After weeks of waiting, during which the lawns regreened, sunlight governed the sky and birds postponed their southern journeys, winter weather arrived in western Pennsylvania. I awoke yesterday to see the white blanket outside my windows, and I rushed to the door to listen for that distinct early morning silence.
It was quiet, but the silence was not pristine.
Muffled fluttering sounds carried in from the woods, and then birdsong filled the air. Unlike the abundance and variety of tunes I've heard over the past few weeks, while winter dilly-dallied and convinced nature to give up on hibernation this year, this was a lonely little melody swept along with the gusts of wind -- snow-burdened gusts of wind.
Up and down the scale and cavorting with an energetic and joyful melody, the notes provided accompaniment for the whirling winter butterflies caught in a tempest out in the field. I thought of Emily Dickinson's "Snow flakes":
I counted till they danced so
Their slippers leaped the town,
And then I took a pencil
To note the rebels down.
And then they grew so jolly
I did resign the prig,
And ten of my once stately toes
Are marshalled for a jig!
The Mighty God who governs all his creatures and all their actions (WSC A.11) sets the course for those dancing snowflakes. He gives each one its unique design and assigns each its task to perform, sometimes to cavort as winter butterflies, sometimes to damage as hurtled crystals of ice.
"He gives snow like wool; he scatters hoarfrost like ashes. He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs; who can stand before his cold?" (Psalm 147:16-17)
"Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?" (Job 38:22a)
His greatness extends beyond my comprehension; who could measure the supplies needed or plot the space required for the storehouses under God's command?
Yet, as vast as the storehouses of snow, as cold as the crystals of ice He forms in the heavens, their bounty is exceeded only by His grace.
Right now, because of that boundless grace, my sins, once like scarlet -- crimson red, a slash of violence against the Holiness of God -- stand as white as that snow out there in my back yard (Isaiah 1:18). This grace will never run out. It is unchanging, and it makes me new every single day. (Lamentations 3:22 says, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end."). Every morning, whether it starts with a snowstorm or a bright summer sunrise, presents me with new mercies, new blessings, promises that knit me closer to my Lord.
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary's mount out-poured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
what can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
whiter than snow you may be today.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe;
you that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?
Julia H. Johnston
The uniqueness of the Divine Solution cannot be matched, however, so this analogy, as all analogies do, even biblical ones, falls short. Snow doesn't stay permanently white, or pure, or clean, or spotless. If I rely on any other cleansing effort, I remain stained and impure. Like Lady MacBeth, though I can attempt a surface scrub, I cannot unsee the spots, the damning, condemning spots. Only an atonement affected by the perfect Lamb can cleanse that stain. Only a sacrifice such as His can purify and eradicate the Adamic spot.
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:14-18)
Psalm 51:7 reiterates Isaiah 1: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."* On this verse, Charles Spurgeon wrote,
Purge me with hyssop. Sprinkle the atoning blood upon me with the appointed means. Give me the reality which legal ceremonies symbolise.
Nothing but blood can take away my blood stains, nothing but the strongest purification can avail to cleanse me. Let the sin offering purge my sin. Let him who was appointed to atone, execute his sacred office on me; for none can need it more than I.
The passage may be read as the voice of faith as well as a prayer, and so it runs—”Thou wilt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Foul as I am, there is such power in the divine propitiation, that my sin shall vanish quite away. Like the leper upon whom the priest has performed the cleansing rites, I shall again be admitted into the assembly of thy people and allowed to share in the privileges of the true Israel; while in thy sight also, through Jesus my Lord, I shall be accepted.
Wash me. Let it not merely be in type that I am clean, but by a real spiritual purification, which shall remove the pollution of my nature. Let the sanctifying as well as the pardoning process be perfected in me. Save me from the evils which my sin has created and nourished in me.
And I shall be whiter than snow. None but thyself can whiten me, but thou canst in grace outdo nature itself in its purest state. Snow soon gathers smoke and dust, it melts and disappears; thou canst give me an enduring purity. Though snow is white below as well as on the outer surface, thou canst work the like inward purity in me, and make me so clean that only an hyperbole can set forth my immaculate condition.
Lord, do this; my faith believes thou wilt, and well she knows thou canst. Scarcely does Holy Scripture contain a verse more full of faith than this. Considering the nature of the sin, and the deep sense the psalmist had of it, it is a glorious faith to be able to see in the blood sufficient, nay, all sufficient merit entirely to purge it away.
Considering also the deep natural inbred corruption which David saw and experienced within, it is a miracle of faith that he could rejoice in the hope of perfect purity in his inward parts. Yet, be it added, the faith is no more than the word warrants, than the blood of atonement encourages, than the promise of God deserves.
O that some reader may take heart, even now while smarting under sin, to do the Lord the honour to rely thus confidently on the finished sacrifice of Calvary and the infinite mercy there revealed. (C.H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David)
God's infinite mercy finds its illustration in the snow, but also in the solo warbler I heard yesterday morning. Grace covers sin and makes us spotless before a holy throne, but in my life, I know there is still a battle with sin. This body of mine is buffeted about by the winds of iniquity and the temptations of lust and hatred, "evils," as Spurgeon says, "which my sin has created and nourished in me." May I sing out to Jesus, who sustains me in the storm, who makes me able to stand steadfastly against the gale forces of sin still fighting to control me. May my song be one that heralds the dawn with a melody of hope for the day of resurrection when He will complete His purifying bath of my soul.
Marvelous grace, indeed.
Laura Miller aka mrsdkmiller
Looking for a list of articles published around the web?
Looking for posts written in response to 5-Minute Friday prompts? Click here:
Her March Isn't Over
Across the River
When God Pries My Fingers Off My Children
Life's Defining Moments
To the Christian Wife Who Berated Her Husband in Front of My Daughter
Zeal and Grace in France
An Unconventional Love Story
Seeing What's in Front of Our Eyes
Remembering Why I Called You Hannah
Love Your Sister.
Because He Came Home
Go Valiantly! A Prayer for New Homeschooling Moms
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