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Advent Messiah, December 8

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Listen to today’s accompanying audio track: 
But Who May Abide The Day Of His Coming

Malachi 3:2

“But who may abide the day of His coming, and who shall 
stand when He appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire.” 


When Joseph learned that Mary would give birth to Messiah he was instructed by the angel: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). His name “Jesus”, or in the Hebrew tongue, Yeshua, means “salvation is of the Lord”. His very name encompasses His life’s mission: to save His people from their sins. .

As the prophet Malachi ponders Messiah’s coming he trembles: “who may abide the day of his coming?” Malachi must have felt something of what Simon Peter felt in Jesus’ presence: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Mortals tremble at the prospect of standing before the Holy One.

As we pray for God’s Kingdom, and justice to come, we must keep in mind that He will begin with us. He loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us just as we are. He comes as the angel told Joseph “to save his people from their sins”.

Malachi thus uses the metaphor of refining to express Messiah’s saving work. Messiah comes not to destroy but to refine and purify. A refiner fires up the furnace, heating the precious gold to molten liquid until the impurities rise to the surface. Then, with a ladle in hand, the refiner skims away the impurities, repeating the process until the gold is refined. The refiner knows the refining process is accomplished when he can look into the liquid metal and see his image reflected.

This is a picture of Messiah in His coming. He comes not to destroy but to refine, so that we might be like Him and share in His image. The refining process is seldom a happy or pleasant one. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, describes what is often the painful refining process:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

We know that we cannot endure the day of God’s coming alone. But Messiah stands with us. He who has endured the final judgment for us, has joined Himself to us, and is now making us new. 


A listener might be caught off guard by the light, airy beginning of the music. Its opening chords may lull the unsuspecting to sleep before Messiah’s coming. But then the music erupts, superheating, spewing repeated sixteenth notes. The music shimmers like hot coals glowing in a refiner’s fire. Calvin Stapert calls the music “stile concitato aria to the limit”, which describes the burning agitation. The notes flame upward by octaves, then race downward as impurities are melted away. The rapidity of the music mimics leaping flames of the refiner’s fire. The music glows with white-hot intensity.

Both the music and text challenge and prompt us to pray with David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).


  • What do you sense that God might be saying to you in today’s Scripture text and music from Messiah?
  • What do you want to say to God?
  • Now take a few moments to be still in God’s presence.

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