8Bless our God, O peoples,
And sound His praise abroad,
9Who keeps us in life
And does not allow our feet to slip.
10For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
11You brought us into the net;
You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
12You made men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water,
Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
This Psalm intrigues me. The author starts out praising God. Bless God because he keeps us in life! You would think some great thing had happened. Some great deliverance... but he goes on to say that God tried him and his people by bringing them into a net, laying oppressive burdens on them, taking them through fire and water. Why in the world would he praise God for taking them through all of these situations? Why would you be thankful that God put you in a net??? That seems almost cruel! But rather than being angry with God and complaining about all he had to go through, the author praises him and uses the account to convince others to praise God. There are two reasons he calls for this praise: God was refining the people, and after the trial God brought them out to a place of abundance.
I do not know if in the midst of the trial he was praising God, but having come through it he was able to say, "The fire, the net, the burdens... were good. " They were God's means of purifying the people. Though they could not see the purpose before, looking back, he was able to see God's wisdom and was thankful for it. The beauty of this account is that not only did God try the people, but in his grace he then brought them back into a place of abundance. Even without the abundance the fire would have refined the people and been good in and of itself, but God is a God of restoration, and he graciously restored their lives to a new place of abundance. My guess is that the refining made them more able to live in that abundance without the hindrance and weight of the impurities they had before.
The other interesting part of this passage is the use of the plural pronoun, "we, us." God refined us... not me. We often think of trials as something "I" have to go through, that refines "me", but we forget that we are never changed alone. "you refined us." It is so true... What God does, he never does for me alone. When I am refined, if I am living in a community of people, I would dare say my fire is refining those around me as well. I can speak from personal experience... When I am walking in a fire, those closest to me will feel it too. And that is God's purpose. In his wisdom he intertwines our stories so that we are refined together and restored together so that we can rejoice together in the new abundance and growth. This process can hurt too though... when I'm in a net, I'm more than likely kicking and punching the other fish around me... haha. I've done my share of that too. But in the end we can say together, "Bless God! Because he dug up all our crud, refined our hearts and brought us out to a place of abundance." It may be difficult to see now, but he is at work, he is refining us together, and he will bring us together to a place of abundance. Praise God for he dug all the crud up!