THE TREASURES OF THE SNOW Based on Job 37:1-14 and 38:22
By Pastor Glenn Pease
It was one of the strangest funerals on record. Nobody was being buried, but things were being buried in a lot of little graves, and in one, the Bible was being buried. Shackleton and his men were exploring the Antarctic when they were over whelmed by the forces of nature. Their ship, Endurance, unfortunately, could not endure the pressure of the ice, and it was crushed into splinters. Shackleton and his men were adrift on an island of ice. He was convinced their only hope was to move across the ice to the other side of the floe.
He ordered his men to sift through their belongings and reduce their luggage to two pounds each. It was a sad sight to watch as they each went apart, dug a hole in the snow, and began to dispose of their possessions. Bundles of letters they had from their wives were placed in their miniature mausoleums. Little gifts that they had received before leaving from England, and all of the sentimental things had to go, except the lightweight pictures of their wives and sweethearts.
Meanwhile, Shackleton had to make a decision as he sorted through things. What should he do with the ships Bible. It was a gift from the Queen Alexandra. It was too heavy to carry along, but could it be abandoned? Shackleton decided to compromise. He tore out the fly leaf burying the Queens inscription in her own handwriting, and he tore out one page of the Bible. Which page would you choose to save if you could only save one? It would not likely be the one which he choose, but you would not likely be in his situation either. He selected the leaf containing the 37th and 38th chapters of Job.
They were marooned on an island of snow and ice, and these chapters reminded them that God was the author and creator of snow and ice. It seemed like a God forsaken place, but these chapters kept them aware that they were never out of the hand of God, for His hand is in all of nature. God, in these chapters, is challenging
Job and all men to look at nature and learn from it why they need to stand in awe before their Creator.
That part of nature we want to focus on is--snow. There are 25 references to snow in the Bible, and we are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, and so snow is to be a part of creation that teaches us something about God. Doctor Talmage, that great preacher of nature sermons, tells of two rough wood cuts he saw as a boy. They hung side by side, and one portrayed a lad warmly clothed, looking out of the door of his farm house upon the first flurry of snow. Hearing the jingling sleigh bells and the frolic of his play fellows in the deep banks, he is clapping his hands and shouting: "It snows! It snows!"
The other sketch was of a boy, haggard and hollow-eyed with hunger, looking for the broken door of a wretched home. Seeing the falling flakes is to him a sign of more cold, less bread, and greater privation. Wringing his hands, and with tears rolling down his cheeks he cries: "It snows! It snows!" Two boys seeing the same thing, but with totally different emotions. What we have here is not just a matter of different strokes for different folks. Snow means different things to different people, but it also means different things to the same people at different times. Snow is one of those aspects of reality that is both a potential burden, and a potential blessing,
and which it becomes depends a great deal upon your perspective.
Snow is a great deal like its creator. God is love, and the warmth of His grace is the source of all our comforts and joys. But God is also a consuming fire, and His judgment can be the source of great sorrow. Snow, like God, can be a blessing or a burden; a joy or a judgment. It has been both in my life as I am sure it has been in yours. You have no doubt been awed by its beauty, but also made to feel awful by its brutality.
Snow has been a major force that has determined the destiny of many people. Such was the case with Napoleon. In the winter of 1812 Napoleon marched away from Moscow with 200,000 men on a bright and beautiful October 19 morning. As the day wore on, the sky darkened, and soon the snow began to fly. Harmless little missiles, but in sufficient quantities one of nature's most deadly weapons. Multiplied billions of these insignificant flakes fell until the horses could not pull the supply wagons. The men began to fall from fatigue. Here was the army that brought Emperors to their knees, and made all men tremble. Now they do battle with the silent and gentle snowflake, and before it is over, 132,000 men parished. Such is the
awesome power of snow.
Snow is one of God's object lessons on the power of unity. Get enough weak people together who could do nothing alone, and they can change the course of history by being united. It is a lesson Christians have a hard time learning. Christianity is constantly weakened by division and disunity. Christians are often as ineffective in blocking the road of evil as a hand full of snowflakes are in blocking a road. Snow is only powerful in quantity. When you get enough of these helpless flakes together there is no power on earth can stop them. They cave in roofs, bring down wires, and stop armies. If Christians could unite in their efforts there is no force of evil that could hold them back. Jesus said the very gates of hell could not prevail against them.
It is the combination of masses of little influences that change history. It is not just great leaders, but the persistent impact of millions of Christians letting their light shine, and being the salt of the earth, that is the key to Christianity's power in the world. Forgetting this lesson of the snow has led many Christians into defeat.They weak and helpless to make a difference, and because they cannot be an avalanche, they refuse to be a snowflake, and the result is the army of evil keeps marching, and is undefeated.
If only we could enter into the treasure of the snow as Job is advised to do by God. Snow is used often in the Word of God as a tool for teaching. Job 37 and 38 are two of the great nature chapters of the Bible. In them snow, hail, ice, and frost, all of the different forms of solid or frozen H2O, are used to illustrate God's power. Let's look at snow and see what we can learn from its power. The first and most obvious power of snow is its-
I. POWER TO PURIFY. Isa. 1:18 is the best known text about snow. "Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow." Winter would be so ugly without snow. The landscape becomes so dead and dark, and the dirt and grime make everything ugly. But then the gentle snow falls from heaven and all is transformed. These billions of artists of the air reach down and paint this drab world bright. God never paints more beautiful than when he paints in white.
It is all done with as little noise as a cat on a carpet. The winter scarred landscape is clothed in sparkling splendor, and all of this is nature's illustration of the grace of God. Jesus shed His blood to do for us what snow does for the world. By His death Jesus made it possible for us to cover our sin scarred nature with the glorious garment of His snow white righteousness. It too is all done in such gentle silence. Noise is not needed for power. God's power, by which He cleanses, forgives, and beautifies our lives, is a gentle power.
If you go to a factory where lace is made, you will doubtless hear the whirl of many machines, but God makes His lace in silence. Let us learn this lesson from the snow. Great and powerful things do not need to be accompanied by external noise. Powerful things can and do happen in our lives in complete silence with no noise or fanfare. We deal with God whose grace falls like snow from heaven, and our guilt is covered, our sin forgiven, and our garment of righteousness is restored to splendor before God. And all of this power takes place in our inner being with no sound whatever.
Shelley, in Prometheus Unbound, compares the silent power of snow to the silent power of thought, which can build up until, like snow, it can produce an avalanche.
Hark! The rushing snow!
The sun-awakened avalanche! whose mass,
Thrice sifted by the storm, had gathered there
Flake after flake, in heaven-defying minds
As thought by thought is piled, till some great truth
Is loosened, and the nations echo round,
Shaken to their roots, as do the mountains now.
As Jesus entered history so quietly, and yet made the biggest change in history, so the snowy blanket of heaven is let down in gentle quietness, and changes everything. David prayed, "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." Snow is the symbol of God's silent but powerful grace which covers a multitude of sins. R. E. Neighbor wrote,
The snow! The snow!
To men below
It brings a sparkling white;
It fills the earth
With joy and mirth
With music and delight.
So, Christ came down
My life to crown,
To make my black heart white;
To make me whole,
And fill my soul
With rapturous delight.
Snow is used in both testaments to describe God the Father and the Son. In Dan. 7:9 the Ancient of Days had raiment as white as snow. On the Mount of Transfiguration, and when John saw Jesus in heaven, he had garments and hair as white as snow. Snow is like Jesus, not only in that it comes down from above to cover over the ugliness of winter, as Jesus covers over the ugliness of sin, but snow, like Jesus, comes to give life and life abundant. Snow has saved the lives of many people. David Lloyd George, one of England's great prime ministers, was called the snow baby. His mother was caught in a snow storm in south Wales when he was just a baby. She became lost in the hills, and a search party was sent out. She was found dead, but she had wrapped the baby in her outer garment and placed him under the snow. To everyone's surprise he was still alive. It was one of paradox's of snow, that as cold as it was, it was the source of preserving heat that gives life.
The snow cover one the ground prevents the heat that radiates from the earth from escaping. This warm air that is kept in the earth by the snow keeps the roots of plants and trees from freezing. The earth under the snow can be as much as forty degrees warmer than on the surface. The snow is God's blanket for the earth. It also provides shelter for rabbits and squirrels, and many other creatures who need to escape from the cold winter air. Not only is there life in snow from that perspective, but many have had the experience of the couple who crashed in a plane in the Canadian wilderness, and survived for six weeks on melted snow. The water of life is in snow, and gives us another parallel between it and Christ.
I never realize how important snow is to farmers until I lived in the country for a few years. Then I saw with my own eyes what snow does for bringing forth the fruits of the earth. Where the snow is deepest you can see the crops grow taller. There is a direct correlation between the depth of the snow and the height of the crops. Snow is a very literal treasure to the farmer. When snow falls it washes out the air, and what it washes out it brings down to the ground as fertilizer. Four major chemicals like ammonia and nitrates are brought to the earth by the snow. It would cost a farmer thousands of dollars to purchase these fertilizers that snow provides free. Everything that we eat is better and cheaper because of snow. Snow is a protector and promoter of life. An unknown poet wrote,
Milk-white down from the swans of the Lord,
Fleece from the Lamb of God,
Flung to the winds by the cherubs
A quilt for the sleeping sod.
We need to see the positive side of snow so we can be grateful in spite of the nuisance it is. It is part of winter, but it is also part of the defense against winter. We need to see snow flakes as guardian angels which protect the seeds from frost. They come not just to make life miserable, but to make it more fruitful and abundant. A total perspective on snow will give us a balance view, and help us be grateful even when we complain about the problems it causes.
John Greenleaf Whittier could see snow flakes as the winter flowers that help bring forth the flowers of spring. He writes,
Fill soft and deep, oh winter snow,
The sweet azalea's oken dells,
And hide the banks where roses blow,
And swing the azure bells!
O'erlay the amber violet's leaves
The purple aster's broad side home,
Guard all the flowers her pencil gives
A life beyond their bloom.
Paul said if there is anything lovely think on these things, and snow is one of the most lovely things in all of creation. It is so because it comes from the mind of Christ, the original of all the artistry of all creation. D. J. Burrell wrote, "Out of the mint of God up yonder falls this glorious wealth all stamped with His image and superscription." God told Job to consider the snow, for He ranks it with the stars and the seas among nature's wonders.
There are men who devote their life to the study of snowflakes. Wilson Bentley was a photographer of snowflakes, and he tells of their infinite variety. When he finds a special beauty he is full of anxiety, for if he fails to capture that beauty it will be gone forever. His job is so exciting because every flake is a new discovery. In 40 years he has never found two alike. Along with the thrill comes the despair that so few of these countless works of art can be preserved. He has photographed thousands of these exquisite beauties, but when he reflexes, he realizes that all of them together would only make one snowball. He says the study of snow forces you to think of the infinite. That is exactly why God told Job to consider the snow. It leaves you full of awe at what you can know, and even more awed at what you cannot know, because the finite cannot grasp the infinite. All of mankind together have never seen a fraction of God's master pieces of art in the snow. Julian Janus wrote,
Snow flakes falling, twisting, swishing,
There upon my window sill.
Who of heaven's great designers
Traced your lace with such great skill?
Soft and fragile web of mystery
Falling on my window sill.
I shall wonder, ever wonder
Whose hand held that magic quill.
One of the treasures of the snow is that, the more you study it, the more you must acknowledge the Lordship of its Creator. Prescott said, "I think better of snow storms sense I find that though they keep a man's body indoors, they bring the mind out." Scientists, for example, tell us that about 15 tons of snow and rain fall on the earth every second the year around. The energy involved is mind boggling. To cover one square mile with ten inches of snow is equal to twice the energy in two of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima. The power and the beauty of a snow storm is awesome. It is designed by God to keep us aware of our finiteness and weakness so that we might in wisdom worship Him who has all power. Snow is the source of abundant life also in that it provides man with so many enjoyable activities. There's no fun like snow fun. Millions enjoy winter sports, and children enjoy the fun of snow as one of the great fringe benefits of God's winter carpet.
F. W. Boreham, the great preacher of Australia, tells of the time when the paper reported that snow had fallen on the hills outside the city. Friends stopped to pick him up to go see it. It was so rare that close to the equator that the road was swarming with people wanting to see it. The experience did for him what God wanted it to do for Job. Boreham wrote, "I confess with shame that, in the days of my darkness and ignorance, I thought that prophets were few and far between. I fancied that God send one prophet to every million people. The snow flakes taught me that God sends a million prophets to every one of us. For the snow flakes are themselves prophets. They are a great and white-robed throng; a goodly fellowship; a multitude that no man can number. They are vocal with inspired speech."............................ "Catch a snow flake on a sheet of glass; examine under a microscope, and what a triumph of architecture you have here! Not among the palaces of the Pharaohs nor among the temples of the Athenians could you find anything to rival this in daintiness, in symmetry, in splendor!" Many designers have admitted they get their ideas from the study of the Master's designer's work as they see it in the snow flake.
Yes, the heavens do declare the glory of God, but not just in the stars, but in the snow flake as well. We see there the love of God for the minute also. It is a vast universe, yet God designs every snow flake with a unique beauty of its own. It is clear that God cares for the small as well as the great. No man can study the snow and have any doubt that God cares for him as an individual. God desires every person to develop all their potential for beauty and uniqueness.
There is no aspect of life so small and insignificant that God is indifferent to it, for He is a God of minute detail. You say, what possible difference can it make to God that I have a minor problem or need? But then ask, what possible difference could it make to God that billions of snow flakes will melt unseen, yet each is made unique? Why bother with the insignificant individual snow flake? No person is lost in the crowd with God. He cares about every life, and every detail of every life. Every one is someone special to God. George Cooper wrote,
Brave your storm with firm endeavor,
Let your vain repining go!
Hopeful hearts will find forever
Roses underneath the snow.
Let every snowfall remind you of the treasures of the snow, and let every flake remind you of the rose of God's love for every individual.