Summary: Message looks at the correlation between the refining of silver and the Christian life.
As The Silver Is, So Are We
This will be a two part series that I have titled “As The Silver Is, So Are We.” I received an email several months ago about the refining of silver. In the email, a women’s group was studying Malachi 3:3 and wondered what the statement “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver…” meant about the character of God. As the story goes, one of the women volunteered to go and find out the process for refining silver. She found a silversmith and visited him at work, watching how he purified the silver. When she left him, she understood more about Malachi’s prophecy. This morning, God wants us to know that we are like silver so let’s examine some of the traits of silver.
I. Traits of Silver
Silver is a soft, white, lustrous transition metal. It has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal. It occurs as a pure free metal (native silver) and alloyed with gold, as well as in various minerals. Most silver is produced as a by-product of copper, gold, lead, and zinc meaning that the silver is actually found mixed with these other minerals and is separated while purifying them. Silver has been known since ancient times and has long been valued as a precious metal. It is used to make ornaments, jewelry, high-value tableware and utensils (hence the term "silverware") and currency coins. Today, silver metal is used in electrical contacts and conductors, in mirrors and in catalysis of chemical reactions.
Silver is stable in pure air and water, but tarnishes when it is exposed to air or water containing ozone or hydrogen sulfide. A major use of silver is as a precious metal and it has long been used for making high-value objects reflecting the wealth and status of the owner. Jewelry and silverware are traditionally made from sterling silver (standard silver), an alloy of 92.5% silver with 7.5% copper. Although sterling silver will tarnish faster than pure silver, (it is the metal the silver is alloyed with, mostly copper, that is the main component in the tarnishing process), sterling is a much better metal for jewelry than fine/pure silver. Pure silver is simply too soft to be practical for most pieces of jewelry. Silver is also used in medals, denoting second place. Some high-end musical instruments are made from sterling silver, such as the flute. Finally, silver is much less expensive than gold which is why most prefer gold jewelry versus silver.
In the refining or purifying of silver, heat is required. First, to separate the silver from the other minerals it is combined with in its natural form it must be heated. Because different metals melt at different heating temperatures, this was the best way in the “old days” to separate the silver from the other minerals. Silver melts at a temperature that is less than that of copper and gold and at a higher temperature than lead or zinc which most silver is derived from. Because of the differences in the temperature required to melt each mineral, they can be easily separated. Today, there are several ways to separate the minerals, but for the correlation with Malachi, I will stick with the heat method for this message. Once the silver has been separated from the other minerals, it still contains other impurities. By holding the silver over the fire and heating it to its melting point the impurities will either burn away or rise to the top of the melted silver.