Day 18

Judgment at the Lord’s Coming

from the Zechariah and Malachi reading plan

Malachi 2:17, Malachi 3:1-18, Matthew 11:7-15, Hebrews 12:7-11

BY Melanie Rainer

I love to barbecue. Two or three times a year, I make pulled pork. It takes me three days, give or take: a wet brine, a dry rub, slow smoked on the grill, and then finished in the oven. The first bites of sweet-spicy bark are heavenly, a combination of loving preparation and long-suffering.

When pork shoulder reaches approximately 160 degrees, it enters what is known as “the stall.” The stall can last hours and can be paralyzing for the barbecuer: the temperature gauge does not change. It sits at 160-ish degrees for hours and hours. The stall is a scientifically-studied phenomenon during which the melting fat in the meat leads the moisture in the meat to evaporate, which cools the meat. Basically, the fat is rendering and the meat is slowly, steadily becoming pure, tender deliciousness. The meat is being refined and purified by the heat.

The three disputations in today’s chapter in Malachi are about this very thing: the cost of refining. The Lord promises to send a messenger who will “be like a refiner’s fire and like launderer’s bleach” (Malachi 3:2). The messenger will “purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness” (v.3). The messenger is dual: it refers to John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for Jesus, the messenger of the new covenant—the one who will go through the refining fire and be the refining fire for all of us.

In Malachi, we see the calling-out of the people and priests who tried to shortcut their way through the fire, or who claimed what they had already done and been through was enough. But the sacrifices were not about the animals, and the behavior modifications were not about performing just right, and the exile wasn’t a punishment that would wipe their sin away for good.

Proverbs 17:3 says, “A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and the Lord is the tester of hearts.” Our hearts are just as in need of refining as the hearts of the wayward priests in the book of Malachi. Sanctification, the lifelong process of being made more like Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit, is often painful like fire as it burns away our sin.

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). This training is hard. I can count a thousand ways the Lord is burning away the dross in my life today, and there will still be a lifetime of work to do. Asking for His refining love is the most daring and terrifying thing I can pray, but it is also the safest because of His sweet and abiding love for me.

Post Comments (19)

19 thoughts on "Judgment at the Lord’s Coming"

  1. Maura says:

    Refiners fire is where He brings us to help us discover who He has made us to be and who He is. Glory to you Lord. May you be seen clearly in this vessel and shine through in love, grace, compassion, mercy and joy. On the note of tithing God is so good and asks so little. I am always blessed with enough as I give back to Him the little he requires of the much He has given me. It blesses me heart and soul and my needs are continuously met in ways I can’t explain. Praise the One who provides and cares for us. Joy to you ladies.

  2. NanaK says:

    My earthly father was a very harsh disciplinarian and I grew up fearful, certainly not seeing punishment as a”refining” process, but in his own way, it was. It has taken me too, too many years to recognize the difference in discipline from my earthly father and that from my heavenly FATHER-ABBA. There have been times when my walk with the LORD was not as it should have been and HIS discipline seemed harsh–BUT GOD–oh my…my ABBA has been so patient and loving with me over these many years and trials and tribulations. I am so very thankful that HE loves me enough to discipline me in a way that will “yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

  3. Kara says:

    When I think of discipline, I consider the human equivalent- short, painful, and desiring a very specific outcome (say you’re sorry) rather than a long term, ongoing process of refinement.

    One of my major seasons of refinement was when I had newborns. The daily (and nightly!) laying down of my desires to serve the needs of these helpless babies. Over the years, we’ve all grown in our abilities, myself included. I see the fruit of those hard seasons in my patience, joy, and perspective.

    So I try to keep this in mind when I’m in another difficult season. The Lord is at work. He is a master gardener pruning away unhealthy branches so that i may be a beautiful tree in His garden. Thank you Jesus for never giving up on me and continuing your work!

  4. Dee Wilcox says:

    Discipline yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness… I love this. We have more peace when we seek wisdom and are responsive to the Spirit speaking to us and the work of God in our lives, shepherding us back when we stray.

    1. Sharon W says:


  5. Susan Merritt says:

    The Lord has been very faithful in keeping His promise of blessings to my family in regards to tithing. For example, When other people had a hard time selling their home ours sold in 3 days. When an unexpected bill has popped up, somehow there is just enough extra money to pay it. When others have suffered from illness, my family for the most part have been pretty healthy. I am not trying to brag but just sharing that God keeps His promise when we keep ours especially when it comes to supporting His work through tithes.

    1. Pamela PennFite says:

      Amen Susan- our family has experienced the same thing. Thanks for sharing – I think churches are afraid to teach tithing but it is part of growing and maturing spiritually and as it says in Malachi 3:10- God will open the windows of heaven on our behalf!

  6. Angie says:

    May the difference between the righteous and wicked be visible, blatantly apparent in my life Lord. Not in my rising up, but in the laying down. Laying down of all that hinders. Laying down of self. Laying down of all. Living humble and holy. Dealt with as your daughter: loved, listed to, noticed, and, disciplined. Change me Oh God, yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness, cleanse and train my heart and mind that we may share in your holiness.

    And, thank you Father for the children you give me each year in my classroom. Thank you for the blessings of each one. Thank you for the gentle heart of Natalie and the flowers from her yard yesterday. Thank you for Katie’s words, “I try not to lie,” and the desire of her little heart to follow after you. Thank you for James, looking clear and focused at me, trusting and not fearful-only by your power and strength. Thank you even for the little-lost-one whose needs are so great but you have entrusted into my care for this time. Year after year Lord you chose children for my classroom. Year after year these blessings are given. Help me, help each of us as teachers and staff in schools around the globe, to be your Light and Life, examples of hope and love to the children and their parents. You have always been, You are now, and will always be. In your hands has lain the past, upon your fingertips is the moment, and by your plan is our future. Thank you Lord. Thank you LORD.

    1. Shawn Parks says:


  7. Shawn Parks says:

    Lifelong. That is a concept I rarely consider when I think about my growth in Christ and my transformation into His likeness. I tend to focus on the mountain top moments and the cavernous pitfalls of my faith walk. Now, as I look back at the sharp ups and downs from my nearly 50 year perspective as a Christian, a chosen child of God, I have a vision of a heart monitor tracing my life’s beat up then down then up and down. This is my true life’s beat, this refining, by God’s loving discipline as I grow in His Son’s likeness. The fear-driven pain of being glued to the reality of that heart monitor takes on a new perspective when I step back and see the each up an down strung together-lifelong record of God’s faithfulness bringing me back to Himself again and again-drawing me closer and closer- until this heartbeat stills and I am like Jesus and I am with Jesus.

  8. Churchmouse says:

    How blessed we are to have “a book of remembrance” that records the words and actions of our good good Father. How blessed we are that He has told us that He is unchanging. What He promises will come to pass. What He has done before He can do again. When we fail to follow Him, He reminds us “Return to Me, and I will return to you.” How comforting and reassuring are those words! The last days are upon us and the warnings have been given. The hope of the world is coming again. May we be found looking expectantly, not fearfully, because we trust in Him and His Word. He loves us, His children. Nothing can separate us from His love. He intends to love us for all eternity. How blessed we are!

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