The LORD is the True Refiner of the Believer!  0

Priesthood as seen by the LORD:

The priesthood in the Old Testament developed an ungodly lifestyle under the Old Covenant after Israel returned from captivity. Many of the priests were dishonouring God as they performed their priestly duties.

The LORD called their attention to their dereliction of duty. They denied any wrongdoing.

(Please, read the two previous posts titled: “Are You Honouring God?” and “How They Dishonoured God” for more details.).

You might be full of words now and indeed want to ask a flurry of questions.

  • “Did the LORD let alone the corrupt priests under the Old Covenant?”
  • “What happened to the corrupt priesthood?”
  • “What did the LORD do?”
  • “Were false priests allowed to perpetually continue in their ungodly deeds of dishonouring the LORD under the guise of being the anointed?”

Were you to be able to pose the last one of these questions to the sons of Eli, they would have answered you with a capital NO! (see 1 Samuel 1:1-36, att. esp. vv. 12-17, 22-25, 34; 4:4-5, 10-11).

Yes, it is still the same God in both the Old Covenant and the New. What He did to and for those of old, He still does and will continue to do to all His people.

So, hold your questions for now.

Suffice it to say that the LORD went further than just confronting the corrupt priests with the evidence of their evil deeds. We want to look at what the LORD does to His own. How He deals with those who dishonour Him while pretending to belong to Him.

Please, bear in mind that many of the priests in the New Testament under the New Covenant have also been infected with corruption. Indeed there are numerous non-priests who are falsely claiming to be priests and it is difficult differentiating the true from the false.

The foregoing makes it imperative that everyone professing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ should not be complacent for the LORD has set the same standard for all His people both under the Old or New Covenant.

Hence, the title of this article in which we look at what the LORD does concerning His people is,

“The LORD is the True Refiner of the Believer!”

Anchor Text: Malachi 3:1-3:

1 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’ sope:

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. ”.


Many of the people of Israel had returned from exile. The temple had been rebuilt. Probably the messages of prophets Haggai and Zachariah had been forgotten. Hence, once again the people and the priesthood had drifted away from God.

Therefore, the message of Malachi was to call God’s people to repentance and to let them know that the ultimate fulfilment of God’s promises of salvation is yet to come.

God then confronted them with evidence of their evil deeds. Rather than to repent and to forsake their evil way they persisted with their ungodly lifestyle. By now we know those who constitute the new priesthood under the New Covenant.

Text Exposition.

1 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.

 This verse 1 begins the answer to the question of Malachi 2:17.


This marks the beginning of a new unit and it calls special attention to the serious events which followed. These unbelievers who pretended to profess faith in the LORD and were coming to the temple with their hypocritical and much blemished offerings were being informed of the momentous truths to follow.

They had asked derisively: “Where is the God of judgement?” (Malachi 2:17). Hence, God responded to their unbelief by saying: “Behold, I will send”, as if saying, look at me!

It is as if God was telling them that their unbelief will not prevent Him from keeping His covenant and bringing to pass in due time that which they had said will never happen.

 I will send my messenger: There is an element of immediacy implied here. The sending is imminent though in the future. I am going to send, or I am about to send. 

 my messenger: This expression seems to be a play on the name of the prophet Malachi (Heb. Mal’aki) which means “my Messenger” in Hebrew.

 Further, it may denote either an angel or a human being. The prophet’s audience might not have differentiated as to which because in bible time angels were messengers of God.

 and he shall prepare the way before me:

It was the usual practice to send an emissary of a king ahead of a king to make sure any obstacles on the road he intended to travel were removed (removing debris, straightening curves, and grading the roads to make the surface smooth for the royal travel) so the king would have a smooth journey to his intended destination (cf. Isaiah 40:3; 57:14; 62:10)

 This first messenger is referenced in the New Testament as John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 3:3; 11:10; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 1:76; 3:4; John 1:23). The forerunner of the Lord’s first coming. But note that the New Testament quotations of this verse say, “before your face” rather than “before me” (literally “before my face”).

 Perhaps John the Baptist is representative of the long line of prophets starting with Elijah (Malachi 4:5), and culminating in John whom the Lord Himself described as

 “among them that are born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:9-11).

 This is another way of calling him the last and the greatest of the prophets. The Lord came in His humiliation and as the Saviour. 

 And the Lord whom ye seek:

This refers to Yahweh Himself (Exodus 23:17; 34:23). For all the males were to appear before the God of Israel three times in the year.

 God was speaking, and He makes “the Lord” the “messenger of the covenant” one with Himself when He says, “I will send …. Before Me”, and adds, “The Lord … shall …come”.

 Hence, “the Lord” must be one with the “Me.” That is, He must be God, “before” whom John the Baptist was sent. The divinity of the Son and His oneness with the Father are thus proved.

 Also, the distinctness of personality is proved by “I send” and He “shall come”, as distinguished from one another. He also comes to the temple as “His temple” showing His Lordship over it, in contrast with all creatures, who are just “servants in” it (Haggai 2:7; Hebrews 3:2, 5-6).

 whom ye seek:

The people the prophet was speaking to were not truly seeking the Lord. Hence, it is saying to the people, “the one you claim to be seeking”

 These people in unbelief asked when He will come at last. Their unbelief was demonstrated in their questioning,

 “Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17; cf. Isaiah 5:19; Amos 5:18; 2 Peter 3:3-4).

 “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, And he delighteth in them; Or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17).


 “That say, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, That we may see it: And let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, That we may know it!” (Isaiah 5:19).

 “Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! To what end is it for you? The day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.” (Amos 5:18).

 “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

 The Jews anticipated the coming of the promised Messiah and the Day of Yahweh because in their thinking it was going to be a day of salvation for them and of judgement upon their enemies.

They expected it to be a day of unmitigated good news for them and of unmitigated disaster for their enemies! They failed to realise that it would also be a day the LORD will also judge them for their sin (Malachi 3:5).

 At the time of Christ’s first coming, the people waited for, “sought” and “delighted in” the hope of a temporal Saviour to deliver them from the oppression of Roman rule, and not what Christ was at this time of His humiliation. 

 shall suddenly come to his temple:

suddenly is Not in the sense of speed or swiftness. Rather, in terms of preparedness. Hence, unexpectedly, unannounced, and therefore surprising. When they least expected.

 This word is almost always associated in Scripture with an unhappy and calamitous circumstance (Numbers 12:4; Isaiah 47:11; 48:3; cf. 2 Peter 3:10).

 This description marks the second coming unlike the first.

The seriousness of that unexpected coming to judgement (Luke 12:38-46; Revelation 16:15), is demonstrated in the Lord’s (the Messiah’s) expulsion from the temple of the moneychangers who were profaning it (Matthew 21:12-13).

 The temple in Jerusalem where they worshipped.

Understand this when all the preparations are completed, the Lord will come. But not to the temple of Zerubbabel, nor the partial fulfilment to the temple of Herod (John 2:13-24). But finally, to that millennial temple which is described by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 40:1-48:35.

 The unexpected coming of Christ, partially fulfilled at His first advent, will be accomplished in full at His second coming (cf. Matthew 24:40-42).

 Even the messenger of the covenant,

 Even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in:

A personality distinct from “my messenger,” He will purify the sacrifices, the priests, and the nation (Malachi 3:2-5). This “messenger of the covenant” is the Messiah. This is fulfilled in Jesus, who alone has performed the perfect sacrifice on behalf of His people.

 The ancient covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) and Israel (Isaiah 63:9), with which the promise to the gentiles is ultimately included (Galatians 4:16-17).

At the First Coming of Christ, the gospel began with Israel, and then extended to the gentile world. At the Second Coming, it shall occur likewise.

All the manifestations of God in the Old Testament, the pillar of cloud, and human appearances were made in the person of the Son (Exodus 23:20-21; Hebrews 11:26; 12:26).

He was the messenger of the Old Covenant, as well as the New.

 whom ye delight in:

This is sarcasm. This were sinful people who were not delighting in God then, nor would they when He came in Judgement on their hypocritical worship and cleansed the temple (cf. John 2:13-25). Mark you all the ungodly will be destroyed at His return (cf. Rev 19:11ff.).

 Behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.

He will come without fail and purge the priesthood and the people.

 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’ sope:

 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’ sope:

There is the use of Hebrew parallelism here of two line having complementary meaning:

 But who may abide the day of his coming?

And who shall stand when he appeareth?

 Abide / stand:

That is, endure or withstand.

the day of his coming:

The Day of Yahweh (Joel 1:15; Amos 5:18).

Coming …. Appear:

He will come or appear suddenly when they least expect Him.

The Messiah is surely coming back, but this His Second Coming will be very unlike what they expected (Malachi 4:1; Revelation 6:16-17). They expected Him to come and pander to their desires and do things as they had determined.

But He will come (appear) suddenly, and in power, on His own terms, and to subject them to His fiery test as to the condition of their heart concerning His truth (Matthew 3:10-12).

And to destroy Jerusalem and their corrupt theocracy after they had rejected Him.

This is where endurance or being able to stand His testing will be needed.

For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ sope:

 Refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap:

These are purifying agents. Fire burns off dross while alkali whitens. This is an indication of the condition of their hearts for the fire will burn of the dross of iniquity, and the alkali will wash out the stain of sin.

Instead of bringing rewards as they expected, His coming will be to remove impurities and no one will escape this cleansing. Crucially, He will come purifying and cleansing but not necessarily destroying (cf. Isaiah 1:25; 48:10; Jeremiah 6:29, 30; Ezekiel 22:17-22).

Hence the use of the refiner and fuller as illustrative language here. These are two occupations well known to the people.

The refiners work is to purify metals. Silver and gold are common examples.

A major instrument of his work is fire in the furnace or crucible. Fire both destroys and purifies.

The refiner sits down before the furnace. He is not in a hurry for his work requires patience. He lights the fire and heats the furnace to the required temperature.

He brings the silver or gold with all the dross or impurities clinging tenaciously to and defacing the metal. He inserts it into the furnace.

He tends the metal from time to time taking care that the fire in neither to low nor too high to produce the appropriate amount of heat.

 How does he know when all the dross has been burnt off and the metal is in its pure form?

 When he can see his reflection on the metal!

 To full is to launder or wash clothes with liquid.

The alkali (not soap in the way we know soap today) the fuller used was very strong and pungent. This contained harsh chemicals extracted from plants to remove stubborn stains from clothing. 

Thus, a fuller’s job is to clean clothes by treading, kneading and beating them. The cloths thus cleaned is exposed to much friction and is thoroughly cleaned too.

The people of Malachi’s day understood the punishment that raw silver and gold go through before they become clean, glittering, and desirable.

Similarly, dirty clothes undergo severe treatment in the hands of the fuller before they become clean enough for use.

Only now, this is applied figuratively to the corrupt priesthood. That as the refiner takes his time and does his work diligently to produce desirable pure silver and gold from those with dross.

So, the Lord will painstakingly refine and purge the priesthood and indeed, all His people until they are what He wants them to be. There is no escape, the true will be refined, the fake will be exposed and burnt off by fire.  

Both processes of refining metal and cleaning clothes involved separating what was of value from that which is of no value. Both processes also speak to the thoroughness and severity of the purification and judgement of LORD.

 No one will escape the all-seeing eyes of the Lord when He comes.

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.

3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver:

shall sit: Sitting is a comfortable position. Refining is a long arduous task that requires much patience. The refiner will not be in a hurry for his work requires much concentration.

He looks with intent to detect any dross or the tiniest of impurities and ensures they are all done away with. It is only when he sees his own image reflected back to him by the metal that he becomes satisfied that he now has the pure and valuable precious metal in his hands.

And he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver:

 Remember, we are hearing the prophet the way his hearers would have heard him. At stake was the corrupt priesthood. And this is metaphorical language.

What the Lord was going to do to the corrupt priesthood was going to be as a manner of speaking like what the refiner does to get pure gold or silver out of raw gold or silver ore.

purify the sons of Levi:

The sons of Levi needed to be purified because of their disobedience to Yahweh’s covenant (Malachi 2:8). The Levitical priests were instrumental in leading the people astray.

Therefore, a new group of pure priests was required for the work of the millennial temple (cf. Ezekiel 44:1-45:8). The cleansing of the nation would begin with them (cf. Ezekiel 9:6).  

The priesthood of old was to be refined and purged of the sins mentioned in the previous verses. Similarly, the new priesthood, the believers in Christ in the new covenant will go through the same process.

This is being done now as the Lord separates the saved from the unsaved to His right and to His left. And then with those on the right, there is further refining and purging until all dross are removed by His seeing His own image reflected from them:

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren.” (Romans 8:29).

It is those known to and by God, that have been given to His Son that will be made conformable. This he has been doing and will continue to do in the case of His elect (Job 23:10; Psalm 66:10; Proverbs 17:3; Is 48:10; Hebrews 12:10; 1 Peter 1:7).

He does this now sitting down patiently with love and unflinching justice. When the dross of sin is taken from the gold of the believer, he will be forever delivered from the furnace of trial and affliction.

This process will continue until the final glorification at His Second Coming.

Remember that the Angel of the Covenant while leading His people out of Egypt by the pillar of cloud and fire, had the aspect of terror to His enemies, and of love to His friends.

This is the same process of separation that goes on in the world as in each believer.   

 That they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness:

 offering in righteousness:

Once their hearts have been cleansed and made right their offerings will be given from cleansed hearts in a right condition before God. That way their offerings will be “in righteousness.”

His refining though unpleasant is necessary for our own good. It is so we can partake of His righteousness and be made fit to serve Him the way we ought to.

In the new kingdom, all shall conform to the holiness of God. Not that has blemish, spot or wrinkle or that offends will be found there (Ephesians 5:27).

The refiner and you

Remember this was spoken to the people of the day. They heard. With the benefit of hindsight we see that they did not heed the warnings of the LORD. Eventually God judged them severely.

The Lord is both the refiner and fuller. God is holy and demands that His people and everything associated with Him must be holy.

What are we to make of it?

Remember also that we are far removed from them by time, culture and other aspects of preunderstanding and covenant.

But we have some things in come: We are people of the same God.

God set the same standard for all His people: They are to be holy, love Him above all else, and glorify Him with their lives.

You may want to absolve yourself by making some claims that are part of but not the whole truth. You are under a New Covenant: True.

You do not have to offer animal sacrifices again because Christ the ultimate lamb of God has been sacrificed for your sins: True.

But that is not the whole truth.

The sin of these corrupt priests and people was not only that they offered polluted sacrifice. But they were involved in a whole load of ungodliness before God while continuing to claim they were holy unto God.

For example:

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.” (Malachi 3:5-6).

From the verse of Scripture (Malachi 3:5), the whole life of the priests and the people were given up to the same sins as the ungodly around them. Their sinful lifestyle thus made them unfit to be the people of God.

It is particularly crucial to remember that God remains the same, He does not change (Malachi 3:6). Hence, New Testament believers like you are warned against the same ungodly lifestyle (cf. Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5)

Reminding you not to do these works of the flesh is not legalism. It is not an attempt to control your life or to stop you from enjoying your life. Rather, it is encouraging you to sincerely examine your life and relationship with the Lord.

Scripture makes it abundantly clear that God is holy beyond our comprehension. All that belong to Him must be holy according to his own standard.

Read Scripture again, God does not accept any excuse for sinning. Do not be deceived God is not mocked. His eyes are all seeing  

Please understand:

The people that are corrupt are the people of God. They are people of God because God had chosen and saved them. The unsaved, ungodly have been separated and go to the left, to damnation.

The believers are to be made fit for God.

 The refiner is God

He never changes. His standards have remained the same. The process is the same, though methodology may differ as per individual cases.

The process is refining

He shall sit as a refiner. God works with the believer. With his faults, and failures we are full of dross, raw, ugly, and undesirable.

His purpose is that we should be like Him one day without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish. As cloths must be fulled, so gold and silver must go through fire, be heated, and be refined.

He sits and watches patiently while the process is going on, for the metal (the believer) is precious to the refiner (the loving Father). The believer is “being made perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-10)., and God does not want the process prolonged.

And do remember:

The Lord in the garden of Gethsemane prayed for “the cup” to be removed, but it was not (Matthew 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:20, 42-43). It was taken away for the refining process had to continue to the cross. Rather, he was given grace to endure, for an angel from heaven came to strength Him (Luke 22:43).

The apostle Paul cried three times for his torn in the flesh to be removed it was not (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). For it was necessary for the refining process. Rather, he was given grace to endure.

You, the believer in Christ

A believer in Christ and disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having a high view of the Holy Bible and eagerly looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ in power and glory. Though living in the presence of sin in the world, sin does not and should not have dominion over you.

 Two aspects of the refining process

Man was made in the image of God. After the fall that image became marred with sin. It became so disfigured that man now looked a picture very much out of focus, and so blurry that it is difficult to see the semblance of God in human beings.

God Himself indicted man:

 “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5)

 And hence,

 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9.

 Hence, though saved, all the vestiges of the old nature must be removed by means only the Lord can muster. Without the refining process, the believer will not become God-like.

The end of the process produces the refined produce by the purifier of silver.

 How does the refiner know when the process is complete?

 When he can see his face clearly reflected on the surface of the molten metal, he is sure the process is complete.

This will be the final glorification at the Second Coming of the Lord.

We are told:

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).


“till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13).

Remember: Help is available.

Let us therefore persist, ask for more grace to be sustained.

 May the LORD make available all you need to successfully go through the refining process till you truly reflect His true image in Jesus’s Name, Amen.

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