The Refiner’s Fire

“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.”                                                                                                       Malachi 2:3

Like many in our own day, the Jews wanted justice. That is, they wanted what they were sure they deserved. They had been very religious: they had deprived themselves of things; they had disciplined their desires; they had given things to God that they could have used for themselves. And for what? Had God made them rich? No! Had he given them power over their enemies? No! Had he made them admired for their righteousness? No! So they asked, “Where is the God of Justice?”

In reply, God promised to show up. He would come to his temple and would fulfill his ancient covenant promises. But wait! What would his appearance mean? Did it mean he would pat them on the head, and commend them for being good little boys and girls? It would not. For God’s justice – his divine order – to prevail in this world, we have got to be changed from the inside out. Do you want God to manifest himself in your life in a new year? Then be prepared for “a hot time in the old town tonight.” He is going to come as fire and lye soap, to burn away the dross and to eat up the dirt.

Why does he do this? Is it because he hates us? No, it is because he loves us too much to leave us in that condition where our possibilities are polluted and our gifts are defiled. He longs for us to become all we were meant to be. That means we must be purified and cleansed. But that does not come easily. It is said that a refiner knows the gold is pure when he can look into the crucible and see his face reflected there. But that only happens when the fire is so hot it melts the stony ore. Do they see his face when they look at yours? Or does the dross of your self-serving desires prevent any reflection? Is the cloth of your behavior as bright and clean as if it had just come from the loom, or because you have run away from the burning lye soap, does the observer see only the deep-dyed stains of pride and self-righteousness?

Yes, come, Lord Jesus, and do your burning, searching work in my life, so that the world may see you in the right ordering – the justice – of a life, and dare to believe in your ability to rightly order a world.

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