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. -Malachi 3:2
So, about that laundry…it piles up, doesn't it? If you're like me, and have enough clothes to go for about a month (or um, two) without doing laundry, it really piles up! The interesting thing about dirty clothes, is that individually, they are not usually offensive to the nose, but all together, piled up, they stink! In fact, clothes that didn't smell when you put them in the laundry basket absolutely reek by the time you get around to washing them! Don't make faces, you ALL know that this is the truth. Isn't sin the same way? Those things that didn't seem so bad by themselves, put all together and left to fester…ewww. And for the number of verses in the Bible that talk about being washed clean and cleansed, we don't talk about the laundering process enough! So let's ponder on this one: God's cleansing like the launderer's soap.
The first thing that strikes me about this is that you only send clothes that you care about to a laundry service. The torn-up t-shirt that you wear to clean out the bathroom certainly does not go to a dry-cleaning service, right? Yet God talks about cleansing his people, all of them, like the launderer's soap -- we are all of value to Him, it is His desire for His people to be clean. Also of note, is that, like most other things, laundry is a process. (Once again, if you're like me, it's quite a long one!)
However, the cleaning process is not gentle! Doing laundry usually has two phases. Most people automatically think of the second one, the "general" wash by throwing the clothes all into the machine, sorted by colour and weight and selecting the cycle appropriate for the clothing. But more important is the hand-washing part that must come first. Specific stains are targeted by soaking, or bleach or with a strong soap, to make sure that they are without blemish, like the rest of the garment. A professional laundry service will have several different treatments for different stains, all designed to remove the stain without damaging the garment. Aight…read that again, and think of God as the person doing the laundry (and you being said laundry). Isn't that amazing?! We get a cleansing according to the type of clothing that we are, and also a targeted, specific cleansing according to our stains. The method may be a little different, but the outcome is always the same…clean clothes.
Let's think old school now. Before fancy washing machines, people did several loads of laundry by hand, all the clothes for their household, every week. The soap that they used varied according to the garments (you probably wouldn't use the same soap for baby clothes that you would for a grown man's clothes), and they could be very harsh, but they job got done perfectly, the clothes look as good as new!
If you have ever tackled a difficult stain in an item of clothing by hand, you know that a considerable amount of work goes into that particular spot: wet it, apply the soap, rub the stain, rinse, repeat, soak if needed, etc. and if you've done a lot of laundry by hand you know something else: it's a harsh process for the clothes, but it is also tough on the hands that are washing them. You grasp one side of the stained area in each hand, and remove the stain by the friction of each hand rubbing against the other. [If you do this often (like, several loads per day), your hands become dry and calloused, your joints ache, your back hurts.] During our spiritual laundry process we may go through something similar, and the stain is sometimes on our hearts, or in our minds, or in our souls, places that are quite sensitive to the rough hands of the launderer. But this is all necessary in order for all the clothes to be clean, and although the process seems torturous, the clothes are never returned damaged.
Sometimes we have to remember to be willing to send our clothes to God's Professional Laundry Service, because there are stains that we just can't get out without His powerful soap and skilled hands. In fact, if all you did with clothes was "wash" them, without rubbing the stains and without the soap, they'd still be just as dirty, they'd just be wet too! So next time you sing of being washed in Jesus' blood, don't forget to be thankful for God's soap and His hands that work to scrub you clean. After all, the best thing we can be for God is an acceptable sacrifice, a sweet-smelling fragrance to Him (Phil 4:18). And nothing smells better than clean laundry.