Monday, May 14, 2007

and He shall purify

Continuing on the topic in the post below , these verses from Malachi allow things to be developed in different directions.

Malachi 1
1: "Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple;

Suddenly. If our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, then the day of the Lord will present each of us with a moment where we "suddenly" behold this reality. If we are not diligent in building up an awareness of this inevitable revelation in our hearts, it will come as an unwelcome shock. It will be a shock, nonetheless - but someone striving to build their faith recognizes that humility is the key to accepting God's grace. If met with humility, the shock of that super-reality which transcends our current abilities to comprehend will be accompanied by the grace needed to endure it. And grace will be needed...

2: 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;
3: 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.


When we read about the purification of the temple in Maccabees (or at any point in the OT when Israel underwent violent refresher courses in covenant love) it is purposefully frightening - a marker on the road that points away from the journey of sin and back to obedience to the Father. Any sin is like a blot of ink in glass of water. In comparison to the "good" that is God (see Matthew 19:16-17) it is an infinite stain. The only way to remove comes from the infinite mercy of the Cross. And it is no small thing to behold the reality of our sin. It is the crucified Jesus. And as Zechariah and John both tell us, we "will look on him whom we have pierced." Asking for God's mercy in the face of this reality, with the veil of this world lifted, will be an experience similar to enduring the refiner's fire.

There is no way to avoid the implication in Scripture that our physical bodies - the temple of the Holy Spirit - are meant to physically endure this experience. But there is also no way to avoid that with the Holy Spirit within them, they will not endure it alone. Christ said, "my yoke is easy, my burden is light". Jesus plans to purify each one of us from within - to give us hearts of flesh, (Ezekiel 36:26) and then, in turn, make us into living stones to build the new temple of his body, the Church.

Malachi then describes what will become of us based on how we've endured the purification.

4: Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
5: "Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
6: "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
7: From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, `How shall we return?'
8: Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, `How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings.
9: You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you.


How do we rob from God? If all we have is from the Lord, and we choose to keep anything for ourselves - including any part of our hearts, minds, and bodies - then we have stolen. We must give all. Totus tuus. When we give the Lord all, he implores us to ask for more!

10: Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.

And the next two verses are exemplary of the only person in creation to give all, ask for more, and whose body was thus made a perfect realization of the new temple. The daughter of Zion. The New Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant.

11: I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.

Compare with Revelation 12

1: And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
2: she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery.
3: And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads.
4: His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth;
5: she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne,
6: and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God,

12: Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.

Compare with Luke 1

46: And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord,
47: and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48: for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
49: for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

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