You have set all the borders of the earth: you have made summer and winter.
Winter: what has that to say to us of God and of his ways? - Winter, with its cold, chilling breath, compelling even the strong to wrap themselves round with all manner of protection, and making all who can, shelter within their well built homes, and draw close their warm curtains, and heap up the blazing fires. Winter, pinching so cruelly the ill-clad, the ill-fed, the ill-housed, making want more terrible, all sickness more deadly, and all misery more miserable. Winter, grim, gaunt, bearing down in its cruel might all less strong than itself. Winter, with its snowy shroud covering the fields and hills which all lie as silent and as still as if they were laid out for burial, and the snow over them were a real winding sheet instead of only a seeming one. And sometimes it is a real one, when winter bids the snow fall quickly, closely, softly, continuously; then, blinding the eyes of the unfortunate wanderer on the moor, so that he can make out neither road, nor path, nor track, nor waymark; beating persistently against his mouth and nostrils, taking away his breath, numbing all his senses, until the poor lost one staggers on in hopeless search of the way he has lost. "Oh, thou winter snow, who more cruel, deadly, treacherous, than thou? Thou wilt not cease thy work until the poor traveller, weary and heartbroken, falls down exhausted; and then, as he dies, thou wilt smite him in the face, cover him up softly as with kisses, tenderly as with eider down, like a sleek white murderer as thou art!" (Alex. Smith). And not only so is winter terrible; its keen northerly blast, tearing over the seas and lands, driving the ships across the waves, and rendering the mariners all but powerless to struggle against their foe. Their fingers freeze to the rigging, and the stiffened sails refuse to bend to their will, and happy are they if, "amid this howling wintry sea," they find some port of refuge. Shepherds and their flocks in some seeming shelter on Scotch hills are caught by the whirling, blinding, smothering, snow, and all are lost. Oh, the terrible winter, ruthlessly tearing the foliage off the trees, stripping the flowers from all gardens and fields, banishing most of the birds, and silencing all that remain; rejoicing seemingly in darkness and cold, in all that is drear, deadly, desolate; - such is winter, bearable by the rich and strong, but terrible to the poor and weak, and would be terrible to all were it not for the sure hope of the blessed spring. And yet, though we have spoken hardly of it, God made it even as he made the summer. And he has promised that it shall not fail. Certainly, therefore, it must be for other than only evil; it must serve some beneficent purpose. And it does; we have proof upon proof. Winter, as well as the other seasons, is one of the gifts of our Father-God, the gifts of his love. Let us listen a while to some of the voices of the winter - the wise, warning, winning words it utters to those who will hearken. And -
I. IT SEEMS TO US TO SAY, "BE YE ALSO READY." It is certain to come; it is no chance arrangement, and none but a fool would fail to make provision for it. Every one does to the best of his power.
"All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin." Let it be so in regard to the winter that is sure to visit our souls, our circumstances, our lives. Be ready for it when it comes. Let our treasure be where winter cannot come, even in God and the eternal life.
II. TRUST. For the winter is God's ordering: he makes it drear and dark and even dreadful, as it often seems to be. It is the product of no blind fate, no mere soulless relentless law; but it is of God. If we will hold fast to this sure faith, we shall be able to hope and patiently wait for the salvation of our God, and meanwhile even to rejoice.
III. SUBMIT. Winter is irresistible. Everything must bend before it. Who can resist his will? Great is the part that the winter has played in the humiliation of haughty men. As it lays hold even upon the raging seas, and binds them down in motionless silence, hushing their turbulence till they lie still as a stone; so has God, by the same agency, often baffled and destroyed the power of man. See Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. And how easily! The gently, persistingly failing snow did it all. Shall man, then, war against God? Submit.
IV. SING OF MERCY AS WELL AS OF JUDGMENT. See how in the winter these are blessedly mingled. True, God giveth snow, but it is "like wool" (Psalm 147:16, 17). It wraps up warmly the seed sown in the earth.
"His flakes of snow like wool he sends, And thus the springing corn defends." And "he scattereth the hoar frost," but it is "like ashes," cleansing, purifying, making healthful that on which they are cast. And the frost is a cleansing power, ridding gardens and fields of the foul, noxious creatures that swarm and creep and devour. And does not that humiliation and sorrow of which the sprinkled ashes told do the like in the region of the soul? "He casteth forth his ice," but they are "like morsels" - like the crumbs which feed the hungry. So the ice prepares the soil, breaks it up, and fits it for the growth of the seed.
V. THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH. Abundant life - see that throng of shouting, laughing boys careering on the ice - heeds not the cold, rather rejoices in it. So let there be in us fuluess of Divine life, the life which Christ gives, and we shall be able to "stand before his cold." - S.C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.
WEB: You have set all the boundaries of the earth. You have made summer and winter.