“We Were Made in God’s Image”
The Setting: Malachi was written about 100 years after the Jews had been restored to their homeland as part of the Persian Empire, and was probably the last prophet of the OT era. Although the Jews had been allowed to return from exile and rebuild the temple, several discouraging factors brought about a general religious malaise in their nation: (1) their land remained but a small province in the backwaters of the Persian empire, (2) the glorious future foretold by the prophets had not (yet) been realized, and (3) their God had not (yet) come to his temple (3:1) with majesty and power (as celebrated in Ps 68) to exalt his kingdom in the sight of the nations. Doubting God’s covenant love and questioning His justice, many began to lose hope, and their worship degenerated into a listless perpetuation of mere forms; they no longer took the law seriously. Malachi rebukes their doubt of God’s love (1:2-5) and the faithlessness of both priests (1:6-2:9) and people (2:10-16). To their charge that God is unjust (2:17) because he has failed to come in judgment to exalt his people, Malachi answers with an announcement and a warning. The Lord they seek will come, but he will come “like a refiner’s fire” (3:1-4). He will come to judge, but he will judge his people first (3:5).
Malachi 3:1 “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. 2 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. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.
3:1-2 my messenger. The Hebrew for these words is malaki, normally used of a priest or prophet, and is echoed in John the Baptist. who will prepare the way. When the Lord comes, it will be to purify (v3) and judge (v5), but He will mercifully send one before him to prepare his people. day of his coming. Malachi announces the Lord’s coming to complete God’s work in history, especially the work he outlines in the rest of his book. His word is fulfilled in the accomplishments of the Messiah. Who can stand . . . ? Those who desire the Lord’s coming know that clean hands and a pure heart are required (Ps 24:3-4; Isa 33:14-15).
3:3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.
This particular verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement had to do with the character and nature of God. One of them offered to look into the process of refining silver to better understand any meaning, and get back to the group at their next Bible Study. Accordingly she called a silversmith and arranged a time to watch him at his work. Upon arriving she didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, just a curiosity about the process of refining silver. As she watched him, the silversmith held a piece of raw silver over the fire and let it heat up. He then explained that in the refining process, he needed to hold the piece in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away any and all impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then about Malachi saying “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.” She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. He answered that yes, and not only sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on it the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed. The woman was silent for a moment, then asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?” He smiled at her and said “Oh, that’s easy – when I see my image in it.”
2Cor 5:17-20 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
Does God see His image in us as His new creation, as His ambassadors? If we feel the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on us and will keep working in us until He sees His image clearly.