Most of us have had at least some acquaintance with sandpaper. If you need to get the burrs and bumps off a piece of wood, you don’t start with velvet, or even a soft cloth. You need sandpaper.
Sanding plays an important role in the making of fine furniture. The quality of the wood may be the very best, but it is not fine furniture until it has undergone a great amount of process. One critical part is the sanding. All the rough places—even the smallest nicks, burrs, and splinters—must be thoroughly sanded, and sanded, again and again, until they are perfectly smooth, so smooth that the eye cannot see and the hand cannot feel any roughness. Only then is the furniture ready for the final finish coat and a prominent place in the merchant’s store—and ultimately in a buyer’s home.
Can we think that God’s requirements for quality are any less? Should He who has infinite resources at His disposal be satisfied with substandard work? Can we think He will accept our human nicks, and burrs and splinters in a piece that is destined for a place in His eternal temple?
That is why God uses sanders. These sanders may be individuals He brings into our lives. Or they may be circumstances. But whatever their nature, the task is the same. They are rough, abrasive, and not easily worn down. If we were defining the process, we would likely skip the sanders. But they are needed, and as the work progresses, the sanders God uses become finer and finer in texture, until at last they may be only a soft buffer that removes the last bits of dust and leaves only a shiny smooth surface.
Do you and I need sanding? Absolutely! And God has provided just this—for our good. But in the words of the poet, “There’s the rub.” Literally! People can rub us, situations rub us, life’s experiences rub us. Again and again we must submit to the rub. But we submit gladly, realizing that without it we cannot have that perfect sheen God is looking for.
The prophet Jeremiah prayed for God’s sanding in his own life. He knew he needed it, and sought. And so he prayed:
Jer.10:23–24 23O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.
Lord, he says, I cannot sand myself. I’m not even sure which spots need sanding. I need your help.
24O Lord, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing.
It’s as if Jeremiah said, Lord, I know I asked for it, but please, pleeeeease … don’t be too rough on me… be gentle!
The Lord, speaking of the correction that Israel would not take, mentioned some of his roughest tools. The illustration is not sanding here, it is breaking the heart that is as hard as rock.
Jer. 23:29 29“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks [literally, “shatters”] the rock in pieces?
Neither fire nor hammer could be called gentle. The hammer might seem forceful enough for anything, but sometimes the hardest rocks are heated with fire in the breaking process. God can use both means.
Notice especially the instrument that is “like fire” and “like a hammer.” What is it? The instrument is the WORD of GOD. Who thought the WORD is not powerful! When God speaks, His word has power and authority. It can kill or make alive. Hebrews says just how powerful the WORD is:
Heb. 4:12 12For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Now there is REAL POWER! Because it is told in symbol, the lesson strikes us even harder.
Such is the power of the WORD of GOD—the authority God’s law must have in our lives. It will only have that power as we realize it comes from the great God of heaven, comes with His authority and ultimately His power to kill and to make alive.
Oh, let that Word come to us with that authority, so that when it says “do,” we DO! When it says “stop,” we STOP. When it says “change,” “repent,” or “turn,” we DO it!
God continues to deliver His message to Jeremiah, that he is speaking to the strong and proud and defiant people:
Jer. 23:30–32 30“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor. 31Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’
Hear those repeated words:
“I am against….”
“I am against….”
Can you even imagine how serious is this crime against God? It is actual lying against God, and making God out to be a liar, saying “God said”—when God didn’t say anything of the kind!
And Jeremiah is to deliver this message to the people? Do you wonder why they hated him, turned on him, and treated him miserably?
Who wanted to hear a message like THIS! The next verse is also directed against the false prophets.
32Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord.
It was a spiritual dead end for these people. No correction, no profit.
[They] cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness.
“By their wild and reckless falsehoods.” Their day would soon end because they refused all correction.
David had a deep, inner longing for God’s sanding process. He wanted to be right with God, and knew there was only one way to get there. Let’s look at his words in Psalm 141.
Ps. 141:1-5 1Lord, I cry out to You; Make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You.
David sincerely wanted God to hear him.
2Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.
David had high regard for worship. Well he knew the beauty of the tabernacle service, the offering of incense, and the evening sacrifice.
He doesn’t miss the personal message of the service. It needs to be reflected in his words—and ours—by a continual guard on our words. Verse 3:
3Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
It goes even further than watching what we say. Verse 4:
4Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice wicked works With men who work iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.
David feels danger in having the wrong associations who might influence him in the wrong way “to practice wicked works with them who work iniquity.” And doubtless his court was filled with them. He doesn’t even want to think about those who “work iniquity.” His prayer is to be with the righteous.
5Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.
What can the righteous do for him? They can see where he is wrong and “strike.” How will David take it? As a kindness.
5Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness.
Sometime to deeply appreciate, as a kindness.
5… And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.
David sees the benefit of godly correction. And don’t we also? It is the only way to get out of our own way! Others can see us so much better than we see ourselves!
So David concludes, and we with him, “It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.”
Yes, don’t refuse it, David. Don’t refuse it, one and all. It is another simile describing God’s sanding process, a process meant to take off all the nicks and burrs and splinters on us and make us smooth and beautiful in character, ready for that permanent place in God’s eternal temple!
Thank God for His “sanders”!