The Refiner's Fire
Malachi 3:3
And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver…

The state of the Jewish community in the days of Malachi was very similar to what it was when our Lord appeared on the earth. A proud and self-righteous pharisaism had supplanted all true spirituality of worship, and attention even to the outward forms of piety had become little better than a name. Manifestly such a state of things could not last, for unless some spiritual revolution took place, religion could not go on much longer breathing an atmosphere of universal degeneracy. Malachi tells the people of a coming Reformer. But what is the character of this reformer to be? Will he be mild, gentle, indulgent; or will he go with just severity to the root of all existing evils, and when he begins, will he make an end of abuse and wrong? The prophet does not hesitate to clothe the coming One with attributes of surpassing glory and awfulness, and to represent Him as wielding prerogatives of the most scathing power. The figure in the text refers to the process of refining gold. As the agency of fire separates, the dross from the precious metal, by disintegrating the particles of which the mass is composed; so Christ, not only in His capacity as the final Judge, but more especially in His character as the present embodiment of truth, and as the administrator of the Gospel kingdom, is subjecting the world to a searching fiery test. Malachi deals with the relation of the truth of Christ, and Christ Himself, to four aspects of human affairs.

I. THE NATION. The difference between a nation defiled by error and sin, and a nation purged by truth, is just this — the one is cursed and repulsive; the other is blessed and delightsome. In every case where nations have attempted to rob God of His prerogative of government, the action of the refiner's fire has revealed the weakness of their corruptible systems.

II. THE CHURCH. When Christ refines the Church, He tests her government, her doctrine, and her discipline. As to government; He is not indifferent to the way in which His kingdom is administered. Order must here be reconciled with liberty. Christ is most jealous of His truth. To say that false doctrine does not necessarily bring with it moral corruption, is to say that the Christian's understanding is useless as an element of mind. But is it so? As to discipline, there is no Church that has not spots in her feasts of charity.

III. SOCIETY. In the unrefined condition of society one man is preying upon another, every man seeking his own pleasure and indulging his own passions, without the slightest regard to the welfare of the community. But when society is refined, men "speak often one to another." They take an interest in one another. It is not then every man for himself, but every man considering what is best for all the rest. No one who gravely considers the characteristics of our time will deny that society stands much in need of purification.

IV. THE SOUL. The unrefined soul is addressed in Malachi 4:2. But the address to the renewed soul is given in Malachi 4:2. Our text goes deeper than nations, churches, or society: it deals with the soul, its motives, opinions, desires. There are two classes of souls in the world: those which will lose everything in the fire, even themselves; and those which will lose something, but retain unimpaired the pure gold of faith, and they themselves be saved.

(Richard Smyth, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.

WEB: and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer to Yahweh offerings in righteousness.

The Refiner's Fire
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