He Shall Purify

Malachi’s people were guilty of negligence and carelessness in their religious observances. After calling the people to repentance, the prophet had some specific words of correction for the priests:

“I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty.“ My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.”

Malachi 2:4-6, NIV

I don’t know if the Lord was referring to Levi himself or to his descendants. Moses and Aaron were both descendants of Levi (Exodus 2:1-10Exodus 6:16-20), and when the law of Moses was given, Aaron and his sons were consecrated as priests (Exodus 28:1-4), while the rest of the Levites were assigned to assist them (Numbers 3:5-10). He might be saying that earlier generations of Levites had fulfilled their ecclesiastical responsibilities and turned people toward God. In contrast, the priests in Malachi’s time were turning people away from God:

“For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Malachi 2:7-9, NIV

It is in this context that Malachi prophesies of a time to come, a challenging time and a purifying time:

But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.

Malachi 3:2-3, 3 Nephi 24:2-3

Malachi’s people knew something about adversity. They had endured decades of captivity in Babylon.

The Nephites and the Lamanites must have also felt a connection with this prophecy, since they had just endured an extraordinary confluence of natural disasters before the Savior visited them. The earthquakes, fires, and floods had been followed by an invitation to greater holiness: “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13).

It’s important to remember that the trials and the challenges we face are not necessarily impeding our progress. They may be helping us grow stronger and holier. As Sister Michelle D. Craig recently reminded us, “Troubles are part of the plan and do not mean you’ve been abandoned…. I am learning that Heavenly Father is more interested in my growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ than He is with my comfort” (“Wholehearted,” General Conference, October 2022).

Think about that principle as you listen to this performance of the piece “And He Shall Purify” from Handel’s Messiah. Notice how unstable the music sounds as the choir sings the words “and He shall purify.” But note how they come together as the promised blessing is realized. Malachi’s prophecy is not just a general, global one, but is also a personal one. God is wiling to purify you so that your offerings to Him can be righteous:

Today, I will remember that the adversity I experience can have a purifying effect on me. Rather than deplore the difficulties I face, I will view them as opportunities for growth and improvement. I will trust that God is purifying me.

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