It’s two day after Christmas now, and our family is visiting my wife’s folks in the northwest part of Pennsylvania (actually right on the PA/NY border). Yesterday, I ran 7 miles in a storm storm, feeling like a kid going out to play in the snow. This morning we (my wife, two girls, and me) ran the same course, a nice loop through the Amish country. The gravel roads were packed with the white stuff. With the 10+ inches of snow that fell, it’s a real winter wonderland here! All the snow reminded me of the times in Israel when it snowed there. Believe it or not, snow in the land of the Bible is not that all uncommon.
The Bible mentions “snow” over 70 times. Some of my favorite are Isaiah 1:18 (“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow’ though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”), Matthew 28:3 (“His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.”), Psalm 51:7 (“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”), and Revelation 1:14 (“The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow…”). The ancient Israelites were no doubt familiar with snow.
Today in Jerusalem it probably snows maybe once or twice every year. Usually a wet snow with temps close to freezing, most of the time the flakes don’t stick. However, when it does, both Israeli and Palestinian drivers don’t know how to negotiate driving in snow, causing most of the city to shut down, other than local bus service. To see a group of Orthodox Jews engage in a snow-ball fight amongst each other is quite a humorous scene. Believe it or not, some have pretty good arms!
Up north in the Golan is a different story. Israel’s highest mountain, shared also with Lebanon and Syria, is Mt. Hermon. About 30% of Israel’s water needs actually comes from the melting snow from this 7,300 foot mountain (the highest peak of Mt. Hermon, 9,200 feet, is on the Syrian side of the mountain). On the Israel side of the mountain is a ski resort, with about a 2,000 vertical drop. N’vei Ativ, the nearby moshav (communal village) that owns the resort, boasts of all the visitors they get for 6-8 weeks every January and February, depending on the snow fall amounts. Driving through this swiss-style cottage mountain village located high on the eastern slopes of the Golan Heights (an area liberated from the hands of the Syrians in the 1967 war) is something most people don’t expect to see and experience in the land of the Bible primarily known as being a “dry and desolate dessert.”
Like here in the States, there is something special and fun during the initial stages of a snow fall. Snow has a way of making the landscape look clean. While some of us don’t care for how long snow lasts on the ground, including the mess it causes on the streets and the accidents that occur, snow makes for a good metaphor for the spiritual cleansing that takes place when God’s grace falls upon our dirty crimson-stained hearts. Isaiah’s use of the image of snow seems to be an appropriate one as our hearts are cleansed as snow by God’s love and grace.
Perhaps with this spiritual application in mind, maybe it’s time to sing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”