"He will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap."

Bible Reading: Malachi 1; 2; 3; 4 - Listen

"...He will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver..." (3:2-3).

When my children were little, we used to sing a fun little bath song: "...Jesus fills me up with hope and washes me with Super Soap!" Only Jesus can cleanse away our guilt and shame, purifying us from the inside out. Nothing else can remove the stain of sin. Our own efforts to clean ourselves up, through "righteous acts," are viewed by God as "filthy rags" (Is. 64:6). "Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me,' declares the Sovereign Lord" (Jer. 2:22). If we let God wash our soiled souls, however, our "transgressions are forgiven," our "sins are covered," and our "sin the Lord will never count against [us]" (Rom. 4:6-7). The Spirit of Jesus works within us like "launderer's soap" (3:2), continually cleansing us "by the washing with water through the word" (Eph. 5:26). This washing comes, not only by reading God's word and letting it penetrate our hearts, but by yielding to the word within us--Jesus, "the word...made flesh...full of grace and truth" (John 1:1-5, 14).

God, who washes us "as white as snow" (Is. 1:18) through the word, also purifies us through the fire of affliction. The more we let him become our source of significance and strength, the more he enables us to endure the refiner's fire. With Jesus as our inner strength, the fire that would otherwise destroy us, instead refines us. "These [trials] have come so that your faith... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:7).

As we learn to trust the love of God, the knowledge that we are never out of his hand or out of his sight will give us hope in the midst of suffering. When trials heat up around us, God "will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver," holding us securely in his hand and keeping his eyes intently fixed on his "treasured possession" (3:17) as our impurities melt away and our lives are shaped according to his design. Just as the silversmith knows the silver is fully refined when he can see his image in it, the refining fire has done its work when God's image is reflected in us.

Trials have a way of burning away our pretenses and revealing what we're really made of. While those without faith may appear to prosper now, if they continue to shut God out of their lives, the fire will reduce them to ashes one day. "'Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire.... Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,' says the Lord Almighty" (4:1-3). In the day of the Lord's appearing, those without Jesus will have nothing of lasting value or substance to withstand God's holy fire. "But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall" (4:2).

Jesus, let your Spirit wash over me like Super Soap and cleanse every fiber of my soul. Let your words penetrate deep into my heart to act as a Stain Guard that will repel Satan's lies and protect me from the filth he throws at me. When my faith is tried by fire, melt away my impurities and refine me according to your will. I yield myself to the work of your hands. Purify my faith, that I may reflect your beauty. Give me the strength to endure the refining heat of the fire until you rise with the healing warmth of the morning sun and I am freed to leap and jump for joy!

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song" (Ps. 28:7; c.f. Luke 6:20-23).