In Missouri, winter has already arrived and my children have enjoyed playing in the snow several times. Although fun to play in, snow also acts as a protective covering—just one foot of snow can keep the soil underneath moist and relatively warm. But snow isn't the only protective covering found in nature.
On the first and second days of creation, God made light and the atmosphere (Genesis 1:3-8). If you've ever seen a shooting star, you've actually watched Earth's protective shield in action as the friction of the atmosphere burns up an intruding object. Recently, scientists have discovered that sunlight, too, helps protect and cleanse the earth. When sunlight interacts with pollutants in the atmosphere, something called a hydroxyl free radical begins breaking down those pollutants, making it easier for rain and snow to wash them out of the sky. Viewed on a spiritual level, this is a powerful illustration of what happens when Jesus (the Light of the World) touches our sin, breaks its power in our lives, and then cleanses us "with the washing of water by the word" (Ephesians 5:26).
On the third day of creation God made dry land, and then covered it with a blanket of green vegetation (Genesis 1:9-13). Vegetation, of course, protects the soil from erosion, but certain plants also cleanse the soil from contaminants. For example, sunflowers soak up radioactive materials, and clover removes oil. Alpine pennycress removes heavy metals from the soil, while sugar beets mop up sodium chloride from the ground. It has even been discovered that poplar trees can remove dry cleaning solvents from the dirt!
In what generation did humanity need plants that could do all of these things? Only in our generation, the generation that, according to the Bible, is living in the "time of the end" (Daniel 12:9) while Christ completes His final work of atonement in heaven. Atonement is an English word for a Hebrew concept that literally means "to be covered." It encompasses the entirety of Christ's work of forgiving and cleansing from sin. Just as God has built coverings into nature, that protect and cleanse, He has power to forgive and cleanse you from sin (1 John 1:9). He wants to protect you from the penalty of sin and also to transform your life here and now to reflect Christ's character, so that "as he is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). Yes, this world is headed toward an eternal winter, but in Christ you can live in the warmth of God's holy presence! Praise God!
This article is based on Lesson 2 of our new Bible study guide series, The Shadow of His Wings.
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