Advent – A Season of Preparation
One of the themes of the Advent season is the theme of preparation. For centuries, faithful Israelites prepared for the coming of the Messiah. They did this by believing God’s promises and obeying God’s Word. Today, we prepare for the Messiah’s return in the same way.
Malachi 3:1-4, a traditional Advent reading, points to two ways God helps us in this work of preparation.
1) God uses people to prepare us.
God’s word through Malachi was, “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” According to the Gospel of Mark, this prophecy was fulfilled through the ministry of John the Baptist. John called the people of Israel to repent of their sins so that they would be prepared for the ministry of Christ.
John seems to have had a lot of rough edges, and his message was often harsh. But responsiveness to John’s ministry was vitally important in preparation for the Messiah. Those people who were receptive of John’s message tended to be receptive of Jesus. Those who resisted John’s words tended to resist the words of Christ. (See Luke 7:29-30.)
What people has God used to prepare you for the work of Christ in your life? What people might God be using right now to get your attention? Are you willing to let God speak to you through others?
2) God uses suffering to prepare us.
Malachi describes the Messiah as one who comes to purify God’s people, making their service to God acceptable.
How will the Messiah purify us? Malachi says, “He will be like a refiner’s fire…. He will sit as a refiner of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” Gold and silver are made pure through the cleansing power of intense heat. The dross in the ore is burned away in the crucible, leaving only precious metal behind.
In a similar way, God often uses suffering and trials to purify his people. (See 1 Peter 1:6-7.) Knowing this truth assures us that, for the believer, difficulties are not a sign of God’s displeasure, but rather are evidence of our worth is God’s eyes. God sees us as his treasure – as silver or gold – as is committed to using circumstances in our lives to prepare us for eternal glory. Derek Weber writes, “The prophet Malachi tells us that even when we are in the hottest of fires, there is a presence who can make us better, who can refine and purify.”
What painful circumstances are your facing right now? How is God using them to purify your life? Are you willing to trust God to use suffering to refine your faith?