He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold or silver so they may approach The LORD and offer in righteousness.
Here we are in Advent, lighting candles and in part remembering that Jesus is the light of the world and we don’t light candles to keep them hidden. The candle gives light and a little warmth especially when it is dark and cold at night, candles are good things to have in blackouts. But, as many of you may have found out, perhaps from showing others how tough you were and holding your hand in the flame gathering soot, candles burn. That hurts, and we don’t like it.
Fire, the flame of the candle, the stove or the bushfire. These can be good and life sustaining, or they can burn and destroy anything that is flammable. A dangerous but beneficial thing that God has created. And here we hear that His messenger is like the fire that melts and purifies gold and silver, removing the dross and rubbish from the precious metal. Though instead of purifying precious metals, this messenger is prophesied to purify and refine the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe in Israel, to make them righteous and to restore the people of Judah and Jerusalem to the place they were called to be, by God’s side.
But who is Malachi speaking of? Who is this messenger? Well, is a bit of a funny question because in this short section we have two messengers, the first who would prepare the way and the second messenger of the covenant. The first messenger we can read about in the first chapter of Mark and we also hear this prophecy quoted in Matthew 11 and Luke chapter 7 (Mark 1:2; Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:27). That messenger is John the Baptist, who preached that all needed to turn from evil and turn back to the one true Lord God. The second messenger, the one of the covenant, would then be Jesus Christ Himself. It is He who brings us the New Covenant in His blood through Holy Communion and tells us of the complete promises of God, eternal life and forgiveness for those who trust Him (Luke 22:20; John 3: 16-21). And then, it is Jesus who is like a refiner’s fire and a cleaner’s bleach.
Jesus came, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life, the Word of God. He came and building on John’s preparation, proclaimed ‘repent and believe the good news!’ Turn away from your dark way of living and turn to the light of Christ.
But this isn’t an easy thing to do, to reject those desires that come from within ourselves, to reject the independence, selfishness and pride in yourself glorified by our culture, instead relying on God and doing all things for His glory not our own. Being a Christian, it seems in this day and age, means that society sees us as fools, weak, stupid and even hateful. We who want the absolute best for all the people God created are almost routinely called bigots for trying to spread that ‘wicked’ truth of God’s forgiveness, peace, hope and love for all. And though this is not easy, these people can only destroy our bodies, not our souls. And as Jesus tells us we should rather fear the one who destroys both body and soul, God Almighty. This is the truly difficult challenge, God’s truthful Word tells all people that everyone of us rejects God’s authority, His love and His help. It might be as simple as eating that chocolate you promised to your child so that you can pleasure yourself, as obvious as insisting that the church carpet remains the same to honour yourself, or as grievous as wishing death on someone who you’ve grown to hate. Many of the ways we reject God, we don’t even notice we’re doing it and if all the things you’ve done were tallied up, Godly on one side and questionable on the other, and not just what you’ve done, but also what you’ve said, what you’ve thought and even what you’ve had a passing desire to do; if all this was tallied up and God, who knows the truth, is to judge your life, how sure are you that you’ve been perfect? That is why Jesus is like a dangerous and harmful fire and why Malachi says, ‘who can endure the day He comes?’
However, the fire of Jesus only destroys evil and lies. He will purify the priesthood so that they will approach God Almighty’s throne without terror. Zechariah says, He will refine them by fire and they will be His people and they will call Him the Lord our God (Zechariah 13:9). And Peter writes that you are the royal priesthood, the holy nation; once you were not but now you are God’s people and receive His great mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). Jesus came to bring you relief, not terror, forgiveness not condemnation and eternal life not death. And it is in Jesus by the Holy Spirit that we are being purified and made holy. It is not a painless thing as we live with God Himself and also alongside sin, we feel that guilt, harm even disgust or hatred at our own sinful and selfish actions and desires. That is God’s holy light burning away our sin and evil. But also we know that when we die and see Jesus as He truly is, or when Jesus finally reveals Himself to all, the light of Christ will destroy all our sinfulness and we will be free to live in peace with God for all eternity.
And that peace which passes all our understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham