April 26, 2009

The Blast Furnace God

I taught on Malachi chs.3-4 this morning for my last Sunday on staff at GSUMC and spent time talking about the imagery found in these chapters regarding God and the imagery of refining, furnaces and fire:

“I am about to send my messenger,
who will clear the way before me.
Indeed, the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his temple,
and the messenger of the covenant, whom you long for,
is certainly coming,”
says the Lord who rules over all.

"Who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can keep standing when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner’s fire,
like a launderer’s soap.
He will act like a refiner and purifier of silver
and will cleanse the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.
Then they will offer the Lord a proper offering.
The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord
as in former times and years past.

I will come to you in judgment.
I will be quick to testify against
those who practice divination,
those who commit adultery,
those who break promises,
and those who exploit workers, widows, and orphans,
who refuse to help the immigrant
and in this way show they do not fear me,”
says the Lord who rules over all.

“For indeed the day is coming,
burning like a furnace,
and all the arrogant evildoers will be chaff.
The coming day will burn them up,”
says the Lord who rules over all.
“It will not leave even a root or branch.
But for you who respect my name,
the sun of vindication will rise with healing wings,
and you will skip about like calves released from the stall.
You will trample on the wicked,
for they will be like ashes under the soles of your feet
on the day which I am preparing,”
says the Lord who rules over all.

There is so much in these two chapters of Malachi (originaly just one chapter in the Hebrew Bible--4:1ff in our Bibles corresponds to 3:19ff in the Hebrew text). However the image of refining fire made me think of a quote from one of the best books I've ever read about God's nature, particularly in relationship to the question of evil and suffering, by theologian John Stackhouse from his book "Can God Be Trusted?":

“Theism does not affirm that God is always ‘nice’
or pleasant or kindly.
God’s goodness is absolute purity,
as much like the purity of a blast furnace
…as it is like the indulgence of a
sweet grandmother.
God always thinks without error, incompleteness, or prejudice.
Such a God may not always be likeable, nor always comfortable.
But such a God may well be worthy of worship."

Thoughts to ponder...


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