‘Whiter Than Snow’

By David Ray

Rising to an elevation of more than 9,000 feet, Mount Hermon is a commanding presence at the northern edge of Israel. Its towering summits are usually snowcapped throughout the winter. In fact, today these mountains are home to Israel’s only ski resort. The melting snows help feed the Sea of Galilee and Jordan River valley far below. A psalmist poetically describes it as “the dew of Hermon” (Psalm 133:3) that falls toward Mount Zion.

Mount Hermon stands in the distance.
Mount Hermon stands in the distance.

Snow is fairly rare in most of Israel. Jerusalem and its environs receive an occasional dusting, but seldom is there any real accumulation. Only Mount Hermon displays a winterlong covering. So King David must have gained his image of a snow-covered earth by gazing up toward this rugged northern range: Mountains masked under the glistening white of winter. Jagged edges smoothed over by freshly fallen snow.

At a time in David’s life when the stark presence of sin became so overwhelming that he longed to have the ugliness hidden, he wrote one of his most memorable psalms. It opens with a passionate plea. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

Have you ever become so painfully aware of the sin in your own life that you longed for similar mercy? Sin is a spirit-crushing presence when it is openly brought onto view.

Later in the psalm, David writes with hope, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7, author emphasis).

Around the Lord’s table, we celebrate the way Christ’s sacrifice erases our transgressions and cleanses us from our sin. As white as Mount Hermon’s snow—that’s how David longed, centuries before the cross, for God’s grace to cover the ugly prominence of his sin-marred soul.

The ski slopes in Israel may, or may not, be open today; but God’s grace is always in ample supply. When it comes to sin, we can all come to the Communion table, gratefully singing the lines of another song: “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

David Ray serves as dean of Cincinnati (Ohio) Bible Seminary and professor of practical ministries at Cincinnati Christian University.

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