Chapter 22:13-22 (ESV) - “Behold, I strike my hand at the dishonest gain that you have made, and at the blood that has been in your midst. Can your courage endure, or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. I will scatter you among the nations and disperse you through the countries, and I will consume your uncleanness out of you. And you shall be profaned by your own doing in the sight of the nations, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are dross of silver. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Because you have all become dross, therefore, behold, I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As one gathers silver and bronze and iron and lead and tin into a furnace, to blow the fire on it in order to melt it, so I will gather you in my anger and in my wrath, and I will put you in and melt you. I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of my wrath, and you shall be melted in the midst of it. As silver is melted in a furnace, so you shall be melted in the midst of it, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have poured out my wrath upon you.”
Question to consider: What did God mean that the house of Israel had become dross?
In Peter’s first epistle, he wrote, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9) Peter gave us this beautiful image of their faith being more precious than gold that had been melted down and purified of its dross through the fires of persecution. He was writing to our brothers and sisters in Christ who were also in exile among the Gentile nations, not for their sin, but for the sake of the Gospel. He went on to say, “ And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one's deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:17-19)
Contrast this image of the faithful exiles purified in Christ with God’s words to the house of Israel through Ezekiel. Rather than being precious gold, refined in the fire of persecution, they were the dross, the impurities that would be thrown away. God would turn Jerusalem into a furnace, and they would be melted down— not by the persecution of the world but by the wrath of God.
I think Peter had this passage of Ezekiel in mind when he wrote his epistle because he was also talking to exiles. However, instead of facing the wrath of God for their sin, they were facing the wrath of the world for their righteousness in Christ, for he went on to write, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:12-17) Peter called them the “household of God” rather than the “household of Israel”, and the fiery trial came from the world rather than from God.
Ultimately, the wrath of God against Jerusalem through the Babylonians pointed to the wrath of God against sin on the cross of Christ. Just as God purified the remnant of Israel in their exile so we are being purified as exiles in the world. Just as God brought the faithful back to the land and rebuilt Jerusalem so we are gathered to Christ in the heavenly Jerusalem, and His kingdom will have no end.
Dear heavenly father, help us to rejoice as we endure the wrath of this world for the sake of Christ, knowing that You are sanctifying us in Him and drawing others to faith in the process. Amen.