“For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.” Haggai 2:6,7
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1
“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:” Malachi 3:2
“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 3:3
At Christmas we think of that babe in the manger—the peaceful, redemption-bringing, grace and love outpouring, first coming of the Lord Jesus. And yet, one of the longest standing Christmas traditions, Handel’s Messiah, points us not back but forward to the day of His second appearing. While he came to bestow grace and salvation at his first appearing, Handel along with the prophets he was quoting, paint an amazing picture of the power, glory, and judgment which will accompany Christ at His second coming.
The Earth Shaken
Late one night, I lay in bed, nearly asleep when a powerful shuddering shattered the stillness of my bedroom. As though a 70 mph wind and a massive truck had collided with my house at the same time, my bed jolted, the walls groaned, and glass items clattered. Then, everything was still again. At first, I thought I was crazy. Had I imagined it? I knew I hadn’t, but what was it? Where had that one, powerful gust of wind come from? Slowly realization came. That was not wind. That was an earthquake.
It was all over the news the next morning. Everyone was talking about it. We were four hours from the epicenter. Damage here was almost non-existent, but those of us who were awake, who felt it, certainly took notice. How much more will the earth take note when God shakes it in judgment? The small earthquake I experienced will be but a faint trembling in comparison. Handel reminds us that this is the coming of the One in whom we delight. He will come in judgment, but He will come to fill His temple with His glory.
Who Shall Stand
Still, a question rings clear, “Who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth?” How do we stand before God who has come to judge the earth as a refiner purifies gold with fire or as a fuller fulls cloth with the miserable methods of his trade?
Fulling was the process by which cloth, especially wool, was purified of pollutants and made thicker. It involved trampling the cloth in a variety of harsh substances, including human urine, until soaps were developed. This was how oils and dirt were cleansed out of the fabric. Then the cloth was hammered so that the barbs of the fibers matted together, like felt, to create greater strength and waterproofing. Fulling was not a pleasant process either for the fuller or for the fabric—but neither is God’s judgment.
As the prophets look forward to the second coming of the Lord they ask, “Who can stand?” Who could ever bear up under the heat of God’s wrath, the treading of His feet, or the blow of His hammer?
He Shall Purify
The goal of both the refiner and the fuller is not to destroy but rather to make clean. This is the goal of the judgment foretold by Haggai and Malachi: To make clean the sons of Levi that they might offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness. He wants not to crush them but rather to restore the relationship. But how are we made clean? How do we stand not only in the face of His judgment but merely in His presence.
The Hope of Christmas
Without the first coming of the Christ, there is no hope at the second coming of Christ. Without His life, His death, and His resurrection we are in a helpless, hopeless state. There is no redemption. But He did come! He did take our sins upon Himself as He hung on that cross. He bore the wrath of God, the shaking of the earth, the forsaking of the Father, the darkness of death, and the agony of Hell—so that we might be made clean, so that we might stand in HIS righteousness at the day of His appearing and have life through His resurrection.
This, as we have already said more than once, is the hope of Christmas. Not the joy of gifts under the tree and family gathered together around the table. Not the beauty of a snowy world outside our window and lights strung brightly about the neighborhood. Not the sleigh bells or silver bells or jingle bells. Not angles or carols or Christmas pageants, not the Nutcracker or Handle’s Messiah. The Light and Hope and Joy of Christmas is the desire of nations in whom we delight—Christ.
This year, I’m doing something I’ve never done before, completely unplanned. I’m going through Handel’s Messiah and meditating on the Scripture used there. For accountability’s sake, I’ll be sharing it here and on Facebook. If you’d like to join me for this series and other updates, simply fill out the form below.
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