Monday, December 21, 2009

Treasures of the Snow

Opinions on the huge snowstorm that pummeled the mid-Atlantic and northeast states this past weekend vary immensely. Some folks like it, especially the ski resorts. The day after the storm hit the New York area, talk show host Bob Grant voiced the feeling of others when he declared that he hated snow. "I despise it," he rancorously said.

When a snowstorm happens on a school day, kids tend to love it since it means that school begins late or not at all that day. I can relate to that since we lived in the lake-effect snowbelt in central New York State when I was a kid. A severe Sunday snowstorm often meant an extended weekend while plows cleared the rural roads. My brother, Jim, and I would peer through the frosty windows to observe the enormous plows charge the snowdrifts that went completely across the road in front of our house. If the plow went through on one pass, we went to school. If a second charge was required to plunge through, it was a "maybe." If three were necessary, school was off that day.

As I grew older in years and in the Lord, I came to view snow as a stirring Bible illustration of being washed in the blood of the Lamb. Motorists, business men and necessary travelers may indeed dislike the white stuff, which can delay or eliminate vital functions, but Christian believers may take heart that God is refocusing on recurring redemption themes.

God quizzed Job about his understanding of "the treasures of the snow" (Job 38:22), and they are many. Each snowflake is a different six-sided wonder. Meteorologists in storm-prone areas examine snowflakes’ composition to determine how much snow will fall and how long the storm will last, perhaps a subtle "treasure."

Snow is a special feature of the Holy Land. The snow pack on 9,230-foot high Mount Hermon in northern Israel soaks into the porous rock and is graciously metered out as one of headwaters of the Jordan River. The river satisfies human thirst, irrigates crops and trickles into the Dead Sea, creating a reservoir of billions of dollars in chemicals for global use. This downflow is likely referred to in Jeremiah 18:14: "Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?" The snow pack on Mount Hermon often lasts into early June and affords downhill runs for skiers, a real commercial "treasure."

In Bible times, shepherds in Israel would wash the harvested wool by snow-washing; that is, cleansing the fibers with water melted from fallen snow. A more modern example, for those who live in the north at least, is seeing the corroding salt on automobiles washed away as snow cover slides off one’s car.

Cars are one thing, but souls are another. They are cleansed by God’s spiritual snow pack. In a day of dire spiritual declension, Isaiah prescribed a unique cure. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Is. 1:18) This could be a reference to the snow washing of wool.

Another specific spiritual catharsis is obvious in the pained confession of King David. Guilty of adultery and murder, he cried, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." (Psalm 51:7)

Even the eventual snowmelt, with its guaranteed subsequent crop-growing potential, is a treasure. Christian witness is treated to the sustaining promise of Isaiah 55:10-11: "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."

Snow is like the Gospel. It comes from above and refreshes the earth. Its ultimate treasures are enjoyed in the food we eat and the water we drink.

Years ago in the Mexican jungle, I heard a group of Tzaltal Indians singing an old hymn in their native language. When I came home to New Jersey, I checked the words in English.

Blessed be the fountain of blood,
to a world of sinners revealed,
Blessed be the dear son of God,
Only by His stripes we are healed.
Tho’ I’ve wandered far from the fold,
Bringing to my heart pain and woe.
Wash me in the blood of the lamb,
and I shall be whiter than snow.
Whiter than the snow, Whiter than the snow,
Wash me in the blood of the lamb.
And I shall be whiter than snow.

Those Indians had never seen snow, but they had been washed whiter than snow. Without seeing it, they understood the analogy. All who have seen snow should understand it even better.

Dave Virkler

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