But who can endure the day of [Christ’s] coming?
Who can stand when He appears?
For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap.
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver;
He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver…
“I, the LORD, do not change…”
Malachi 3:2-3, 6
Have you ever had the opportunity to watch an artisan go about the crafting – or re-crafting – of silver? For one particular small group of Bible students, the experience painted an eye-opening picture of the purpose of Christ’s incarnate advent into the world and His work in their lives.
Meeting together weekly to study Malachi, the brief book of prophecy located at the end of the Old Testament, members found it somewhat of a challenge to make sense of some of the author’s wording. The challenge specifically applied to Malachi’s use of metaphors that seemed foreign to modern culture. The group was particularly perplexed by Malachi’s statement that Christ as LORD will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. What, they wondered aloud among themselves, was the prophet saying? And how did it fit into the character and nature of God the Son?
After a bit of speculation from within the group, one member of suggested they research the process of refining silver. She volunteered to investigate the routine herself and report her findings to the group the following week. She began her mission by scheduling an appointment with a silversmith for the purpose of observing first-hand his routine.
Perched on a stool in his workroom, she watched with focused interest his every move action as he went about his work with confidence and skill. She studied his adept movements as he held one piece of silver to the fire and waited for it to reach a desired degree of heat. While they waited, the silversmith explained to her that in order to refine silver, it is necessary to hold the silver in the middle of the fire. Here, he told her, the flames have reached their hottest temperature – a requirement for burning away all of the metal’s impurities and making it usable.
As she watched intently, the symbolism of what she saw was anything but lost to her observations. She thought of Christ’s way of figuratively holding His followers to the blazing trials of life: illnesses, heartaches, family woes, work-related issues – just to name a few of her own.
Then she thought again about Malachi’s statement about the refiner and purifier of silver. A fresh and exciting new insight took shape in her spirit; she asked the silversmith if his craft called for him to remain constantly in front of the fire for the duration of the silver’s refining process. The craftsman answered affirmatively, explaining that not only must he sit and hold the silver during the process but that he must keep his eyes fixed on the silver for the entire time it stayed in the fire. Why? If the silver was left unattended and spent just one moment longer than necessary amid the flames, the fire would destroy it.
A full minute of silence passed before she asked the silversmith a final question.
When do you know when the process is finished? I mean, how do you know when enough is enough?
He smiled and answered, “Oh, that’s actually the easiest part of the entire process. When I see my image reflected in the silver, I know the work is finished.”
Do you ever find yourself in the fiery blaze that seems to erupt out of nowhere in everyday life? The scorching heat of rejection? Health issues? Budgets that won’t budge? Antagonism from family or friends when you take a stand for morality? Remember this: you are more precious to the Ultimate Silversmith than the most valuable metal in the world. So precious are you to Him that Christ was born – the Culmination of the very Advent season we’re celebrating – for the express purpose of dying on the Cross to permanently defeat death in order to offer you eternal life and growth in His presence.
Granted, once you really and truly accept that offer, get ready – you will absolutely find yourself in one refining fire, then another.
And then another.
But know without a doubt that He holds you tenderly in His hands through the entirety of each process. He never looks away, never blinks, never changes. Not one lick of a flame – not one – escapes His notice.
And each lick of each flame – each one – refines you closer and closer toward a clear reflection of His perfect image.
And at His next Advent – His second coming – you will hear, Well done.
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.