Mrs. Lubbers is a wife and mother in the Protestant Reformed Church of South Holland, Illinois.

He giveth snow like wool….”

Psalm 147:16

I love snow. I love its texture, its freshness, its coldness, and its symbolism. I love the pristine whiteness of new-fallen snow, its dazzling brightness chiseling little dagger points into my eyes, the kind of snow that we experienced last month in the Midwest. And while others button up their coat collars ever more securely and shield their faces with the warmest of woolen mufflers, I love the gentle touch, or biting sting, of snowflakes on my face and skin. I like the tiny ice prisms blanketing my hair — a kind of snowflake snood. I enjoy a barefoot walk in the snow, however brief and brisk, just as some people enjoy the serendipitous discovery of the Swedish sauna. I love the snow’s potential as well as its unpredictabi—lity. Will we witness the soft, feathery shake of a down pillow? Or, will we survive a wild, howling, old-fashioned prairie blizzard? I love the irony of lacy snowflakes — in accumulation — shutting down an entire city for days on end. “Who can stand before his cold?” (Ps. 147:17)

To many people, however, snow is nothing but disagreeable precipitation, and cold at that; winter, a season to be endured until spring returns to our climes. Perhaps they are some of the unfortunates who must shovel snow. Having been blessed with four able-bodied sons and an ambitious husband, I have never had to contend with snow removal. I can imagine that wrestling great mounds of snow from one side of the driveway to the other could change one’s perspective a little. Whether, then, you personally like or dislike snow, and for whatever reasons, it is the very essence of the intricacies of God’s design in creation.

Did you know, for instance*:

That each snowflake (polycrystal) is composed of tens, perhaps hundreds, of individual snow crystals?

That each snowflake is a symmetric, hexagonal, branched, fern-like crystal? And that if you are a curious, careful observer of snow you can occasionally spot a 12-pointed star made up of two hexagonal stellar crystals pressed together?

That a transfer of water molecules from droplets to vapor to ice crystals is key to the process of snow formation?

That the same snow cloud can produce many different types of crystals — stellar, needle, column— at the same time?

That the vast majority of snowflakes fall at speeds of 1-6 feet per second, but that large snowflakes act like parachutes and often slow down, while kernel-like snow pellets known as graupel fall much faster?

That a thick layer of fresh snow on your roof can save you money on your heating bill?

That fresh snow is a good insulator because of the high percentage of trapped air among the lattice structure of the accumulated snow crystals? Since the air can barely move, heat transfer is greatly reduced.

That if 12 inches of snow, containing one inch of water, and weighing 5.2 pounds per square foot, is followed by another storm bringing 25 inches of snow and 2 inches of water with a total snow load of 15.6 pounds per square foot, and that if the area of your roof is 1,800 square feet (which is typical of many houses), that there would be 28,080 pounds of snow resting on the roof — the weight of three full-grown elephants?

That sunshine alone is very ineffective in hastening snowmelt? Warm, humid winds work for maximum melt! David, the shepherd boy, observed this scientific fact thousands of years ago as he sat on the Judean hillside tending his father’s flocks. In Psalm 147 he notes: “He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow.”

That fresh snow can reflect more than 90% of the sunlight that strikes the surface? This is why many people wear sunglasses in the winter.

That snow is white because visible sunlight is white and the complex structure of snow crystals reflects sunlight instead of absorbing sunlight? (Most natural materials absorb sunlight, which gives them their color.)

That when the ground has a thick layer of fresh, fluffy snow, sound waves are readily absorbed at the surface of the snow? This explains why waking up and without even looking outside, one senses it has snowed just from the muffled sounds one hears.

That a cubic foot of snow (12 inches on a side) may contain 1,728,000 individual snowflakes, and that no two are ever, or ever have been, alike?

But enough of the science of snow. When the Scriptures speak of snow, it is always through imagery, by metaphor, and by comparison.

In Job 38, the great chapter on God’s power, sovereignty, and providence in creation, the Lord asks the rhetorical question: “Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? Or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail?” “Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it?”

With Job we give the expected response that God hath ordered all of nature. He hath gendered it, and until He returns we can only explore, discover, and subdue His creation in an imperfect and insignificant way.

For centuries man has delved into the science of snow. With amazement he explores the complexity of design, the delightful diversity, of each individual snowflake. Who can even begin to comprehend its intricate makeup, much less to command its arrival on the earth? That is what Jehovah does in Job 37. “For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth….” And then, “By the breath of God frost is given….” A mere exhaling of God’s breath, and our world is paralyzed in winter’s icy grips for months.

The psalmist knows of snow, too. David had had ample opportunity to study its purity and its complete whiteness. In Psalm 51, when David acknowledges the depth of his depravity, he compares snow to his complete cleansing in Jesus Christ: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Isaiah echoes this property of snow in chapter 1: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow….” How untold many believers have found comfort in this great transformation — from blood red to snow white!

Again, in Psalm 147, in an irrepressible splurge of joy, David expresses what is versified so grandly in Psalter number 402:

He sends His swift commandment,

And snow and ice enfold

The world, and none are able

To stand before His cold.

Again He gives commandment;

The winds of summer blow,

The snow and ice are melted,

Again the waters flow.

If we as Reformed believers know this truth about snow, and teach this truth to our children, we will have learned the most significant phenomena about snow. God speaks the snow. He breathes the frost and rime. The filthiness of our sins has been forever washed away, and now we appear whiter than new-fallen snow. No climatologist will learn more, though he studies the structure and properties of the snowflake ever so carefully. 

* All scientific facts were lifted from The Snow Booklet by Nolan J. Doesken and Arthur Judson, Colorado Climate Center, Fort Collins, CO 80523.