“Casting sins away”1
I may be one of the few individuals who still reads the local newspaper every day. I can’t adjust to reading the news on-line. So, there I was on Saturday morning (October 5, 2019) reading the Spiritual Life section of our local paper, The Oklahoman. One story in particular caught my eye. It was alarming, to say the least. Worse than alarming, it was heartbreaking.
The story was titled, “Casting sins away.” It concerned a water ritual that helps mark Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. The people present “sent pieces of bread sailing through the air, watching as the morsels plopped soundlessly into a lake.” Why, you ask? Here is the explanation that was given:
“The crumbs that were cast away represented the temple members’ transgressions from the past year. . . . As part of the . . . ceremony, individuals symbolically toss their sins into a pool of water, traditionally an open body of water like a pond, river or lake.”
For others, the ritual symbolized the “throwing away the negative and burdensome things for a fresh start in a new year.”
The people engaged in this annual ritual are undoubtedly sincere and, from all indications, quite humble. But the complete absence in this story of any reference to the shed blood of Jesus Christ at the cross made me extremely sad. Most of the people who engage in this event are Jewish. May God bless them! But they evidently have not as yet come to recognize that the Messiah whose blood can alone take away their sins has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
The water in a pond or lake or river cannot wash our consciences clean of the guilt of sin. No ritual performed, no matter how sincerely or passionately pursued, can redeem us from the curse of sin and the judgment that it has incurred. This alone is found by faith in Jesus Christ and the cleansing blood that he shed on the cross for sinful men and women. It is in Christ, wrote the Apostle Paul, that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7).
The assurance that our guilt is gone and that there is “now no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1) for a lifetime of sinful rebellion and unbelief does not come by throwing bread crumbs into a pond. It comes when by faith alone we trust in Christ alone for the death he died in our place.
It may not strike some as appealing when they first hear it, but the Word of God does not lie or mislead:
“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).
The article reminded me yet again of the futile efforts so many people make to rid their hearts of guilt, self-contempt, and feelings of worthlessness. The solution is once again singular: it is found in the life-changing, sin-forgiving, soul-saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ poured out as a sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of God and to wash us fully and finally clean.