“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. ‘Come now, and 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 be as wool.’” Isaiah 1:16–18

Nicknames were rife in my childhood. It seemed everyone had a nickname and very few escaped attributions from their friends and disdain from their enemies conferred on each other in the form of a nickname. Some nicknames stick for a lifetime.

One of my friends had a quirky personality. His observations of life usually came out of left field, even in the depths of a serious discussion. The general feeling among most of my friends was that his comments were regularly light-weight and of not much practical use. It was not long before his nickname stuck like a heavy snow in winter. “Flake” earned his nickname with ease, especially as a sophomore. As far as my group of friends were concerned, Flake was fully accepted, nickname or no!

Today we hear the term snowflake describing some in the rising generation of masculine-challenged behavioral anomalies. As hard as it is to believe, some have even posited that labeling someone a snowflake may trigger “negative emotional effect on a person.” Oh, my dear child! There is a safe space available to you in a rubber room. “Helicopter” should no longer be solely a nickname of overly-present, protective parents; it can now be applied to entire college administrations across this great land.

Scripturally speaking, there is a surprising collection of references to snow. I know the pictures that come into my mind when thinking about the judgment of Miriam or the leprosy of Naaman. The disease was described as appearing as white as snow. So, in some instances the use of snow as a description has negative overtones.

For the most part, when snow appears in the Bible, it carries other significant meanings. The oldest book written in the Bible is the book of Job. More snow is mentioned in Job than any other kind of weather, so the ice age following Noah’s flood must have been more the rule rather than the exception by my guess.

Job 6:15f states, “Like the streams of the brooks that pass away, which are dark because of the ice, and into which the snow vanishes.” Job 24:19 states, “As drought and heat consume the snow waters, so the grave consumes those who have sinned.” Job 37:5f states, “God thunders marvelously with His voice; He does great things which we cannot comprehend. For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth.’ Likewise to the gentle rain and the heavy rain of His strength.” Job 37: 10 states “By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen.”

Job was challenged to consider the marvels of creation in Job 38. Verse 22f reads, “Have you entered the treasury of snow, or have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble…?” Job 38:28ff states, “Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? The waters harden like stone, and the surface of the deep is frozen.” Applying his knowledge of God’s creation to spiritual matters, Job 9:29f observes, “If I am condemned, why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and cleanse my hands with soap, yet You plunge me into the pit, and my own clothes will abhor me.” Job informs us that no amount of self-effort can wash us of sin, even if it is with the most pure, refreshing water.

I think it is interesting that in many places in the Word, the exuberant brightness of new fallen snow on a “severe-clear” day is used to describe eye-watering brilliance, painful brightness, and holy purity. Daniel 7:9 describes the Ancient of Days: “His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire.” Similar words are used of the appearance of our Lord in His transfiguration (Mark 9:2–4). Also, concerning resurrected and glorified Christ, Revelation 1:14 describes Him as, “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace….” I would like to see an artist attempt to paint this picture accurately! This is the Savior through whom we have access into the presence of the Father.

David sounds like Job in Psalm 147:16f, using snow storms to describe God’s Almighty power. And in Psalm 51:6f he sounds like Isaiah when he begs for cleansing by God’s grace, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” David was deeply repentant and confessing his guilt before God.

Isaiah, in a similar vein, challenges unfaithful Israel to repent of their evil and replace evil with obedience. Scarlet and crimson bespeak guilt and extreme wickedness that can only be spotlessly removed by the effectiveness of God’s forgiveness. Only then will they appear as naturally white, in all its brilliance. Are you cleansed through the blood of the Lamb of God (Daniel 12:3; Proverbs 4:18; Revelation 19:8)? Trust and obey.