The furnace of affliction
‘And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.’ Genesis 15:17
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Job 23:1–10
The whole [incident] was closed by a sign—a smoking furnace and a burning lamp—a type of the state of the church.
(i) The furnace of affliction. Here, says he, I have chosen thee [Isaiah 48:10]. Here he first finds them and we may say of the furnace—as of the Apostle, of the stream of the Rock—it follows them all the way through the wilderness [1 Corinthians 10:4]. This is to refine them. They are compared to silver—the precious metal of his grace is in them, but mixed with much dross. Therefore they stand in need of continual refining. Self-will, self-dependence, the affections cleaving to the dust. Affliction shows them what they are, what the world is, and makes them look upward and long for their rest. The furnace is also to manifest his power and faithfulness.
(ii) The burning lamp: a token of God’s presence with them in their affliction. To the upright there ariseth light in darkness [Psalm 97:11]. The wicked are all darkness—they have no knowledge, true comfort or hope. But his people have light by which they see the hand that appoints their trials: I was dumb—because thou didst it [Psalm 39:9]. His design is not to consume them but to do them good. When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold [Job 23:10]. So Romans 8:28. They know that the fruit shall be to take away sin. They see an end. The lamp throws a light beyond the grave. I shall not always suffer thus. These light afflictions, which are but a moment, shall issue in a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [2 Corinthians 4:17]. They have therefore comfort. Sometimes the lamp shines so bright that they can glory in tribulation.
FOR MEDITATION: The Lord’s people are sure of afflictions. If any of them are favoured with earthly comforts, yet trials are their daily lot and they groan, being burdened [2 Corinthians 5:4]. Have you light in your afflictions or do you suffer in vain? Let the redeemed of the Lord praise him. You have found him thus far faithful and he will be with you to the end.
SERMON SERIES: GENESIS, NO. 33 [2/2], GENESIS 15:17