Snow and God's Purposes
Preached on Sunday Morning, January 10, 1988
Bible Presbyterian Church, Collingswood, NJ
or hast though seen the treasures of the hail?"
I do not know when you first saw the snow, but I know that we children really liked the snow. We have had this past week one of the most severe snow storms that has hit our country. We have had our share of it. I thought perhaps if I could turn to the Bible and see what it has to say about snow, because we know these texts are there, that it might help us. The Lord has a way of communicating. He is the great communicator of course.
At different times I have done what I am going to do today, made some special topical sermon. I remember one sermon years ago I preached on fishing as I used to do a lot of it down at Long Beach Island. I remember I preached a sermon on beach plums, and that has been circulated all over the world. We had beach plums at the seashore, and we used to make beach plum jelly. So I said, why not just preach a sermon on snow?
There are 25 different texts in the Bible that mention snow. These references break down into about five major areas.
You and I do live in the northern hemisphere. We enjoy a change of season, winter, spring, summer, and fall. There are many sections of the earth, especially in the tropics that have never seen snow and do not know what it does to us all. In some areas of the world snow is on the ground from early fall to late spring. Those who live with it have a special blessing from the Scripture.
Then when these young men come here, as they do to Shelton College and Faith Seminary from warm climates, it is quite an experience to see their reaction to this, strange puffy substance that comes flying down from the sky. It is just everywhere. It lands on the limbs of the trees. It is in the streets. It stops the traffic, does everything. They are amazed at it. Then they begin to wonder, Well is it not interesting that God does all this?
God has decreed that the rain would fall from heaven, and when the temperature reaches a certain level, these raindrops will freeze. They come out in this fluffy white substance that we call snow. Sometimes it is heavy, thick and wet! Sometimes it is very fine and dry. It is a heaven-sent spectacle to see this pristine white covering everything.
God has been pleased to take all of this and put it in His Word, which is of course for our edification, our learning, our comfort, our encouragement. This can be used in great ways of blessing. It can be used in ways of great disaster. You have heard of the saying, "Man proposes but God disposes"; a snowstorm disposes an awful lot of things.
You and I are dealing now with the Almighty God and the way in which He has ordered the creation, with this snow and by which He has made us His captive. "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:8). Everything that you and I have to deal with, with God is in His perfect hands. We have nothing to do with our birth, our sex. We have nothing to do with all of these very basic things that determine who we are. So when God sends the rain, He sends it on the just and the unjust.
When I break down these 25 different quotations, I find first the Word and His purpose; second, the creation and providence; third, sin and salvation; fourth, pardon and peace; and, fifth, the glory of God.
It is beautiful to come to the end of an outline like this as it is laid forth in the Scriptures and realize that snow is used in relation to many climactic experiences.
The day that Jesus came out of the tomb, the angel of the Lord rolled back the stone, and we are told that "His raiment [was] white as snow" (Matt. 28:31). We are also told that when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration, and three of the apostles were there, Peter, James and John, His garment was "exceedingly white" and as brilliant as snow. Then we come to the description of Jesus Christ in the first chapter of the Revelation: "And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks." His countenance is described: "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." Think of the glory of God, the glory of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in transfiguration, in His coming out of the grave, that God uses the word "snow" to describe the beauty, the purity, the pristine cleanliness of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! I shall develop this glory when I get to the conclusion.
Let us realize here that we do have in the affairs of nature, messages that God wants to give to those of us who know Him, who wait upon Him that He might show us the beauty and the wonder of His hands about us, for whom Christ died and to whom He gave this matchless faith and the treasure of eternal life.
I. God's Word and His Purpose
When we come to the question of His Word and the tremendous power of the snow, Job 37:5, 6 declares it all: "God thundereth marvelously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend. For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth." Who sends the snowstorms? He does. "Likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength. He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work" (v. 7). We are to see the hand of God. Look at Psalm 148:8: "Fire, and hail; snow, and vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word."
We are constantly being told, as we do profess, that the decrees of God are made known in the works of creation and providence. He makes the snow and He has provided for it. I looked out of our window in the church office this week and I saw snow everywhere. The heavens were filled with it. It does not skip any place. It is fantastic that God could do a thing like this and send the snowflakes out of the clouds and cover great sections and not skip an inch! He lays down a perfect, solid blanket. He does it and we stand here in amazement, "Lord what are you doing? Why did you send it? Why did you upset my plans today? Look what has happened to us!" Then someone slips on a step and breaks a hip or a leg.
Look at Isaiah 55 verses 10 and 11. We are all familiar with this 55th chapter: "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found . . ." God moves: "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: "It shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:11,12).
I cannot think of the snow coming down like this from the heavens without thinking of God's saying, "My word is coming out of my mouth. I am in charge. I am in control. I am going to stop man in his place. I am going to stop the operation of Washington for a day." He did, this past week.
The Apostle Peter gets into this area of the way in which God operates. He says here of the scoffers who say: "Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Peter 3:4-6).
The Word of God sent the flood. He told Noah that He would do it. He told him to build the ark. Then "the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" (v. 7).
The Word of God brought Noah the flood, and the Word of God is going to bring a fire to destroy the earth and burn it up as Peter explains here: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years." (v. 8). Oh, your sense of being, your sense of location, your sense of our presence on this little earth are all present. As we wake up in the morning and go to bed at night, we think of these marvelous providences of God. His promises are not slack "as some men count slackness; but [He] is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (v. 9).
Think of God's patience! Think of God's use of the rain and the snow and the storms! The clouds are the dust of His feet. Think of all these things about us that are reminding you and me that we must bring men to repentance. It is not going to go on this way forever. The day of salvation is going to end. Today is the day when you can come to Christ and receive the message of redemption and faith. It is for all, "whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." This includes "neither Greek nor Jew ... Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all and in all." "All may be one in Christ."
II. God's Creation Providence
We cannot get away from the fact that it is His Word that we have dealt with this week as the snow came, the snow He created from the sky. In the second place, we face the whole question of creation and the providences of God. Here we need to turn to Job 38. Here we see how the Lord dealt at great length with Job when He made this speech to him and tried to tell him that he could look at the snow and realize that there were purposes in it and that He had great use for the snow. In the 38th chapter was my text: "Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?"
You and I have heard a number of times that no two snowflakes are the same. That is a pretty big proposition when you stop to think of how much snow there has been snowing everywhere in all these centuries, that there are no two snow flakes alike.
Last night we were having a party with my Sunday school class here and we discussed this. One of the bright girls in the class said, "Well, they can never find out, because it will all melt before they get a chance," But we deal with a fact that you can accept without any doubt - and I do not get this from any speculation - there are no two human beings alike, Of all the millions and billions of people there are, no two of us are exactly alike. None of us has identical fingerprints. Now if God can do that with the human race, He can do the same thing with the little flakes of snow.
We are dealing here in this snow today with the wonder and the marvel of how God Almighty deals with us. He that spared not His own Son but gave all of these nice things to us, placed us on an earth that once a paradise.
Because of man's sin, the earth has been cursed for a while. But Christ Jesus will lift that curse when He comes, pretty soon. There will be a new Heaven and a new earth, and righteousness is to dwell in this place, It is our business as Christians to work for righteousness in all our affairs and be responsible for all that God has given us in obedience to His precious commandments. We are a privileged people and the snowstorm tells us that. We are a protected people, and we are a people of grace and of His wisdom and of His power.
The Lord spoke to Job of the days of battle, of war, "I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war" (38:23).
I mentioned that I had this book, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton by William S. Stryker. He gives the details of the battle of Trenton, where by God's help George Washington won. That was the day when the severe snowstorm put the British-employed German Hessians in their comforts with their beer bottles.
They were not worried on that Christmas night as the storm conditioned the enemy and Washington's little band came down along the Delaware riverside. bleeding, and frozen, into the city of Trenton to fight, and the snow gave the victory, turned the tide of the battle, a battle for my right to speak here in this sacred and free pulpit this morning. That is what God did with snow for you and me and for our America. It blesses your soul.
Then the Hessians regrouped their forces and moved into Bordentown where they thought they had Washington's little band of troops outnumbered and they thought sure that on that morning they had Washington captive.
God sent a frightful freeze that night and instead of the mud, God gave Washington hard ground and he was able with his men to slip around the Hessians. He went on to win the Battle of Princeton. God had sent snow and ice so Washington's men could get out from the place where they were just about encircled in Bordentown. Snow and war were in God's care.
We are all familiar with the story of Napoleon's going into Russia with his troops, and it was the thick, heavy snow that blocked and trapped his troops. He was not able to move on in his ambition to conquer Russia. My, what a great God we have!
Every time I go to England I think of the Spanish Armada. I think of that devastating, destructive wind that came and finished the Spanish Armada. God destroyed the ships out at sea. England prevailed against the Spanish. England was the Protestant country while Spain remained the Roman Catholic.
God is the governor among the nations. We have an arbiter of righteousness. We have a God who rules in the affairs of nations. He rides upon the storms.
III. Sin and Salvation
In the third place we come to what He has to say about sin, about salvation. The first chapter of the Book of Isaiah provides another beautiful reference to God's snow. "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. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the fat of the land" (vv. 18, 19).
Beloved, the blood of Jesus Christ makes your sins white. They are forgiven. You are cleaned up. You are declared to be righteous. Isaiah opens this great prophecy in which he outlines these great and beautiful testimonies concerning the Saviour: the virgin birth, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor." He is called "a root of Jesse" in the 11th chapter. Then you reach Isaiah 53, "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Then you reach the comforting passages from Isaiah 40:29-31. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings, as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." Think of it! Isaiah opens with snow. I cannot look at snow. I cannot see snow, God communicates. He gets through to my soul by snow. He can get through to your soul also.
The greatest thing God has ever done for you and me is to tell us that on the cross of Calvary His logic, His justice, His demands all were fulfilled, and He can pardon your sins. "If you believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." But he that "believeth in me shall never die." Remember you are in Christ as white as snow.
In the 24th chapter of Job, again we have some of these very special references: "Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned" (v. 19).
Look at that melting snow, look at it! The grave is going to consume you like the sun melts all snow. You had better listen! That snow that is coming now is coming down with its drops on our housetops. It is on the pavement. Here it is. As the heat and the sun melt that snow, "so doth the grave those which have sinned." Do you want to go into the grave with your sins on you? God forbid. Look at how He uses the snow and turns it around and uses it to illustrate the reality of death.
Also we have the question of the references to leprosy. Go wash. Go wash. Come back and be clean. Get rid of your leprosy and you will be white, white as snow. That is what happened.
When Moses was questioning the Lord about his call to go to Egypt, God said to him, Put your hand in your bosom, Moses. He brought it out white. The leprosy was white. He said, Put it back in your bosom, and it was clean.
What God does not do with snow! How God does use snow to communicate to you and me the great redemption and our deliverance from sin and the glory that shall follow! Snow has a voice. Snow has several messages - all spoken by God to sinners and saints, each in his place and need of God.
IV. Pardon and Peace
We come to a fourth great development here that has to do with snow and you and me after we are saved and the sins we fall into and griefs and offenses we commit against each other and against God. Look at Psalm 51. You are all familiar with it. Here David is guilty of the most heinous of sins, for which he deserved the punishment and wrath of God. He was guilty of lying, murder, adultery, just name it. Thus He cries out, O God I have sinned against thee and against thee only, have I done this evil in thy sight. I acknowledge these transgressions and my sin haunts me. It is ever before me. "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest. . . .Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me. and I shall be whiter than snow" (vv. 4, 7).
Is It not glorious? I stand in this pulpit today; look at me and just look at yourselves. You and I, too, have been washed whiter than the snow that is on the ground everywhere outside this beloved church. We are all by faith whiter than all this beautiful snow! He wants us to understand that -being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." He uses snow to tell us of His love and care. He uses snow to keep us clean. All of this is designed in this Book to bring home to you and me that where we walk and where we ride and where we slip and where we fall - all are made whiter than snow by the blood of Christ. God wants you and me to believe that everything in this Bible has been designed and presented for one purpose that we would believe that the Father sent the Son and that He came to save us, and give us glory.
Is it not marvelous that He put the sun in the heavens and Christ is the Son of righteousness! He keeps the morning star in the sky and we see it and it speaks to us of Jesus Christ. God has ordained that all of His creation and His wisdom as He gave It to us in the beginning can reflect what He intends to do for us in Jesus Christ. You and I live - Christ is our life. Christ is our comfort. Christ is our joy. Christ is our hope. Christ is our Saviour.
I cannot see the snow and I cannot look at these things without realizing that He surrounded me in such a way that I just have to thank Him and praise the Lord for snow. You have no reason in the world for rejecting His Son. There is no basis anywhere; the whole creation groaneth in travail and it is telling you and me that there is One who came out of it; there is One who was born of this virgin, identified with her.
Beloved, we are held in the hands of Jesus Christ, and if everyone forsakes us, if those that associate with you in the church forsake you, if your family forsakes you, if your wife forsakes you, there is one person who will not forsake you. Just look at the snow. He put it there to tell you that though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white.
David said, I am a murderer. I have innocent blood on my hands. I am an adulterer. I am a liar. I did all of those terrible things, Lord, against You I sinned. You are the lawgiver. You are the one offended.
David said, Lord "purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
Oh yes, if God forgives we forgive. There is not one of us who does not have things in our background and things that have happened that we are ashamed of. Some of us are guilty of terrible things but, remember, they are under the blood of the Lamb - forget them! He separated them as far as the East is from the West. He has taken them out there and buried them in the depths of the sea. What Jesus Christ did for you and me was to make us children of God, children of the resurrection.
Is it not grand to be a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ? Is it not glorious to find the Lord and to take the snow that is on the trees and on ground and see His message to us today? The Word of God uses the snow for our faith, joy and comfort.
V. The Glory of God
Finally, we come to the last. First, I said we had the Word and His power. Second, we had the Creation and His providence. Third, we spoke of sin and salvation. Fourth, there is pardon and peace, all represented by snow. Now we come to the last. There is the glory of God.
What a climax to a message like this! What a present context in which to give a sermon like this in the midst of snow on the ground from home to church, everywhere.
Daniel, chapter 7, verse 9, presents in this prophecy God as the "Ancient of days." By Him thrones will be cast down. His garment was "white as snow."
"I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions. and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Daniel 7:9-14).
When we come into the New Testament we find that beautiful passage in Matthew. The women had gone to the tomb on the first Easter morning and here we see the messenger from heaven who rolled away the stone from the entrance. Matthew reports: "His countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow" (Matthew 28:3).
I have been to see the Garden Tomb so many times, many times, from the earliest days, beginning in 1950 with the International Council of Christian Churches delegation, and I have gone back and here is the messenger. Here is the tomb! It is empty! It is forever empty. It has nothing in it that has anything about it that spells death. "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said." Somewhere in that area was this angel from Glory with this heavenly good news. Snow, snow, is the word of glory.
We all are going to have a better appreciation of snow from now on. I am going to love to see it come down.
Then we have the transfiguration when the Lord took Peter, James and John apart and Moses and Elijah met them on the top of Mt. Hermon. Jesus was transfigured. Mark 9:3 tells it all: "And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them."
Beloved, you can talk about snow down here, but I will tell you in this vale of tears that when we get to heaven we are going to see snow, white, everywhere. I have no doubt about that. Oh, how clean it is! How fresh it is!
When the snow came down this week, I picked some up in my hand, it was a very fine snow. It was not a heavy damp snow that we used to make snowmen of. This was a tiny little fluff, just crystals, and when I went to shovel it off, it went so easy. It did not stick. You could take a broom and brush it aside. I said, "Oh, what snow! What easy snow it is!" I looked and I said, "Lord, I think I will change my sermon Sunday morning and find out what you have in this Book about snow and how it can communicate to me the merits and the glories of Jesus Christ, bring men to Christ, their eternal salvation, and thrill the servants of God as He designed the snow for His glory and our joy and peace.
We are not finished yet. There in the first chapter of the Book of the Revelation: "And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters" (Revelation 1: 12-15).
John said, "I fell at his feet as dead." Would you not love to be with Him? Would you not know that He is the one you and I live for and suffer for? He is the one for whom we are trying to bring all of our Bible-believing Christians together from all around the world, so we can lift up a standard here in the midst of what is happening in these last days. He is the one who has kept you and me all through these years. He is the one who is going to continue to keep us no matter what may happen to us. He told John: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty" (v. 8).
From the Psalms of David, expressing the love and music in the souls of the redeemed of Israel, to the choruses abroad in the churches of our day, the people of faith keep singing "whiter than snow." How the words do ring! "Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? ... Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?"
This was given to the church by Elisha Hoffman, 1839-1929.
There is another: "Blessed Be the Fountain of Blood." Again it is the blood, the fountain of blood. "Blessed be the dear son of God: only by His stripes we are healed. "Thus the music exalts: -Wash me in the blood of the Lamb, and I shall be than snow."
The words of the entire hymn run through out souls as the snow falls and as it abides for us to glory in its glittering reflections of that which is pure and clean with our souls. So we sing:
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 His 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.
Thorny was the crown that He wore,
And the cross His body oer-came;
Grievous were the sorrows He bore,
He suffered thus not in vain.
May I to that Fountain be led,
to cleanse my sins here below;
Wash me in the blood that He shed,
I shall be whiter than snow.
Father, I have wandered from Thee,
Often has my heart gone astray;
Crimson do my sins seem to me -
Water cannot wash them away.
Jesus, to that Fountain of Thine,
Leaning on Thy promise, I go;
Cleanse me by Thy washing divine,
And I shall be whiter than snow.
Oh, beloved, I did not realize that the Bible had all that in it so beautifully about snow and God's purposes until I turned to those 25 passages. He uses snowflakes in times of war. He sends the snow to water the ground, it melts, so we can have a nice crop of corn next year. He makes the snowflakes, a work of creation. He sends the same flakes in His own decision, an act of His good providence.
The Almighty does all these things! But out of it all is one everlasting message! Jesus Christ has pardoned your sins and He will cleanse you each day when you ask Him to forgive you. All it takes to be a child of God is to call upon Him for forgiveness of our sins and to believe that Jesus came and died and rose again for our justification. We are His.
My, I love the snow! It speaks to me of heaven. It speaks to me of melting away judgment for lost sinners. It tells me, please preach Jesus Christ as a dying man to dying men. Some day the robes of righteousness in all their purity, white as the snow, will be ours and we will praise and serve our Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity. Here is Christ's open and free invitation: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." And, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Amen.