O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Here He Comes
Here He Comes
Based on Malachi 3:1-7
Preached on December 09, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, those who are being purified by fire, those who are being prepared for the great and fearful coming of the LORD, a tall, burly blacksmith with ash marks on his face filled his melting pot with chunks of gold ore. The flame from glowing charcoal caressed the bottom of his pot, heating the contents within. Very slowly, the ore began to weep. Tears of gold trickled out of the chunks, pooling below. When the pool of pure gold had reached full size, the blacksmith tilted the pot, pouring the priceless liquid into an awaiting mould. His eyes gleamed as they rested on the beautiful treasure He had created. Gone was the dirt, the debris. Gone were the impurities and imperfections. All that remained for Him was pure gold.
It is mildly terrifying the way gold is purified in fire, isn't it? The way it must be put through such heat to become treasure. For who among us doesn't want to be pure? Who among us doesn't want to be a treasure? We don't want to be a scrap chunk of ore, full of dirt and debris. We want to be fit for a king. We want to be treasured in an everlasting kingdom. But the only way to become pure gold is through that fire. The only way to end up in that mould is to weep tears of sincere repentance, to shed tears of pure gold when the heat is hot.
But I think you know what I'm talking about. How often do you face the fires in your faith life? How often do you feel like you are sitting in the melting pot? For the blacksmith is working hard on you, searing you with His fiery teaching, burning away the dirt and debris in you, to purify you, and I know you feel it, for I feel it too. God brings hot trials into our lives to purify our faith and prepare us to be His treasure.
And what do we do when things don't go our way, when we face some kind of fire or flame in our lives? We don't humble ourselves in faith, trusting that the Lord has determined this to be the right time to purify us for His kingdom. We grumble and complain. We question why God would do this to us. Whether He has abandoned us. At the very least, we are not content with it, and anger sparks within us. What are we saying? Do we really feel like we are pure enough, like there is no more dirt or debris in us? Do we really think that we don't need any more heat, that we are totally ready for the Holy Judgment of Almighty God? Perhaps we should appreciate the melting pot. Perhaps we should be thankful the blacksmith is taking the time to make us pure.
Last week we heard about how God was purifying His people. We heard about how they were taken into exile, carried away from Jerusalem by the Babylonian army. Their king was killed. Their city sacked, and God's temple was destroyed. They had broken the covenant that God had made with them, and now it seemed like the covenant was no more. Through all of this, however, God promised them a new king and a new covenant. He promised to make them pure.
Today, in our Old Testament reading, we hear more about how God intends to purify His people. We hear what God spoke to the exiles who returned to Jerusalem. By this point in history, only the tribe of Judah remained and they rebuilt the temple. Yes, they needed a king. Yes, they needed a new covenant. But they were not ready to receive either. So God sent them a prophet. He sent them Malachi, the last prophet that proclaimed God's grace until John the Baptizer appeared nearly 400 years later. 400 years without a new word from God. 400 years of waiting in the melting pot for their King, their Savior to appear. And all they had to hold onto were these words of 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... 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."
Quite the promise. Let's put these words in the melting pot for a moment, shall we, so that we can gaze upon the pure gold that oozes out of them? First, God promises to send a forerunner, a messenger that will prepare the way for His own coming. Jesus tells us these words speak of John the Baptizer who preached a purifying baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Then, God promises that Christ will suddenly come to His temple. And not to sit on a throne, but to purify it. He comes to establish a new covenant with His people. A pure and holy covenant that will make His people pure.
For this is what the LORD of Hosts demands. He demands purity. Purified gold of the highest quality. And should He whose sight makes the angels cry out Holy, Holy, Holy, have to settle for anything less? His presence alone burns away impurity with a fire much hotter than the melting pot of the blacksmith. We would welcome the heat of the melting pot compared to the eternal scorch with which His holy presence consumes impurity.
And herein lies the problem, "Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when He appears?" None of us are pure. We cannot endure the heat of the Final Judgment. We need to be purified beforehand in the fire of the melting pot. So Christ, our blacksmith, comes to purify His people that they may be worthy of the Holy King on the Last Day.
But this purifying process isn't easy, is it? Not for the blacksmith, and not for the chunks of ore. The blacksmith is constantly trying to get rid of the dirt and debris that renders his gold impure, but the chunks of ore are not always cooperative.
Some of them insist that their impurities are not a big deal, for in their eyes, they seem pretty good. Their repentance is half-hearted and assumed. In other words, it is false, because their sin is not serious. God's taken care of it right? They are unwilling to be put in the melting pot, and their impurity remains.
Other chunks of ore do recognize the seriousness of impurity, but they maintain they have none, even despite the blacksmith revealing it to them. They are quick to see the impurities in the other chunks of ore, and call for the blacksmith to put these others in the melting pot instead of themselves.
Yet, the words of the prophet Malachi continue to sound, "Who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when He appears?" You all need to be purified, because you still do not know what true impurity is, let alone that you should want to be in the melting pot. Not one of you is pure. You are all full of unbelief and ignorance regarding God and His will.
Blacksmith, blacksmith, put me in the pot. I want to be purified. I want to be prepared for the Last Day. For such bold, brave chunks of ore, Christ has incredible comfort to offer. For as Malachi says, "He is like a refiner's 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. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD." Christ does so much for His people. He is not merely the Purifier but also the purifying agent. He is not only the Blacksmith but the Fire and the Gold as well. As we hear in book of Hebrews, "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." The blood of Christ which He poured out on the cross has made pure forever those who are being purified.
For all of you know this, that it is not with perishable things like silver and gold that you were bought back from impurity, but with the precious blood of Christ. Christ endured the scorching fires of hell on the cross. He melted in the hottest heat with your impurity embedded in His body, in order that His pure and innocent blood might purify you and make you whole. The blood of Christ is the pure gold that was poured out for us. His blood is what makes you pure, what makes you worthy, what changes you into His eternal treasure. And that is the new covenant He came to establish with His people. The new covenant in His blood. "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins." This cup of His blood is all He came to give. It is His fullest promise to you. This very morning Christ pours His blood into you - The pool of pure gold has reached its full size, and the blacksmith tilts His cup, pouring the priceless liquid into the awaiting mould - You. His eyes gleam as they rest on the beautiful treasure He has created. Gone is your dirt and debris. Gone are your impurities and imperfections. All that remains for Him is pure gold.
Christ has made you into His most precious treasure by filling you with His blood. As our hymn confesses, "Lord, may thy body and thy blood be for my soul the highest good." We will face the fires of the melting pot in our faith lives, and some seem far hotter than others, but Christ wants you to be His glory. To be the pure gold of His crown. He is purifying you for His eternal kingdom. So come, take part in His new covenant, come drink His blood and be purified forever. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr