law to His people in much the same way Jesus did to the religious leaders of His day. The Scribes and the Pharisees had redefined the law in such a way that they could claim to have kept it. Jesus repeatedly convicted them, pointing out how far short they actually fell from a truly righteous observance of the law. In the book of Jeremiah, the prophet explains how God had called him to convict the nation as well. In Jeremiah 6:27-28 God says to Jeremiah, “I have made you a tester of metals among my people, that you may know and test their ways. They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly.” This is where the phrase “testing our metal” comes from.

This is a blanket indictment of mankind as a whole. When I read the prophets, I have the tendency to think God is speaking to the children of Israel only. I see how corrupt they had become over the years and how they worshiped the gods of the peoples around them and bowed down to their idols. But, not me! They are really bad, but not me! They have allowed the world to “corrupt” them. But not me! I’m so glad I’m not like them! But this makes me like the Pharisee from the parable in Luke 18. Wikipedia talks about that parable this way: “In Luke 18:9-14, a Pharisee, obsessed by his own virtue, is contrasted with a tax collector who humbly asks God for mercy. This parable demonstrates the need to pray humbly.” Wikipedia’s take on that parable is the grossest understatement imaginable, but I’ve heard that parable preached like that and have even used it that way myself. This take divorces the reality of life in the world with our “religious” life at church or in this case, the temple. The manner in which we pray is just a symptom, it’s not the disease. Just as a boil is a symptom of leprosy, our prayer life is something that arises out of who we are inside and how we see ourselves. It’s about the very fabric of our being. It’s about the substance we are made of. It’s about our “metal.”

Job’s metal was tested. The test was to see if he trusted (believed in the goodness of) God, even though his situations tempted him to doubt God’s love and goodness. In Job 13:15 he says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” It’s about our faith. Is it in ourselves or is it in Christ? Is it our righteousness we are trusting in or is it His? Job’s confidence is in God’s ultimate goodness not in his own. Job’s trials were a test of his faith, not a test of his righteousness. In Job 23:10, Job is convinced of this and says, “When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Peter acknowledges the same kind of metal testing of our faith in God’s goodness. He talks about how the tests of life, trials and pains and losses, test our metal. In 1 Peter 1:7, he says that trials come so that your “faith” can be tested which is “greater worth than gold.” Religion calls us to trust in our own righteousness. Jesus calls us to trust in His.