The Blessings Found in the Fire
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.” Malachi 3:3 (ESV)
Do you ever get tired of the constant battles in your life?
Let me be the first to say I understand.
There are times it feels like I hardly get one issue resolved when another seems to pop up. Not that I go looking for problems; they just seem to be incredibly adept at finding me.
I’m learning, though, to view my troubles in life as “growth opportunities.” They give me a chance to recognize God shaping and molding me to fit the calling He’s given me. They remind me God is interested in my character, not my comfort.
Which brings us to a passage of Scripture I’d love for us to look at closely together today. In Malachi 3, God wants His people to know they have some character issues that need to be addressed.
The Lord declares through the prophet Malachi: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD” (Malachi 3:1-3, ESV).
The messenger in this passage actually refers to John the Baptist. (Matthew 11:10-14) He went before Jesus to ready the people’s hearts for Jesus’ first coming. Now we are the messengers God has called to prepare people for Jesus’ second coming. But that means our own hearts need to be purified so we’re prepared and mature for our calling.
Malachi 3:3 reveals that the Lord comes both “like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.” The “fullers’ soap” (or alkali) was a strong soap used in the ancient Near East to whiten clothing.
And the refiner’s fire? This is a method of purifying precious metals with intense heat. Impurities rise to the top where they can be skimmed off and discarded. The way a refiner knows that the process of purification is complete is by looking into the open furnace and checking the reflection. He knows the dross has all burnt away when he can see his reflection clearly.
This is what we were made to do — to clearly reflect the image of our Maker. Genesis 1:27 tells us God created us in His likeness and image. But when sin entered the world, we were “marred” by sin. We were left spiritually disfigured and defiled. The purification process removes that sin and disfigurement and restores our ability to reflect the goodness of God Himself.
Another name for this refining work is sanctification. It’s the Lord’s continual process of making us holy and wholly set apart for Him. And today’s passage reminds us that sometimes the sanctification process involves suffering.
I saw such a vivid depiction of this when I took my children to a silversmith’s workshop when they were younger. We saw firsthand how the magnificently beautiful pieces in the showroom had to undergo a grueling process in the workroom. There was pounding, turning, heating and then even more pounding before the polishing. For the silversmith to put his name on a piece, the silver had to submit to treatment we might say is harsh and cruel. But every painful blow the silver endures … every scorching second it sits in the fire … each moment has great purpose. And the results are truly stunning.
Oh, how I pray this will stir our hearts to trust God in the midst of our troubles. Our God is not a cruel God. He allows the heating and shaping, the abrasive rubs and polishing in our lives for a reason. They are purifying and smoothing us so we will reflect Him.
Is it always an easy process? No. It’s not.
But is beautifully reflecting our Creator and having lives that point hearts toward Him worth the discomfort? I truly believe so.
How grateful I am to know that nothing God allows us to go through is pointless. Even in the midst of hurt, He will work things for our good and His glory.
Lord, I’m so thankful that I can trust You, even in the most difficult and refining seasons of my life. Shape me. Purify me. Make me look more and more like You. I want to reflect You in all I say and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.