My yard is covered in snow this morning, the result of an April winter storm. Living where I do, I’m quite used to snow. Last night’s local news featured a family from Florida who happened to be driving through our area when the snow started falling yesterday afternoon. The father actually pulled off the road and let the kids enjoy the thrill of playing in the white stuff. They had never seen it before. I thought, “How odd. I can’t imagine living in a place where it doesn’t snow.”
But there is one thing about snow that always, without exception, takes me by surprise: how bright it is. Each time I pull back the curtains on a new day and find snow on the ground, my eyes receive a jolt. I’m never ready for the startling effect of snow’s pure whiteness.
All of this takes my mind to Psalm 51:7, where David says to God, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” The heading of this Psalm leaves no doubt as to what prompted David’s need of forgiveness. The prophet Nathan had just confronted him regarding the adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah (2 Samuel c. 11-12:1-15). David, the “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), had broken three of the ten commandments that made up the moral summation of the body of law that God had given to Israel. He had coveted his neighbor’s wife (Exodus 20:17). He had committed adultery (Exodus 20:14). He had murdered (Exodus 20:13).
David understood that only God could remove the dark stain of his sins. There was no heroic deed that could be performed to remove that stain. There was no list of good works, no rite, no ritual. There was only God. If He would forgive, David could be restored. If He wouldn’t, there was no hope.
And did David receive his forgiveness and cleansing? Yes. God used that odd chemical process of His. He took David’s sins, which were a crimson, scarlet red in His sight (Isaiah 1:18), and covered them with sacrificial blood, which was also crimson, scarlet red (Hebrews 9:22). This turned those sins as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). I know that dark red on dark red shouldn’t produce white, but in God’s chemistry it does.
Of course, David lived in Old Testament days, days in which God commanded the Israelites to offer up blood sacrifices to Him (Leviticus 17:11). What we must understand, though, is that these sacrifices couldn’t “take away” sin (Hebrews 10:4,11). They could only roll the sin forward and stay the wrath of God (Hebrews 10:1-3) until Jesus, the One whose blood could take away sin (John 1:29), would come and die on the cross (Hebrews 10:12-14). All of the Old Testament sacrifices found their legitimacy in His death. Just as we look back upon Christ’s death, Old Testament believers such as David looked ahead to it. It was in the crimson blood that flowed through Christ’s sacrificial body that David found his eternal cleansing.
Maybe you have done something that makes you want to cry out to God for cleansing. Maybe you have committed a sin that you want God to make whiter than snow. Such forgiveness is available to you. It’s found in Jesus. He died on a Roman cross as an Old-Testament style, blood sacrifice for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2). There is no sin so scarlet that He cannot plunge it in His blood and make it as white as snow.
But just as there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, there is no application of Christ’s blood without belief in Him. His death was sufficient for everyone’s sins, but it is only efficient for those who place their belief in Him as Savior (John 3:16-18). 1 John 1:7 offers a profound, doctrinal truth when it says that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin, but that verse was specifically written to Christians, people who have placed their belief in Christ. You see, God’s chemistry does work. Scarlet sins really can be turned snow white. But the agent that produces the reaction is the shed blood of Christ, and that blood only gets applied to those who make the voluntary choice to believe in Him.