Fire and Soap

Jeff Munroe

READ : Malachi 3:1-7

Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. (v. 1)

Malachi predicted that God would send a messenger who would be like a refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap. A refiner’s fire purifies precious metal, and fuller’s soap was used in the process of making wool clean before spinning and weaving it into cloth. The purifying and cleansing messenger wasn’t going to be meek and mild; rather, he’d be the culmination of all the prophets of the Old Testament.

Is it any wonder that those who knew the prophecy of Malachi recognized John the Baptist as the messenger? He was a voice crying in the wilderness. He warned that every tree not producing fruit would be chopped down and thrown into the fire. He ate locusts, he wore camel hair, and he said the one coming would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth in different ways; Mark and John don’t tell it at all. But each of the Gospels tells of John the Baptist preceding Jesus. The story of Jesus cannot be faithfully told without including John. He isn’t a mere curiosity; he’s a vital part of the story because there is no grace without understanding the law first. With John’s arrival and ministry, as one commentator says, “holy history starts all over again.” He comes to baptize Jesus, to prepare us for the good news, and to show that God keeps his promise that his messenger will come.


Again, thank you that you are a God who keeps your promises.