Have you ever looked at a blanket of freshly fallen snow and thought to yourself: "That looks good enough to eat"? Ask any kid, and they will tell you that it is. Ask any Vermonter, and they will give you a recipe. The ingredients are simple: freshly fallen snow and pure Vermont maple syrup. It even has a name: "Sugar on snow." As a Vermont pastor, I can tell you that we don't scoop up snow like Ben and Jerry's with every snowfall. But sugar on snow is especially popular during "sugaring," when there is fresh maple syrup from the trees and snow still on the ground. This unique treat also proves that snow can not only look good enough to eat, it can also be clean enough to eat, too!
Vermont is famous for its snowscapes, but when most people think of the land of Israel, snow does not come to mind. And, while not an every year occurrence in Jerusalem, snow is common enough in Israel that it is mentioned 24 times by the biblical writers. But there is one breath-taking word picture involving snow that comes from the lips of the LORD himself.
"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" (Isaiah 1:18)
Pause. Don't read through this familiar verse and fail to be awed by what is going on here. The Lord of glory, the creator of the ends of the earth, the holy one, is offering an incredible deal. You bring your scarlet sins, and he will give you a purified past and present. That sounds great, but what is the catch? We are used to hearing of sales that are too good to be true, mostly because they are. There is fine print and there are exclusions. But, when God offers the bargain of forgiveness, there is no catch. It is free.
In Isaiah chapter 1, the LORD of Israel has just laid out a court case against his people. They are guilty. He does not even want their sacrifices anymore, because going through the motions without hearts that love God–as seen in their actions–is detestable to him (Isaiah 1:11-17). So, what will it cost them to receive forgiveness? If verse 18 which promises purity like snow is not enough, the answer becomes crystal clear near the end of the prophecy: "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!…Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food" (Isaiah 55:1-2). The holy God offers sinners a free banquet–and promises to satisfy them in himself.
While grace is free, it is not cheap. Bonhoeffer explains, "Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: 'ye were bought at a price'…Costly grace is the Incarnation of God." There is a reason that we can receive the promise that our sins will be as white as snow. And it is not because of our own works.
Job knew that even if he washed himself with snow (Job 9:30), he could never stand before the holiness of God. Job told his friends that he was in a horrible predicament, feeling that God was out to get him and as if he was not able to stand in God's presence to even discuss it with him. "For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us…" (Job 9:32-33a). Job felt the pain of trying to be in God's presence without a mediator. And it didn't taste like sugar on snow, it tasted like dust and ashes.
What Job longed for, Jesus fulfilled!
King David, repentant after committing adultery and murder, cried out to God in Psalm 51:7b, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." If washing away of scarlet sins is going to happen, it must be God himself who does the washing because the sin has been against God. The good news of the gospel is that God himself purifies us by the blood of his resurrected and victorious Son.
What David longed for, Jesus accomplished!
The reason your scarlet sins can be made white as snow is because Jesus' scarlet blood covers them.
Your sin is not just removed, you are made clean.
There is a song I used to sing at camp:
White as snow, White as snow, Though my sins were as scarlet,
Lord I know, Lord I know, That I'm clean and forgiven.
Through the power of your blood, through the wonder of your love,
Through faith in you I know that I can be–white as snow!
If you are trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation, have you embraced your cleanliness before the Judge of all the earth? Whatever your shameful sin is, rejoice! Because of Jesus, your heart can be as clean as freshly fallen snow.
The last time that snow appears in the Bible is when the Apostle John is given a vision of the glorified Christ – Jesus' hair is white like snow. Jesus' voice is like the roar of many waters, and his face is like the sun shining in full strength. He is perfect holiness and perfect glory. John falls at Jesus' feet like a dead man. But Jesus lays his right hand on him, saying, "Fear not…" (Revelation 1:17).
Maybe you are still trying to pay for your sin, or hide from it, or you're trying to run from your Savior. If you are trusting in Jesus, he says to you today: "Fear not."
In Jesus, your sins are white as snow! "O taste and see that the Lord is good!" (Psalm 34:3) Yes, Jesus is even better than sugar on snow.