Presentation of the Lord: Malachi 3:1-4

Always a humbling text. Part of the lectionary readings for tomorrow’s “Presentation of the Lord” in the liturgical community.

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, 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 refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord 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.


  1. The imagery in these passages has long been interesting to me. In creating a clear picture of how excruciating (now that is a pretty descriptive word to use, isn’t it?) for Israel will be the day of His coming, Malachi uses phrases like “refiner’s fire” and “fuller’s soap” are . The imagery of “refiner’s fire” makes sense to most of us because we understand how hot a refiner’s fire must be to remove impurities in metal. However, few of us have a clue as to the picture intended by the phrase “fuller’s soap” because we know nothing about the bleaching of wool.

    Today, a very small percentage of American Christians know that freshly shorn wool must undergo quite a process before it is ready to be spun into cloth. The Anglicized term for a critical part of that preparation is “fulling” and a “fuller” is one who does this prep work. although “fulling” is a multistage process, the central part of it is “bleaching” the wool. Although in different parts of the world, bleaching during the “fulling” process involved a variety of chemicals (including urine in quite a few places), it seems that most of the wool bleaching in ancient Israel involved strong alkali agents. While alkali might seem less repulsive than a urine-based “bleach”, obviously to those in Malachi’s circle the process would still have been sufficiently rigorous so as to result in an objective purification (“whitening” of one’s soul)!

    By the way, there is a brand of custom produced soap available today that is marketed as Fuller’s Soap. While its market is generally really nice hotels, I’m not sure I want to get as clean in a hotel bath as “fuller’s soap” is supposed to insure.


  2. Steve,

    Thanks for fleshing out those metaphors for us. When I read what you wrote, I become more and more aware of the sense of call that Malachi has placed on Israel here. It seems very similar to Jesus’ own call to discipleship. Thanks again for sharing, Steve!


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