Reflections on spiritual themes (and a few other things).

Tag: Forgiveness

The God of Ice and Snow

This week, the Mid-South has been hit hard with snow and frigid temperatures. Memphis averages 2.7 inches of snow per year, most often in the form of one or two snowfalls of one or two inches each. This week we’ve had about six inches, and the city is pretty much shut down.

When we think about ice and snow, it should also make us think about God. In the Book of Job, God challenged Job by saying, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of distress, for the day of war and battle?” (Job 38.22-23)

That text is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that the land of Israel rarely saw snow. Yet there are over 80 references to snow, hail, ice, and winter. Mount Hermon, which is 145 miles north of Jerusalem was visible for miles and usually snow covered all year. The Book of Job has more references to wintery weather than any other book, and Job lived in the middle of the Arabian Desert!

Let me suggest three powerful lessons about God that we can learn from the snow and ice.

First, when we think about snow and ice, we should think about the power of God. In the book of Job, Elihu says, “God thunders with His voice wondrously, doing great things which we cannot comprehend. For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the downpour and the rain, ‘Be strong’ … from the breath of God ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen” (Job 37.5-6, 10). Only God causes the snow and ice to fall and uses them for his purposes.

Second, when we think about snow and ice, we should think about the providence of God. We tend to think about the inconvenience of snow, ice, and cold weather, but God uses the weather to meet the needs of his people. Speaking of God’s provisions for Jerusalem, Psalm 147 says, “He makes peace in your borders; he satisfies you with the finest of the wheat. He sends forth His command to the earth; his word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? He sends forth His word and melts them; he causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow” (v. 14-18).

Finally, when we think about snow and ice, we should think about the purity of God. After his sin with Bathsheba, David prayed, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51.7). There’s nothing as white as snow. I have a dear friend in Iowa, who whenever it snows says, “There’s no white like God’s white.” The Bible uses the whiteness of snow as a metaphor for moral cleanness. Sin is portrayed as an ugly stain, but God offers to cleanse our spirits and make them “as white as snow.”

Snow and ice are a bit inconvenient and messy. But like all of God’s creation, they’re a powerful witness to the limitless power of God. Praise God for cold weather!

The Look

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22.60-62)

There are only a handful of incidents from the life of Jesus recorded in all four gospels. The few we have are significant. That’s certainly the case with Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus.

Jesus had warned Peter of it (Luke 22. 31-32). Peter, a chronic victim of “foot-in-mouth disease” denied that he would deny Jesus (v. 33). Then reality set in as Peter followed Jesus’ movements after his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times, Peter denied Jesus. Three times a rooster crowed. At the moment of the third denial, Peter and Jesus were in a position to see each other (v. 61). 

Who knows what passed between them? Jesus’ friends had betrayed, denied, and abandoned him. In his eyes must have been heartache, disappointment, and immeasurable burden. Peter had thought himself beyond temptation. In his eyes must have been regret, despair, and self-loathing. 

Only Luke records the gaze between Peter and Jesus. Of the disciples, only Peter and John were present (John 18.15). Since Luke claims to record eyewitness information (Luke 1.1-4), Peter was apparently Luke’s source. Years after the fact, Peter still remembered. 

The real tragedy of Peter’s sin was that it was preventable. Of course, the real tragedy of our own sins is that they too are preventable. 

Just as Jesus warned Peter (v. 31-34), he warns us (1 Corinthians 10.12). Just as Peter had a way out (Luke 22.31-32, 40, 46), we too have a way out (1 Corinthians 10.13). Just as Jesus assured Peter of repentance and recovery (Luke 22.32), he assures us of the same (1 John 4.4; 5.4-5). 

If Peter’s eyes said, “What have I done,” Jesus’ eyes must have said, “What will you do?” When we fall and fail, that’s always the question.

Feel the Heat

“What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance.” (Jane Austen)

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot. As Austen said, inelegantly hot. It’s so hot that hens are laying hard boiled eggs and birds are using potholders to handle worms.

However, like any of our experiences, we can use this to learn about our relationship to God.

I want to consider one verse from Psalm 32. It’s one of two psalms (32 and 51) written after David admitted to his adultery with Bathsheba. In the opening verses he talks about the forgiveness of his transgression; the covering of his sin; his iniquity not being credited to him.

Then in verses 3 and 4, he remembers the effects of sin before his confession: His body wasted away; he groaned all day long. Then verse 4 says, “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.”

David is talking about the burden of sin. Sin felt like carrying a heavy load on a hot, sweltering day. Spiritually, he felt like he was melting away in summer. David was saying that sin felt awful.

But throughout the rest of the psalm, he talks about how wonderful forgiveness felt. It was a condition of blessing; he sang songs of deliverance; he rejoiced; he shouted for joy.

Often the Bible treats sin in a clinical way. It sometimes describes the most heinous sins with no expression of emotion. Or, as in Romans and Galatians, it uses legal or accounting terminology to describe how God has forgiven us in Christ. What’s unique about Psalm 32 is that it spends most of its time talking about the emotional side of sin and forgiveness. Sin should make us feel awful while forgiveness should feel awesome. God has made us so that our consciences convulse at sin and delight in righteousness.

I hope you’re surviving this spell of hot weather. Even more, I hope is that the heat will remind all of us of the burden of sin. Most of all, I pray that each of us will experience the refreshment of divine forgiveness. That’s something to really feel good about.