THE REFINER’S FIRE
Lord, purify Your people.
Read MALACHI 2:17–3:5
Breaking Covenant Through Injustice
17 You have wearied the Lord with your words.
“How have we wearied him?” you ask.
By saying, “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the Lord, and he is pleased with them” or “Where is the God of justice?”
3 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.
5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
I am sure I was not the only child to hear – nor the only parent to say – “don’t answer back!” In this short prophecy, God’s people sustain their cynical questioning of the sovereign Lord. “You have wearied the LORD with your words. ‘How have we wearied him?’ you as” (2:17). And in words which would not be out of place in our own culture, the response from the people reverses the moral order: “All who do evil are good in the eyes of the LORD” (17).
If the people were cynical about the possibility of God’s judgment, the Lord’s reply would pull them up short. Suddenly the Lord will come to put them on trial (3:2, 5). His coming will be heralded by a messenger (1), just as John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord (Mark 1:2–4). Then, “who can endure the day of his coming?” (2). In our world many doubt the idea of God’s control, but those who have mocked the justice of God will be silenced when he appears. The behavior of those whom the Lord will judge has very modern echoes too – those who defraud laborers, oppress widows, or deprive foreigners of justice (5).
Notice that the Lord’s coming is not to destroy but to purify. Like a refiner, the heat of his judgment is not to obliterate but to transform (3, 4). When this happens in our lives, it is important to see that such discipline is a true expression of God’s steadfast love (Hebrews 12:4–11). The Lord disciplines those he loves; he prunes the branches so that the tree will eventually be more fruitful. Painful though this might be, Malachi shows us the outcome: righteous lives and acceptable worship (3, 4).
God’s people carry no diplomatic immunity. We need God’s discipline, and we must open our hearts to what He might be teaching us. Reflect on what that might be.
Truly, Lord, who can endure the day of Your coming? Keep us ever mindful of the certainty of that event.
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