Malachi 3:2-3 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 refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD.
There is a very easy answer of how to be ready for just about anything – so simple, its within everyone’s grasp – to be ready for just about anything – put God first in everything. That’s all. The problem is that sometimes, when faced with a choice, we tend to choose something else, and so God doesn’t come first. Its not always easy to put God first, and our example tonight is the story of the Son’s of Levi. You all know that they became the priests, and they were to serve God for all the people – but the system broke down. Rather than talk about how it broke down, lets look at what distinguished them in the first place – and what is going to set things right.
In Exodus chapter 32, we hear about how Moses was up on the Mountain a long time, how the people prevailed on Aaron to build them a golden calf, and how the people went wild. Moses saw the sin of the people, and asked one simple question: Who is on the Lord’s side?
Its not a hard question, you would expect everyone would say, I am! But as they say talk is cheap. The second part of the instruction was – The Lord God commands you -take you sword, kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbor. Are you still on the Lord’s side?
Faced with the choice between God and family and friends, well… it’s a hard choice isn’t it? Its not an unusual thing, Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only son - this sort of choice often comes up even in our lives – a choice between God and something else that wants to be first. Anyway that is how the sons of Levi distinguished themselves, 3,000 men died that day – and those that remained would long remember that the wages of sin [idolatry] is death.
So even though the sons of Levi were distinguished, they are still like all of us, for we all sin much daily. It the wages of sin is death, then the sons of Levi deserved to die – but the promise is that they won’t die – but they will be purified.
How will they be purified? They will be purified in the same way that silver and gold are purified, in the same way that garments are made white – they will be cleansed. Problem is that this cleansing is not something that most people enjoy – who wants to be heated up until they are read hot? Who wants to be bleached? Its not pleasant, but what are the choices – be purified, or die? It is through things like this that we grow in faith, for although we think we are going to die, we don’t die, and we do grow – that is the nature of discipline, and God disciplines us because he loves us.
You see, God has called us to be a holy people, a royal priesthood – and like the sons of Levi, we also sin, we do not worship God properly, other things come first in our lives. So this is good news for us, we will not perish, but we will be purified, cleansed
How are we cleansed? Not with fire, not with bleach – but with the blood of Jesus Christ, shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins – Jesus suffered, he went through the fire for us, so that he could bring to us a free and complete salvation. We are cleansed every time the word speaks to us the good news of forgiveness, every time we remember our baptism, every time we come the the Lord’s Supper – and because we have been cleansed, we can present right offerings to our Lord and God.
We rejoice, bet because of our sin, not because of its consequences – but we rejoice that God sent his only Son to suffer and die that we might be cleansed – we rejoice in the gift of God which is ours in Jesus Christ. You see, this time God is not sitting as a judge, but as a refiner, and although we might wish to purify ourselves, our attempts are rather like those of a child to wash up, we never quite get our hands completely clean, we never quite get washed behind our ears. So we rejoice that God does, what we were unable to do for ourselves –it might not always be pleasant – but we give thanks that by the grace of God we have been cleansed, and that we are saved in Jesus blood.