THE TREASURES OF THE SNOW
by David Sisler
I've been holding this column, hoping that the morning you read it, you would go outside to pick up the paper and find your front lawn covered with snow. I guess for the snow, you are going to have to follow the example of we Pittsburgh Pirates fans and, wait 'till next year. So, without the white stuff (or a winning season by the Bucs any time soon) read on.
Job is a book of the Bible that we seldom read. Many people ignore what they, incorrectly perceive to a gloomy, out-of-date story. Much popular teaching demands instant prosperity and instant success in spite of so much opposing common sense reality. A message which says God's people must sometimes endure suffering and shortage is definitely out of fashion today. I wonder how believers in Somalia, or in Bosnia, or in Grozny would respond to suggestions that their impoverished condition, their sickness and suffering, is the direct result of deficient faith.
But enough of that--for now.
There is a little verse, tucked away near the end of Job, that has nothing to do with success or failure: Chapter 38, verse 22--"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?"
No exegesis. Let's just take this one out of context--a violation of every principle of hermeneutics I was ever taught--and walk rapidly through snow's treasure house.
In Ireland, we are told, there are a dozen words for "peat." The Arabs, they say, have many words for "sand." Allegedly, the Eskimos have scores of words for "snow." I'll leave the veracity of that statement to the linguists. However, someone recently told me the Eskimos only have two words for snow--one for snow that is still in the air, one for snow that is on the ground.
Be that as it may, Mark Williams, a University of Colorado geographer and specialist in the properties of snow says, there are scores of terms, in regular old English: needles, sheaths, columns, pyramids, cups, bullets, plates, scrolls, and branches. And those are only the words that I understand.
Freshly fallen snow is an "ice skeleton." When the snow pack (another term) begins to thaw, it is called "corn snow" or "spring snow." If snow lasts a year on the ground it is called "firn." In a few centuries the firn will be called a glacier.
Fresh snow falls each year on nearly one-fourth of the earth's dry land surface. In our hemisphere it falls on one square mile out of two. Around the world, one-third of all the water used for irrigation comes from snow. In the western part of the United States, that figure jumps to 75 percent. Farmers can count on snow in winter a lot more than they can count on rain in spring or summer.
When snowmelt flows into the Columbia River, it totals 26 trillion gallons, or 81 million acre-feet (as snow scientists count such things). That would put all of Georgia knee-deep under water.
Did you know that a two-foot square of snow ten inches deep contains about a million snow-flakes? Nor did I.
Did you know that the formation of snow begins when water vapor or a supercooled droplet of water forms an ice crystal, almost always hexagonal in shape, around a nucleus consisting of one of the thousands of minute aerosol particles to be found in each cubic centimeter of the lower atmosphere--clay silicate, perhaps, or bits of volcanic ash, or material of extraterrestrial origin, and when descending snow crystals meet up with one another, they form the aggregations which we call snowflakes? Kind of makes building a snow man a little more significant, don't you think?
To top it off, all of this activity has a powerful cleansing effect on the atmosphere, dragging untold pollutants out of the air and, potentially, away from our lungs.
Which brings me to one more Bible verse, Isaiah 1:18--"'Come now, let us reason together,' says the Lord. 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.'" The cleansing of heart pollution can happen only if you come to God through faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/18/95
Copyright 1995 by David Sisler
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