I know that many of you probably aren’t interested in thinking any more about snow than you have already had to, but all of this white stuff caused me to think of the imagery of snow in Scripture. Snow is a staple in Michigan, where we live. It is such a prevalent part of our lives for a significant portion of the year that in the Keweenaw Peninsula (a peninsula jutting out of the northern portion of the Upper Peninsula), there is a massive thermometer that measures the total snowfall each year. The record amount in a single season? 3,904 inches! That’s a lot of snow! As I look out the window of my office at the blanket of white stuff that is covering the lawn of the church, I’m glad that I’m not in Ojibway. I’m quite content with the snowfall we receive here in the Battle Creek area.
When we think of Israel, whether ancient or modern, snow tends not to be at the front of our minds. We think of the arid lands that we see in so many Bible atlases or videos about the Promised Land. Yet the Bible uses the imagery of snow, which means that the people of this land are familiar with it. We sometimes forget that there are plenty of regions in Israel that are at a significant elevation, high enough that snowfall is not a strange phenomenon during the winter months. If we think about this area along two dimensions – the climate of the region and the period of history during which the Bible was composed – it’s easy to see why snow would represent good things.
New snowfalls are some of the most beautiful and wondrous events that we experience here in Michigan. I’m not talking about the covering you see after a few weeks, when the plows have been through numerous times and what we’re left with is more of a gray sludge. Rather, I’m talking about that fresh, new snow that falls and brings about a soft silence to your surroundings. It might be out in the country or on a city street, but things just seem to look so bright and clean because of the whiteness of the snow. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that the Bible uses snow to communicate purity. Isaiah 1:8 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Our sins are scarlet, the color of blood, yet God’s grace offers us forgiveness that washes us as white as snow. This kind of cleanness is reflected in Psalm 51:7: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” As pure and clean as that fresh snow is, it cannot compare with the cleanness that comes from God. When God cleanses a person from their sin, it is as though the sin had never been there in the first place! In God’s eyes, He does not see the vestiges of your sin remaining, like the faint outline of a stain on our clothing. It is 100% gone – we are now “whiter than snow.”
The Bible also speaks of snow as being refreshing. In Proverbs 25:13 we read, “Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters.” With the arctic wind chills we’ve been experiencing, we might not fully understand how snow might be refreshing, but again remember the setting. In the arid, hot climate of Israel during harvest time, the coolness of a snowfall would have been incredibly refreshing to a laborer. I know that for me, walking through a fresh snow is a moment of refreshment for my soul as I see God’s creation covered in pure white. It is a visual reminder that God’s creation, while groaning under the curse of sin, will one day be renewed in such a way that it, too, will be whiter than snow. It’s a reminder that I, too, have been cleansed from my sins, and that is more refreshing than I can express with words! So, even on these cold, blustery, winter days, when you see the “white stuff,” don’t be discouraged; remember instead what the Bible says snow symbolizes…and maybe put on another layer of clothes, just to be safe. Just something to think about…