God's Word - As Snow (stored for future use) and Rain (giving immediate life)
Word as Snow and Rain
How can we make sure that the written word of the scriptures don’t become a dead letter to us, or more specifically what is the value of reading and studying the written word of God? The answer to this can be seen in God’s own description of His Word, as found in Isaiah 55:10-11, reading:
Isaiah 55 (New International Version)
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
This passage declares that the word that goes out of God’s mouth is like rain and snow descending from heaven. I think that God, speaking through His prophet Isaiah, meant to provide us with a valuable analogy in His use of snow and rain in understanding some characteristics of His Word.
So, with this in mind, what is the difference between rain and snow as amplified in this passage? Is it their source? No, both are said to come down from heaven. Is it their content? No, both are primarily water, good old H20. Is it in their usefulness to man? No, both are said to water the earth and make it bud and flourish.
The difference is in their state. Rain is water in a liquid state and snow is water in a solid state. Isaiah says “11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth.” How is this useful in understanding the Word of God? Firstly, the state we find the state of the water determines whether it is in a form that is immediately useful for its intended purpose, which the passage tells us is watering the earth to make it bud and flourish in order to yield seed and bread. To get to the heart of the analogy, we would say that rain is immediately available for this use and purpose, while snow is in a suspended state that requires some action to convert it from frozen into liquid form. In this sense, the written word, i.e. the Graphe is like the snow and the living word, whether that of the Logos or the Rhema is like the rain. The written word, as in the book that we call the Bible records examples in word and action of God’s interaction with man. In this frozen state it is like the snow. Further action must occur to convert it from snow to liquid form, since snow is not useful in causing plant life to grow and flourish.
So, you might ask, “Is there any purpose in having the word of God in frozen form?” or put another way, “Is there any point in reading and memorizing scriptures, even when it seems at the time to be frozen?”. Absolutely and for the same reason that God provided some parts of the globe with snow.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, I can tell you that there are at least three critical determinants in making both our rainfall and snow-pack useful to sustaining life.
The first factor is the melting of the snow by another element, that is the application of heat to the snow. The second factor is the location of where the snow falls and the third factor is the timing of this transformation from solid to liquid form. All three factors must work together in the right combination. Let me elaborate on this example and then apply it to God’s role in making scripture bring forth life in the believer.
First, what does it take to convert the snow to rain in our spiritual analogy? I believe that the Holy Spirit acts like the warmth of the sun to convert the stored content of scriptures useful for sustaining spiritual life and growth. This explains why Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16 can say, “All Scripture [graphe] is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The operative language is that the reading and storing away of scripture in our minds is like building the snow pack in the mountains to the east of Seattle.
The second factor in making the snow useful to man is the location of where the snow falls. Snow that lands in the lower levels of the Puget Sound area has little direct benefit to sustaining human or plant life, because it quickly melts and drains off largely into streams, rivers and lakes and is carried out to sea. The location that all Seattleites want the snow to fall is high in the mountains. Here it is properly stored until, in combination with the two other factors we have yet to discuss, it can become useful to us.
The third factor, and in some ways the most important of all in making the snow useful, is in the timing of its fall and melting. If we get an unusual warm spell that occurs too early or if we experience some combination that melts the snow pack too quickly, then the snow is converted to water and spills down into our already saturated watersheds causing flooding and destruction of life and property. So in addition to praying that the snow will fall in the mountains, all Seattleites pray for a gradual melting of the snows in the dry months of July through September when it is most needed. When these three factors occur in the right combination, life in the Pacific Northwest is as good as it gets.
So what ultimately makes scriptures valuable to the believer? It is the work of the Holy Spirit to orchestrate these three factors to make the rain and snow useful in our lives. First, the Holy Spirit must convert the scriptures from a frozen state to a liquid state. We will see that this is done when the scriptures are opened to reveal the Logos or a Rhema word to us. Secondly, the rain and the snow must fall in the right location. I believe that this is ultimately in the heart and spirit of the believer. But, there is a purpose to storing the word in our minds as well. The reason to store the word is that the timing of the application in our lives may not be immediate, as best determined by the Holy Spirit. So the word can be like the excess runoff unless stored for the right time. And finally, the timing of the falling and melting of the scriptures requires the direction of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps you’ve noticed how the Holy Spirit can so wonderfully take a scripture that got planted in your mind at some point in the past and make it come alive just at the right time in your life or ministry to bring life to you or those you are ministering to.
What an incredible gift we have in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit under the direct command of the Father, melts scriptures for our use, in the right location and at the right timing to fulfill the words of Isaiah 55:11 “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”