Gold has always been prized for its rarity and permanence. It is useful in its pure state even before it is refined, and it never tarnishes like other metals do. God’s value and beauty caused it to become associated with wealth and royalty (Gen 13:2; 41:42). The accoutrements of royalty were made of gold, including scepters and crowns (2 Sam 12:30; Esther 4:11; 8:15). Thus the wise men’s gift of gold to Jesus was a symbolic act-he was being declared to be a king (Matt 2:11).
SYMBOL OF WORSHIP
Gold played an important part in the construction of the tabernacle and temple. The ark was overlaid with gold and many of the utensils were made of gold, as well as part of the structure itself (Exod 25:11-39; 1 Kings 6:20-35). Gold’s symbolic association with royalty made it natural choice for the house of the King of kings and the instruments used in worshiping him. Paul draws out the significance of gold being used to make items for noble purposes in his letter to Timothy: “In a large house there are not only objects made of gold and silver, but also those made of wood and clay. Some objects are honored when they are used; others aren’t (2 Tim 2:20). The use of gold in the tabernacle and temple symbolized the value the worshiper placed on the God they were worshipping.
IMAGE OF VALUE
The poets of the Bible often use gold to represent superiority. The beloved in Song of Solomon refers to her lover’s head, arms, and feet being made of gold (5:11, 14-15). The psalmist declares that the teachings of God’s Word are “more desirable than gold, even the finest gold” (19:10). Wisdom is better than gold (Prov 3:14), as evidenced by the fact that it cannot be bought with gold (Job 28:12-15). God is portrayed as the symbolic standard of ultimate value in the Bible.
The value of gold caused it to become misused and idolized. People began to worship gold idols rather than the One who created gold to began with (Exod 20:23; Acts 17:29). In addition, preoccupation with gathering wealth such as gold is condemned throughout Scripture (Job 31:24-28). This overvaluation of gold led God to declare, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of Armies” (Hag 2:8). Gold may be a standard of superiority and value, but God is of infinitely higher worth than any earthly standard.
THE PURIFYING OF GOLD
The process by which gold is purified and formed makes it a fitting image for the sanctifying work that occurs in the life of a believer. Refiners carefully melt gold to bring out any impurities, a process that requires high heat and constant tending. The image of God refining believers is first used in the book of Job as Job declared, “When he test me, I’ll come out as pure as gold” (23:10; Jer 9:7). Following this imagery through to the New Testament, Peter reminded believers that suffering is a testing process: “The purposes of these troubles is to test your faith as fire test how genuine gold is. Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory, and honor to God. This will happen when Jesus Christ appears again” (1 Pet 1:7). The use of gold refining as an image for sanctification helps us understand the purpose of suffering in our lives and the role of God as he tends the fire and cares for us at each stage of the refining process.
The final use of gold in Scripture is, of course, in the depictions of heaven. It is city of pure gold with streets made of pure gold. (Rev 21:18, 21) and an eternal home for those who spent their lives living for the things that last-symbolized by the gold, silver, and precious stones, representing a life lived for Christ and his kingdom (1 Cor 3:12). In the descriptions of heaven, gold as an image for value and permanence has come full circle, with gold covering God’s house as it did the tabernacle and temple and God being honored as the true and worthy King by those who have been brought through the fire. Those who have persevered to the end, whose faith has been proven to be as genuine as gold, enjoyed eternal life in the city of gold with King above all kings.