Sunday, February 6, 2022

Hebrew Word Study: Shaleg Snow

This last week on Wed and Thursday morning we got in Owosso about 9 inches of snow. I could barely escape my driveway, Chelsey could not escape her driveway at all. The roads were crazy. Everything was shut down. A state of emergency was declared by mayor Eveleth. It was wild. I was locked inside most of the day hiding out.

So it seemed fitting, for our Hebrew word study today, to look at the word shaleg "sheh'-leg" which in ancient Hebrew means "snow." Raise your hand if you think snow is beautiful as it's coming down through the air. Now raise your hand if think it's beautiful as you're shoveling it off your driveway and sidewalks.  

Shaleg in the Hebrew is a very simple word, it means snow. Plain and simple. Snow, snow, snow, the white stuff that falls from the sky when it's cold outside.

But there is also much more to the meaning of shaleg. Snow is used as a metaphor by God in the Bible to describe purity. We see it used several times in the book of Job as Job struggles with sorrow.  First in chapter 9, verse 27-35 which says, “I could say, ‘I will not complain.
I will forget my pain and put a smile on my face.’
28 But the suffering still frightens me.
I know that God will not see me as innocent.
29 I will be found guilty,
so why should I even think about it?
30 Even if I scrubbed my hands with soap
and washed myself whiter than snow,
31 God would still push me into the slime pit,
and even my clothes would hate to touch me.
32 God is not a human like me, so I cannot argue with him.
I cannot take him to court.
33 I wish there were someone who could listen to both sides,
someone to judge both of us in a fair way.
34 I wish someone could take away the threat of God’s punishment.
Then he would not frighten me anymore.
35 Then I could say what I want without being afraid of him.
But I cannot do that now." -Job 9:27-35

Job is struggling before God to understand his suffering and sorrow, and he speaks about how he wishes he could scrub his hands with pure snow to wash away his sin. But he can’t. It just doesn’t work that way.

Only God can make us white as snow, and wash away the guilt of our sins. Much later in the book of Job we see shaleg being used again as God responds to Job and says,

From Job 38:22-23, “Have you ever gone into the storerooms where I keep the snow and the hail? I save them there for times of trouble, for the times of war and battle."

God asks Job, can you really understand these things as a human? Can you go and see the storerooms where I keep snow and hail that I save for times of war? Can you? And of course Job must reply by saying no. He can’t understand those things. Only God can.

However there are some things we can understand about suffering. Through suffering we ought to see that God is shaping us, and molding us into people ready for paradise.

“In the midst of trouble, we can look at the purity of God and know that all we will lose in our difficulty is what keeps us from the purity of God – which is a doorway to His heart.” -Chaim Bentorah

So when we look at snow, pure and white, we should be reminded that God desires to give us a new, pure heart. He crafts that heart through joys and sufferings. We each have hearts that have been through so much, many ugly things. He wants to cover over the ugly things in our lives, with his beautiful purity in the riches of Christ Jesus. We’ve all been through hard times, things we don’t like to remember.  And God will cover over those hurts and pains with his love, and help you to forget the past, and proceed forward into a bright future. And thus we may enter, a bright new wonderland of beauty and purity, where we find all the wonderful things God has prepared for us. Our Father knows how to give good gifts.

Another instance where shaleg is used in the scriptures is Isa 1:18, which says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

If you recall, right before the first snows begin to fall, it’s usually pretty yucky out. It’s rainy. It’s overcast. It’s cold.  The trees are bear, they’ve dropped their leaves. The ground is brown, the grass is dying, leaves all over, it’s a mess. And then the snow falls. And it covers over all that ugliness, and suddenly, it’s pretty beautiful when we look out the window, upon all the pure snow, and the sunlight shining off the snow makes it seem more bright.

In the same way, our sins, have piled up so high before God, lies, hatred, unforgiveness, getting even, filthy jokes, swearing, stealing, on and on, an ugly mess of filthy rags. But the forgiveness of God found in Jesus Christ covers over all that sin, and cleanses us, and makes us pure and spotless and blameless in His sight. If you believe in Jesus, and have repented of your sins, you are as pure and clean and white as the freshly fallen snow. 

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