Sermon #12 Malachi Sermons
Title: Christ the Refiner
Text: Malachi 3:1-6
Subject: Christ’s Refining Work
Date: Sunday PM — November 1, 2009
Tape: Malachi #12
Readings: David Burge and Larry Criss
(Malachi 3:1-6) “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (2) But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: (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, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. (4) Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. (5) And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. (6) For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
We will focus our attention tonight upon verse 3; but we must always seek to understand a passage in its context. My subject is Christ the Refiner and Purifier. Here the prophet of God tells us that when the Lord Jesus comes, — “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”
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Messenger of the covenant, in whom God’s elect delight. When he appeared in this world, all that was not real and genuine, all that was spiritually pretentious, fake and hypocritical was purged away by him. He was like a refiner’s fire, consuming the false pretensions of the Pharisees, the vain boastings of the Scribes and the imagined superiority of the Sadducees. The Lord Jesus Christ is a great refiner and purifier.
Let me summarize these six verses with five statements. Then, I will try, by the help of God the Holy Spirit to bring out a few thoughts from verse three about the work of our Savior as our Refiner and Purifier.
1. When he comes to a sinner in the mighty, saving operations of his grace, he comes suddenly, unexpectedly (v. 1).
2. When the Savior comes to a sinner, he comes to “sit,” to sit permanently, in his house, as Savior and Lord.
3. When the Lord Jesus comes in the mighty, saving operations of his grace, he comes to refine and purify his chosen, “the sons of Levi,” whom he has ordained to serve as priests in his house — (Joshua the High Priest — Zechariah 3).
4. Refined in him and by him, chosen, redeemed sinners, sanctified by his grace offer pleasant offerings in righteousness unto the Lord (vv. 3-4).
5. Yes, blessed be his name, the Son of God takes away the shame of his people and saves all his chosen, because “he hateth putting away,” because he changes not (v. 6).
(Malachi 3:6) “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
“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.” — This is spoken of as one of the results of the coming of the Lord. Malachi said he would test and try all things, destroy the false and the evil, and make those pure whom he had chosen.
Behold, the Promised One has come! He suddenly appeared in his temple as the messenger of the covenant. Simeon, and Anna, and all who waited for the consolation of Israel, rejoiced. Faithful witnesses testified, “We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
But to many our Lord’s first advent was a day of darkness and judgment. When we look back upon the destruction of Judaism, the destruction of the Jewish nation and the darkness that yet engulfs the physical descendants of Abraham, we understand Malachi’s astonishment in verse 2. — “But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap.”
That which was true of our Lord at his first appearance in this world in human flesh is still true of him. When the Lord Jesus comes to his own in the saving operations of his grace, he sits as the Refiner and Purifier in his house, in the hearts of chosen sinners.
Whenever the Lord Jesus comes, he comes in utmost mercy to make our souls clean. His coming always means that he is about to purify the soul. Here is his highest mercy: — He comes to rid his people of sin, to purify us into his own glorious holiness. Christ loved his church, and this is bow he showed it: — “He gave himself for it, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” He performs this great work of making sinners pure by three mighty, operations of grace.
Š Redemption — Blood Atonement
Š Regeneration — Sanctification
Š Resurrection (Jude 24).
(Jude 1:24) “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
Malachi 3:3 specifically speaks of our Lord’s work of grace in regeneration and conversion (Titus 3:3-7).
(Titus 3:3-7) “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. (4) But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, (5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (6) Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Whenever Christ comes to one he loves, he comes as a refiner and a purifier. He comes to take away the dross from the silver and to make the fine gold pure.
Š He comes as a consuming fire, to burn up much that we naturally love (Religion — Personal Worth — Self-righteousness).
Š He comes as a Purifier, to cleanse our souls.
How is this refining work performed? — It is carried on in part by the word of God.
(Jeremiah 23:29) “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?”
Wherever the gospel is preached it consumes dross.
Š The Dross of Religious Tradition
Š The Dross of Human Inventions
Š The Dross of Doctrinal Error
Read Psalm 107 regularly, and be reminded often that another instrument by which the Lord Jesus refines and purifies his own is his wonderful works of providence. Providence apart from the gospel has no saving effect upon the soul. But providence, working by the gospel certainly does.
(Psalms 107) “O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (2) Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; (3) And gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south. (4) They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. (5) Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. (6) Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses. (7) And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation. (8) Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (9) For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
(10) Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; (11) Because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: (12) Therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. (13) Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. (14) He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands in sunder. (15) Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (16) For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
(17) Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. (18) Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. (19) Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. (20) He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. (21) Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! (22) And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.
(23) They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; (24) These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. (25) For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. (26) They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. (27) They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. (28) Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. (29) He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. (30) Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. (31) Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
(42) The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. (43) Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.”
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
With blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His works in vain;
God is His own interpreter.
And He will make it plain.”
— William Cowper
God the Holy Spirit is the great fire that burns in Zion to refine and purge God’s elect. He is the fire by which the Lord Jesus makes the Word of the Gospel and the works of providence effectual.
By the operations of his Word, and by the influences of his blessed Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus brings his people into the furnace of purification. He melts our stubborn nature and our obstinate will. By the Spirit of judgment, and by the Spirit of burning, he purges the dross, takes away our tin and forms all his elect into vessels of mercy and sanctification.
This operation of grace in us is as necessary for our everlasting salvation as God’s works of grace performed for us in eternity, our Savior’s work of obedience in his life as our Representative, his death as our Substitute upon the cursed tree, and his resurrection and ascension as Lord over all. Without this refining work, this purifying work of grace, the Son of God could never present his elect unto himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, holy and without blame before him in love.
Now, watch this. — All the time he is performing this mighty work of grace, both for us and in us, we are told that our Lord Jesus “shall sit as a refiner.” He sits by and watches over us, constantly tempering the fire in exact proportion to purpose of grace and our souls’ needs. He never permits the enemy to fan it even a 1000th of a degree more than his love and wisdom have ordained.
Š He sits by as a Sovereign upon his throne.
Š He sits with perfect patience.
Š He sits as one who knows what he is doing!
“God’s furnace doth in Zion stand,
But Zion’s God sits by,
As the refiner views his gold,
With an observant eye.”
Always observing, always watching, the Lord Jesus shall sit, — “He shall sit as a refiner.” See him sitting as a Refiner, eternal power performing what everlasting love designed. — His “fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 31:9).
When the hand of God that is turned upon his little ones to save them, we are told, will do so by bringing them through the fire.
(Zechariah 13:7-9) “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. (8) And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. (9) And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
It is written, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). All who wash their robes and make them white in the blood of the Lamb must come through great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). They must pass through the fire and be “refined as silver is refined” and tried “as gold is tried.” Both Zechariah and Malachi are describing God’s mercy not his wrath, his grace not his judgment. They are telling us about that which God does for chosen, redeemed sinners when he turns his hand upon them to save them. He refines them with fire.
(Isaiah 48:9-11) “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. (10) Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. (11) For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”
If you want to see God’s elect in this world, look for them in the fire. Look for them in the burning and fiery furnace. If you walk with God, you must walk through the fire.
Š When God confirmed his covenant to Abraham (Genesis 15:8-18), he gave him three things, by which he assured his servant of grace.
Š Anything precious and valuable must be tried (Proverbs 17:3).
(Proverbs 17:3) “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.”
Š It was a law in Israel that everything that could abide the fire must go through the fire (Numbers 31:23). — The diamond must be cut. — The gold must be purified. — The silver must be refined.
Š Whenever there is a sacrifice offered to God there is fire. — You and I are to present ourselves to God as constant living sacrifices (Romans 12:1); but no sacrifice was offered to God unless it was burned.
We could never be conformed to Christ were our feet not burned in the furnace (Revelation 1:15). Our Lord’s feet represent his humanity. His head represents his Deity. Deity could never suffer; but his feet, his human body and soul, suffered all the wrath of God in this world, when he died as our Substitute. Thank God, we will never suffer his wrath (Romans 8:1). Yet, our feet must also be burned in the furnace.
The furnace of affliction, like the refiner’s fire, has many uses. When blessed of God to our souls’ good the furnace is a very helpful place.
Š The refiner’s fire is a purifying fire. — God uses trouble to purge the dross of sin that he hates from the soul that he loves.
Š The furnace makes hard steel easily molded. — The blacksmith beats his iron on his anvil in vain until he puts it in the fire; but the heated iron bends to the touch.
Š The furnace is a place of great light. — You will see things more clearly in the furnace than anywhere else. — The Vanity of the World! — The Beauty of Life! — The Blessedness of Grace! — The Goodness of God! — The Preciousness of Christ!
What mercy it is for God to put us into his furnace! It is his hand that brings us into the fire; and it is his hand that brings us through it. If God has chosen you, you must go through the fire. If Christ has redeemed you, you must go through the fire. If God the Holy Spirit has called you, you must go through the fire. You will go into the furnace; but you will go through the furnace; and you shall not be harmed, but only made better by the furnace.
(Isaiah 43:1-7) “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. (2) When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. (3) For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. (4) Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. (5) Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; (6) I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; (7) Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”
The Fire of Conviction
I do not doubt that the fire spoken of here is primarily the fire of Holy Spirit conviction by the Word of God, the very fire of hell itself in your soul. — “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:29). — “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word” (Psalm 148:8). — “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee” (Ezekiel 20:47).
Your time in the fire may be very long and slow, or short and fierce, but you must go through the fire. The Lord knows exactly what we need and what we can bear. When the fire of conviction has done its work and the sinner convinced of his sin looks to Christ, the Lord God declares, “They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
(Isaiah 25:9) “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
That is exactly what Malachi tells us. — The Lord’s object in all this is to make his chosen a people who “may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness,” an offering pleasant to God himself (Malachi 3:3-4).
Our Savior’s purpose in refining us is that he may deliver us from all evil and make us perfect. Remember, the subjects of purifying are his own chosen ones: — “He shall purify the sons of Levi.” Levi was the tribe taken out of the rest for God’s service. The Lord has a people whom he has set apart unto himself, and these he will purify.
(Titus 2:11-14) “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, (12) Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; (13) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (14) Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
What he has redeemed he will refine. Gethsemane and Calvary have bound the Refiner to his task. But none will ever call upon him in faith who are not brought by him through the fire.
“O beware of trust ill-grounded;
‘Tis but fancied faith at most,
To be cured, and not be wounded;
To be saved before you’re lost.”
The Fire of Chastisement
Yet, throughout our days upon this earth, our great, gracious, and good heavenly Father continues to bring us through the fire, refining us as silver is refined and trying (proving) us as gold is tried.
Trials and temptations, sickness and sorrow, domestic trouble and bereavements, slander and persecution, war and adversity, deep and daily discoveries of the body of sin and death that is in us, the hidings of our Savior’s face and the needful denials of the sense of his presence are all fiery trials of faith through which our heavenly Father brings his “little ones,” fires by which he by which he refines his silver and proves his gold. His “fire is in Zion, and his furnace in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 31:9); and when he brings us through the fire, it is to bring us into a wealthy place (Psalm 66:12).
And by these things we are brought to call upon, worship our God, who declares, — “They shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”
By these trials and exercises there is a gradual weaning from the world, a humility, meekness and brokenness of spirit worked in us before the Lord, a greater simplicity and godly sincerity, more willing obedience to the precepts of the gospel, and a greater desire to know the will of God and do it. O that these fruits of the Spirit might abound in us and all the saints and servants of God!
Remember, it is God our Savior who puts us in the fire. It is his furnace that we are tried. He is always with us in the furnace. He will bring us through the furnace. And when he does, he will bring us, at last, into heavenly glory which shall be a wealthier place because of the fire through which he has brought us Yes, the very fire by which we are tried shall “be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18; 1 Peter 1:3-9).
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18) “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (18) While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
(1 Peter 1:3-9) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (8) Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (9) Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
Yes, even after he has performed his mighty work of grace in us, stripping us, laying us low, sweetly forcing us to know our need of him, our blessed Savior still “shall sit as a refiner.” He never abandons the work of his hands. He ever performs his work of grace in us, until it is finished. Graciously, wisely he keeps us needing him and keeps us coming to him!
(Philippians 1:6) “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
(Philippians 2:12-13) “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
(Hebrews 13:20-21) “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, (21) Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
“Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows or from sins;
The work that wisdom undertakes
Eternal mercy ne’er forsakes.”
Is this the case with you? Is this the case with me? Are all the fiery trials we have gone through, regulated, kept under and blessed, by our Savior to everlasting good? Oh my foolish heart, how have I repined in my affliction, because I saw not my Savior’s hand in the appointment, failed to discern his love carrying me through it and missed the display of his wisdom in appointing it!
Lord Jesus, blessed Refiner, give me grace to see you sitting by. Do, blessed Savior, sit in this most needful office over my soul, that as all true believers are of the royal priesthood, being sons of Levi, and made kings and priests to God and the Father, never may my soul come out of the furnace of your purification, until that I am enabled, by your grace, to offer in heaven itself the perfect offering of one made perfect by your grace!
Blessed be his name forever! Though he puts us in the fire, none he puts into his fire shall be consumed.
(Malachi 3:6) “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
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