Road Work

Malachi 3:1-4

        “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.


  1. For the past few weeks the Maryland State Highway Administration has been redoing the roadway on MD140 outside Westminster. The single lane backup is tremendous and frustrating.
    1. To repair the road surface, they had to tear up the old road, ripping up the pavement and taking it away to CJ Millers grindings dump.
    1. Then they smoothed out some of the potholes and filled in some of the low spots. 
    1. They have laid a new foundation of gravel and pavement which will eventually be topped off with asphalt. 
    1. They are preparing the way, making the way straight and safe for travelers. 
    1. It’s a long and difficult process but it is necessary and has to be done. 
    1. The road is prepared and as it nears completion, we frustrated drivers look forward with anticipation to it’s opening. 
  2. That is one kind of preparation.
  3. There is another kind. 
  4. When the president plans to visit a community, special preparations have to be made. 
    1. People are sent on ahead of him to make sure that everything is ready for his arrival. 
    1. Arrangements are made. 
    1. Lodging is set up.  Accommodations are made for receptions and meals; meetings are planned, and the appropriate people are notified of the presidents’ imminent arrival. 
    1. The Secret Service is sent ahead to secure the safety of the president and the community. 
    1. Dangerous people and situations are identified.  
    1. Anticipation is high and the expectations are great…the president is on his way and his way has to be prepared for him.
  5. PAUSE
  6. I recently received an email reminder from the UMC Communications that Advent – the preparation for the arrival of the birth of Jesus is only 67 days away — and it is still hot and dry outside.
  7. I have barely gotten finished with the summer sermon series for worship and the launching of The Gathering Table and the coming of Charge Conference in October. Now I am being reminded about the coming of Christmas.
  8. Yes, it is time for road work to be done and a time us to prepare for the coming of  of the baby Jesus — but this far in advance? UGH! 
  9.  Malachi writes, “Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.  And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple.  But who can endure the day of His coming, who can stand when He appears? 
  10. Isaiah writes and John the Baptist proclaims, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places plain, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” 
  11. The prophets remind us that there is some road work that needs to be done.  There needs to be some tearing up and reconstruction, some refining and washing before we can begin to celebrate.
  12. It is that kind of preparation which Malachi and John the Baptist have in mind as they think of the coming of Jesus.
  13. Both of these prophets, Malachi in the Old Testament and John the Baptist in the New Testament, speak of cleansing of sin in preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus.
    1. Both are messengers of Yahweh, pointing to one greater than themselves who is on his way and is about to arrive.
  14. How can we be prepared? 
    1. Malachi and John the Baptist tells us. 
    1. They call on the people to recognize their sin, turn to God for forgiveness and live as the faithful people of God. 
  15. Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets and lived in the fifth century B.C.
    1. The people of his day were becoming religiously lazy, morally eroded and, were openly complaining against God.  (Sounds like the 21st Century!)
    1. Due to the economic depression of the times, the Israelites became slack in their worship practices. “Why go to temple?” they asked. “Why pray?” they asked. “Yahweh doesn’t care for us. Sound familiar?
    1. They were asking: “Why should we care about God and his laws?”
    1. Lean harvests, droughts, and locusts swarming on crops resulted in most of the people staying away from worship services.
    1. The people also stopped giving their tithes and offerings and were thus robbing God (Malachi 3:8-12).
    1. They were not prepared for the coming of the Lord. 
  16. We can ask ourselves are we prepared to meet the coming of Jesus?
  17. The Israelis lack of faithfulness led to immorality.
  18. Five sins of immorality are listed in Malachi 3:5
    1. (1) the practice of magic, reliance on superstitions, astrology and horoscopes;
    1. (2) adultery and sexual deviations;
    1. (3) lying and telling distortions or half-truths and hurting people with words);
    1. (4) cheating, and
    1. (5) not helping widows, orphans and foreigners (those with special needs or of a different color of skin or national background. 
    1. Sound familiar?
  19. They were not prepared for the coming of the Lord. 
  20. So, we need to ask ourselves similar questions:
    1. How are we doing? 
    1. Are we prepared?
  21. Malachi wrote, “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 fuller’s soap?” (CEB – Launder’s soap)
  22. Let’s take a moment and look at what refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap actually mean. I think there are some great lessons presented with this verse.
  23. Refiner’s Fire
    1. It has always been easy for me to see the correlation of everyday living to the refiner’s fire. At the Carroll County Farm Museum, we can often see blacksmiths beating metal, thrusting it into the fire until it’s white hot, beating it some more, thrusting it back into the fire, and so forth until it is the perfect shape and will radiate the designers desire.
  24. The Bible also uses the process of white-hot fire as an example of what it is like for God to refine us. From this, we learn that God uses the heat of life to purify us into the Great Designer’s desire for us.
    1. The struggles of life refine us to His image.
    1. The challenges of life apply a cleansing heat to pride, bad attitude, and selfishness. We learn through suffering with these character traits, that God’s grace can heal us. — Refiner’s Fire!
  25. Fuller’s Soap
    1. After a bit of digging, I found that a fuller was the individual who would take the raw, filthy wool from sheep and purify it using a variety of techniques, including an extremely harsh soap that would ultimately help to make it clean. It was an undesirable job. It was dirty work. It took a great deal of effort to make it white.
  26. Trials in our lives require us to use refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap.
    1. Fuller’s soap can be an apology.
    1. It can be healing from a physical affliction.
    1. It can be mending a broken relationship.
    1. It can mean paying whatever price needs to be paid to make something right.
    1. Sometimes, we carry fuller’s soap with us daily, continually. Its abrasiveness is painful, horrible, tough, and gut-wrenching. It is also desirable, stimulating, empowering, and necessary. Don’t be afraid to use fuller’s soap, for in it you will find healing as we address issues that separate us from God’s desires and plans for us.
  27. Back to Malachi —- In other words, who can prepare themselves?  The answer is no one.  When Jesus comes, He will refine us like a person refining precious metals, in the heat of the fire. Jesus will be like the caustic soap of a person that makes laundry clean.  
  28. We are like a road that is badly in need of repair as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.  But a road cannot repair itself, neither can we. 
    1. In fact, we struggle because we are resistant to repair. 
    1. Here we find the grace of God. 
    1. For God’s call to repentance, through His powerful Word, through the prophets and apostles, changes us.
    1. Through it the Holy Spirit enlightens our minds to understand what separates us from God.
    1. The Spirit then turns us toward God to recognize the source of our forgiveness.  
    1. The Spirit points us in the direction of our Savior Jesus Christ. 
  29. This is how it has always been, through Isaiah, Malachi, and John the Baptist.  This is the same message that we hear today. 
    1. God gives us the preparation that we need to receive Jesus.  It is not an outward preparation of Christmas trees or wreaths.  It is not made up in Christmas cards or carols. 
    1. True preparation is the recognition that we need a Savior and that the Savior is Jesus Christ. 
      1. Just like a hungry person can only truly anticipate a meal with joy and excitement, we are made hungry with for joy for our Savior.
  30. Roads cannot repair themselves.  They cannot remove the hills or fill in the gaps.  They cannot straighten themselves out. But they don’t fix themselves and there is a price that has to be paid to fix them.  So, it is with us. 
  31. We cannot fix or repair ourselves. We cannot set ourselves in the right direction or straighten the direction out.  God alone can do the work and God alone can pay the price. 
    1. Our God paid the price when He sent His one and only Son into the world to live and die on the cross for you and me. 
    1. On the cross the Son of God, Jesus Christ, paid the price as the refiner’s fire of God’s wrath was poured out. 
    1. Through His cross the soap of God was given to all people and it is applied to us through the waters of Baptism and through faith. 
    1. Through these we become whiter than snow in the eyes of God.  Through these we are fully prepared to meet our king, today, when He comes again with great power and great glory.
  32. This is road work preparation.  It is the work of God in our lives.  Our anticipation is high, and the expectations are great…Malachi is saying that Jesus is on his way and our hearts will be prepared.  By God’s grace, we are prepared to meet Jesus.  Amen
  33. A musical video — “I Surrender!”