November 11, 2016
READ: Malachi 3:1-3
Who will be able to endure it when [the Lord] comes? (v.2).
For centuries, artisans have labored to find ways to burn impurities away from precious metals. Craftsmen who honed the process created vast wealth for lords an sultans. One ancient method for achieving unsullied gold or silver entailed heating the metal to a molten state and purifying it until one’s reflection could be seen in it.
Malachi describes God with this imagery. God “will be like a blazing fire that refines metal” (3:2). The prophet also revealed that God was not only the blazing fire but the craftsman as well. God “will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross. He will purify the Levites, refining them like gold and silver” (v.3).
It is God who cleanses and renews. It is God who will burn away all that’s false and untrue. And while this refining work yields beauty and goodness, it can also be painful. To go through the fire, to be transformed, to have the lies revealed, to see the truth of things up close—this is no child’s game. God isn’t here to entertain us but to change us—to remake us.
That’s why Malachi’s words of hope (“The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming”) is accompanied by words of dismay (“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?” [3:1-2]). God hadn’t abandoned Israel; He had promised to act on their behalf. But often when God acts, our world is turned upside down. We must have the old burned away so that what’s true is revealed.
Our hope is in God, and we can trust Him to treat us with kindness. It’s an awesome thing whenever God moves on our behalf. We receive deep hope . . . but it is a trembling hope.
365-day plan: Acts 21:37-22:29
Read Job 26. What images of power do you find here? Who does Job say that God helps? Which of these images trouble you?
When you think of the image of God as a refining fire, what does this evoke in you? What do you sense God may want to burn away in your life?