You can tell it’s the first day of spring here in northwest Montana–it is snowing! We helped shovel the tennis courts yesterday in hopes that maybe our high school team could get outside and practice this week, especially since we are scheduled to have a home meet here this coming Saturday! This is kind of an annual ritual. As soon as we get the courts cleared so they can dry off, it snows again.
One good thing about a fresh snowfall is that it temporarily covers us the ugliness of the mud and grime that shows up as the winter snows melt. I am reminded of what the Bible says about God’s forgiveness of our sins. In Isaiah’s prophecy, for example, we read: ” ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool'” (Isa. 1:18). Scarlet and crimson were both glaring and colorfast. King David, who definitely came to understood the glaring sin in his life, prayed: “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation…” (Psa. 51:7-10). (Hyssop was used in cleansing the house of a leper and in purification from defilement by death. See Ex. 12:22 and Nu. 19:18,19).
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God they experienced the ugliness and guilt of sin and they tried to cover it up by covering their bodies with fig leaves, a picture of how man tries unsuccessfully to appease his guilty conscience. Adam and Eve’s attempt too was unsuccessful so they tried to hide from God (good luck with that!). God provided a covering for them of animal skins, meaning there had to be the death of an innocent substitute and the shedding of blood on their behalf. Thus God instituted the pattern for the covering of sin throughout the whole Old Testament period. Sacrifices had to be made to atone for (to cover) sin. There had to be the shedding of innocent blood. With the tabernacle and the temple, came the priesthood from the tribe of Levi and continual sacrifices made and blood sprinkled on the Mercy Seat. We read in Heb. 9:22 that “all things are cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
The Law given to Moses specified all the details of the sacrifices to be made for sin, but “The Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4). Thus the Old Testament priests work was never done and when one priest died, another had to take his place. “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:11,12). “And the former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers, because they were prevented by death from continuing, but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through him since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:23-25). “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God…for by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10-14). During the time before Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, God made provision for sin, but it was only covered, not put away until Jesus came to die on the cross as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).
As the snow melts we see the ugliness of the mud and grime that it had covered, but we don’t have to worry about the ugliness of our sin ever being revealed again. Jesus came to put it away. Being God, Jesus could pay an infinite price for sin, and remove its guilt forever. The Old Testament priests’ work was perpetual. There was no chair in the Temple upon which they could rest. After Jesus made His “once-and-for-all” sacrifice, He “sat down at the right hand of the Father” (Heb. 10:12). The work was done. “Gone, gone, gone, gone; Yes my sins are gone. Now my soul is free and in my heart’s a song. Buried in the deepest sea (Mic. 7:19), yes that’s good enough for me. I shall live eternally. Praise God, my sins are G-O-N-E–gone!”
We had an opportunity this winter to cross country ski on a logging road in the mountains where there were no tracks of any kind, human or animal. The snow was pristine, virgin snow. What a beautiful sight, and so, so white. Yet the Bible says that He washes away our sins and makes them even whiter than snow! “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus; What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. O Precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow; no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus” (Nothing but the Blood by Robert Lowry). “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains” (There Is a Fountain by William Cowper). “Whiter than snow. Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow; now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Whiter than Snow by James Nicholson). “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?…Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? (Are You Washed in the Blood? by Elisha A. Hoffman).