Malachi, with God's help, understood just how intense this whole process of redemption and reconciliation was going to be... long before the physical arrival of Christ in our world. Here, the prophet describes what is to come in our cleansing:
"He'll be like white-hot fire from the smelter's furnace. He'll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He'll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He'll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they're fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago." Malachi 3:2-4 (MSG)
I'll admit, I don't use lye soap. I use the smelly soft soap from a pump bottle. But I do remember using bar soap. I don't know much about lye soap. So I did a little research. Here's a quick video you should watch to understand just how powerful lye soap can be- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EqmC-eltHA
As you can see. Lye is powerful stuff- the chemical reaction heated the water to nearly 200 degrees! She even said if you add water to lye (instead of lye to water) bad things can happen. It's no joke- it has to be done carefully, intentionally.
In other translations, more emphasis is put on the image of a furnace and refining metal- which is a process of exposing metals to extreme heat in order to make them stronger and pure.
Honestly, there are times when things seem so tough that I'm ready to give up on this. Times when I see no way out. Times when this thing called faith seems way too dangerous for me. However, I've realized that those are the times that will refine me, make me stronger, into something better. A certain muscle-bound governor coined the phrase, "No pain, no gain." Unfortunately, this is true more often than it is not.
Faith is dangerous, faith is scary, faith is unsettling...and yet, we trust that in the end we are being made clean by what God did for us through Christ. I could go on about lye soap and how cool that image is, but i'd rather let you read what I've learned from. Here is another link about this ancient way of making soap. You know... before there were ten different scents!