Ice and snow are so common to those of us who live in the northern climates that we often take it for granted, even losing our appreciation for it. In fact it is a wonderful gift of God that nurtures the plants and animals of the northern climates and speaks of His great creative power.
When water cools it contracts until it hits 39 degrees F .(4 degrees C) then it begins to expand until it freezes into a solid at 32 degrees F.(0 degrees C). At this point its volume is a little over 10% more than when it is warm. This expansion is the reason why ice floats instead of sinking. The uniqueness of water, a liquid, changing to ice, a solid, is that it occurs at normal climate temperatures.
Anyone that is engaged in outside work is well aware of the drastic changes that occur in the world around us when the water in the ground freezes solid. Suddenly we cannot get tools into the ground to do work. Also, plants that do not have a built in antifreeze system tend to melt away. The plant cell walls burst when the water in them freezes. A couple of good examples are the wilting of the ragweed and the melting of the leaves of the hosta plants at the first hard frost.
Farmers use the freezing of the water to protect their fruit crops in the spring through a fascinating process of using the properties of freezing water to their purpose. The principle is that water that is in the process of freezing does not get below 32 degrees F. because it pulls heat out of the surrounding air. The plant, like blueberries, has its own antifreeze in the buds to protect it down to 25 degrees F. As long as the farmers sprinkle the plants and keep the water running it will not let the plants get so cold that the buds are killed.
In fact, as a young man I spent many nights tending the sprinklers and watching the ice form on the bushes of the family blueberry farm. Sometimes the ice would be an inch thick when the night-time temperatures would be down into the teens. We would feel a great sense of relief when we would cut the buds the next day and find they were green and alive. Invariably, the next day would be sunny. I’ll never forget the field of ice covered plants shining in the sun looking like a sea of diamonds.
Ice crystals forming in the clouds turn into snowflakes when they connect together. Each snowflake is a unique combination of crystals. No two are alike, though they always have six sides. Interestingly, this commonly known fact was not known a 100 years ago. It was a farmer and amateur photographer named Wilson A. Bently (1865-1931) from Vermont who was fascinated by snowflakes and learned to photograph them. He convinced the scientific community of the uniqueness of each snowflake and helped us all appreciate their beauty.
Another fascinating thought is that more than likely, mankind did not see snowuntil after the flood. Just as there was no rain or rainbows until the climate changes that occurred at that time, snow more than likely would not have formed either, or at the least, it would not have landed on the ground. Genesis 2: 4, 5.
In the north where the snow forms it insulates and protects the plants and animals that are covered by it. It provides recreation for mankind in the form of sledding, skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and (my favorite) riding in a sleigh pulled by horses. It also enables access to parts of the creation that we can get at only when the swamps and lakes are frozen over. This is true of logging in swamps and accessing remote places in the far north and on the poles. Many men literally make their living based in some way on this amazing part of the creation.
What incredible wisdom and power is revealed to us in the ice and snow. From the beginning God planned for us to see Him in this part of the creation. In many other stories I have considered various parts of this gift. I would like to focus on one thing now. In the pure whiteness of the snow we are shown a picture of the purity, holiness and righteousness of God as completely uncorrupted by sin. That is why Jesus appeared white as snow at the transfiguration (Mk.9:3). Also, the angel appeared white as snow at the tomb after Christ’s resurrection (Mt. 28:3). Again, Christ’s head and hair appears white as snow to John in Revelation 1:14.
What a comfort to you and me, sinners saved by the wonder of God’s grace, that our dirty and filthy sins are washed away. The blood of Christ has paid for our sins so that we are made white as snow before God. Psalm 51: 5, 7: “Behold I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me….Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”
What a blessing. What undeserved mercy. To God be all the praise and glory!
The earth, ugly, cold and dark
Waits for the warmth and life of Spring.
The Lord a blanket sends to cover the land,
Pure white, cleansing and protecting.
My soul, ugly, cold and dark with guilt
Waits for the warmth and life of love.
The Lord washes me in His blood.
I am whiter than the pure snow.
Deane Wassink, October, 2006