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Robert L. Hutcherson, Jr.

Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church

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                                                     Malachi 3:1-4

Refiner’s Fire

The Rev. Karla J. Cooper, Pastor

December 10, 2006

Sermon Worksheet & Manuscript


1. Who wrote (or is credited with writing) the text?

While not ruling out the possibility of anonymity, it seems reasonable to conclude, whether for the sake of convenience or for the sake of logic, that the prophet’s name or title was Malachi. This conclusion is strengthened by the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary.[1]


 The name Malachi occurs in the OT only in the superscription of 1:1. In light of the introductory formula in Zechariah 9:1 and 12:1, “an oracle of the word of the Lord,” Malachi 1:1 may be an editorial preface marking the last of a series of three anonymous oracles appended to Zechariah 1–8. Further, some argue this name “Malachi” is an editor’s title borrowed from the phraseology of 3:1, ultimately permitting its detachment from Zechariah and the completion of the sacred number of Twelve Prophets. As a proper name Malachi may be translated “my messenger” or “my angel”, though context militates against the latter. Several commentators have espoused the view that Malachi is indeed a proper name (e.g., Childs, Kaiser, and Rudolph). Still others suggest that the name is a shortened form of Malachiah, meaning “Yah(weh) is my messenger” or “Yah(weh) is an angel.” While highly irregular, this is not impossible given the unusual revelatory ministry of the angel of the Lord in the OT



2. From what perspective does the author write?

Malachi’s prophecies do betray a strong interest in the temple, priesthood, and the sacrificial system. Yet he speaks as one observing that system from the outside. He possessed a knowledge of both the Deuteronomic and Priestly legal traditions. Malachi was clearly a man of considerable personal piety, grasping the import of God’s holiness and the seriousness of personal sin before God. His staunch convictions against idolatry, easy divorce, and social injustice bespeak a man of commitment and integrity, a throwback to the days of the preexilic prophets. Malachi was also a man of some courage, as seen in his bold upbraiding of the influential priestly class and the social elite.






"Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear 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 and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years." (Malachi 3:1-4 NASBR)



God has something in store for you. God is not content with us as we are. This is one of Christianity’s basic assumptions – things need to change, and they are going to change for the better. The day you walk into Kindergarten, the teacher begins offering you things to improve your life – skills, knowledge, comprehension, new ways of seeing things. All of these enrich your life. And hopefully, our whole lives are one long time of learning and growing.


One of the beauties of being human is that, although our bodies wear out, provided we don’t face any diseases that steal our memories, our minds can grow stronger and stronger until the day we die. God has plans for us.


And one of the ways the Bible depicts God, is God in overalls, getting ready to start working on us. The Bible speaks of God as a workman - as a potter at a potting wheel, a manager of a vineyard, a construction worker – plumbing the line – making sure a wall is straight and true, a farmer, a fisherman and here as a smelter of ore.


So here is God in the foundry. He pulls on his overalls, of heavy denim to protect him when the molten metal splashes. He has a facemask to protect his eyes. And he is stoking the fire, fanning the roaring flames under the smelting pot to raise the temperature to over a thousand degrees.

The pot heats up and into it he dumps the ore. The ore is you and me. And there, in the burning pot, we melt. And up to the top floats all the slag – all the bad stuff. And God skims it off with a ladle. A little at a time until its all gone. And what is left? Pure gold! Beautiful, shining, that yellow color that is unmistakable – precious, perfect gold – 24 carat!


This is the picture of God in Malachi. A workman about his business. God in overalls. Black smoke billowing up, molten metal hissing, sparks flying up, you and me in God’s foundry, being made into something better than we are.


Sometimes when you try to talk to your teenager, they indicate that they just want to be left alone. “How was you day?” “Fine.” “What happened in school.” “Nothing.” Do you have any plans for the weekend.” “Nope.” Then the phone will ring and they’ll spend two hours talking about the same things it took only three words to tell about when you asked. Good parents know when the door to conversation is open and when it isn’t open. We are the same way with God. “Leave me alone. Don’t mess with my life.” But the funny thing about faith is that God keeps pestering us; thank God! God is not happy with you just as you are. He loves you, just like we love our kids. But he wants the best for us, just as we want the best for our kids.


If your son takes the car, you give strict orders about when you want him home. If he doesn’t abide by your rules, he’s in big trouble. You want him to be responsible, but you also know some of the kinds of trouble he might get into, and you don’t want him to get into that trouble. It can ruin his life. God knows you can ruin your life too, and he doesn’t want you to. That’s why he gives us his law. And that’s why, too, incidentally, that we are GRATEFUL for God’s law – because it is a guide to the best life we can live. And your kids too, by the way, including teens, deep down inside where you cannot see, are grateful for YOUR rules, because they know your limits protect them.







We need to change. You and I need Jesus. We’re doomed without him. Without change, we lose life. When jet fighters were first invented, they flew much, much faster than their propeller driven predecessors. So now, if a pilot needed to bail out, ejection was much more complicated. Danny Cox, a former test-flight pilot explains that, in early tests, when pilots ejected, they would hold on to the seat in panic. They’d clamp down so hard that the parachute could not get free to open, with obviously disastrous results. The solution was to attach a webbed strap with one end attached to the front edge of the seat, feed under the pilot and up to the headrest where there was an electric take-up reel. When the pilot ejected and seat shot upwards out of the plane, after two seconds, the take up reel would spin and force the pilot out of his seat, thus freeing the parachute and letting the pilot float safely to the ground. Left to themselves, the pilots wouldn’t let go. Thus they’d crash. What will it take to get us out of our seats? You can’t do it yourself.


Do you know that’s one of the truths of our faith? We usually don’t use those words, but they are true. We might want to be better, but we fail. We find change hard. Mark Twain put it this way, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” God must save us. And so God is heating up the smelter to purify us. We need to let God work on us. That first step is repentance – that word means to turn, or return,; sorry for our sin, to let God change us. It means taking an honest look at ourselves, being sorry for what we see, and then turning to God and saying, “Help me!”


Do you remember the name Terry Anderson? You will when I remind you. Terry Anderson was the reporter held hostage in Lebanon for 2,454 days. Terry Anderson was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, but had not practiced for years. During his captivity, however, he was given a Bible. He said that Bible came to him as a gift from heaven. He read. He pondered his life. He had lots of time to ponder his life – 2,454 days.



He looked back and found many things that brought him shame. In his mind, he began composing a litany of confession. As time went by, he gradually learned about other American hostages confined in cells around his own cell. He found out one was a priest – Father Jenco. He asked if he could confess to the priest, and his wish was granted. They were brought together and their blindfolds were removed. Terry Anderson at last began his recitation of all he had done wrong in his life. When he finished, they were both in tears. Father Jenco laid his right hand on Anderson’s head and said, “In the name of a gentle, loving God, you are forgiven.” Anderson’s faith grew deeper and deeper through his long captivity, but his first formal step back was his confession. In the darkness of captivity and abandonment, Terry Anderson turned back and found the grace of God.


Our Advent reflection is the same. We are in the whirlwind now as Christmas draws near. Like many of you, two Christmas concerts in our schools are now added to my calendar. So much to do! But wait. It took months of confinement to get Terry Anderson started. We need to take at least a few moments every day to devote to God and let him begin his work on our lives. We depend on him. We need him. We cannot do without him.


Anyone acquainted with carpentry knows the good work cannot be done unless tools are very, very sharp. So you loosen the cap screw on the wood plane, and take out the iron. If you are doing precise work, it must be razor sharp and straight. You get the whetstone and begin sliding the iron across. Each time you take off a microscopic bit of steel. Each time it gets shinier and sharper. When it is truly sharp, it will shave off wood in smooth curls until the piece of work is perfect.That is what God is doing with you. He wants to scrape off the sin, get out the nicks, make you as good and straight and true as you can be – for what? So he can use you. God wants you to be a tool in his hand to do his work in the world. That is your calling.


In Luke 3 verses 5 and 6, we heard the proclamation of John the Baptist: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill be made straight, and rough ways will be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” John the Baptist, when he made this statement, pointed off to the east. And those listening to him would have turned and seen the rough mountains. They are brown desert mountains. It is work crossing them. You must go up steep hills and down steep slopes. There are stones on the road and you twist your ankle if you’re not careful. The roads twist and wind around cliffs and mountains too steep for climbing.


John is saying those valleys are going to be filled in. And the mountaintops are going to be leveled, and the winding road straightened out into a highway. Like the LIE – whoops! Maybe not, too much construction and traffic there, but like a wide highway cleared of traffic – and God will come racing along it, bringing your salvation. Note the actor here – not people – God! Only God can save. And that’s why in this season we must look upward. It isn’t up to you. Isn’t that a relief? It isn’t up to you – relax! God is bringing it – you need only welcome it then join in it.


“For he is like a refiner’s fire…he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the son of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present the right offerings to the Lord (Malachi 3:2b,3).”


Gold is extremely malleable – that means it can be worked easily; changed if you will. Gold is so malleable that a single ounce can be beaten out into a thin film (less than 1/282,000th of an inch thick) that it could cover a hundred square feet. And gold is so ductile (able to be stretched) that one ounce can be drawn into a fine wire one hundred kilometers (Microsoft Encarta – no lie!) miles long.


Can we put ourselves in the hands of God and be that malleable and ductile? Can we step aside from running our lives and let God take over them?


There he stands, in overalls, heating the smelter, ready to purify us and make some beautiful thing out of us. This Advent, let’s surrender – let’s hand over our lives to God.


Let us pray…






















































Order of Worship

Sunday December 10th, 2006

11:00 A.M.


Opening Hymn………………” I Am On The Battlefield For My Lord”, Hymn 390




Call to Worship……………………………….Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Hymn……………………………“King Jesus Will Roll All Burdens Away”, Hymn


Prayer…………………………………………..Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Prayer Response………………………………….Give Us This Day”


Scripture Reading……………………………..Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Decalogue………………………………………Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Gloria Patri………………………………………….Congregation


Sermon…………………………………………Bro. Robert Hutcherson


Invitation to Christian Discipleship..”I am Weak and I Need Thy Strength”, Hymn 378


Altar Call/Offertory………………………………………All


Offertory Response……………………………”All Things Come Of Thee”


Affirmation of Faith…………………………………Congregation


Benediction……………………………………..Bro. Robert Hutcherson



[1]Freedman, D. N. (1996, c1992). The Anchor Bible Dictionary (4:479). New York: Doubleday.

OT Old Testament

e.g. exempli gratia (for example)

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