A time to tear and a time to mend. - Ecclesiastes 3:7
A time to tear” refers to the rending of garments in an outward show of distress or repentance. Reuben, returning to the pit where Joseph had been held, found him gone and tore his clothes in distress (Genesis 37:29).
Later, after God had miraculously preserved Joseph and he had become Pharaoh’s right-hand man, his brothers, seeking food for the family, were tricked by Joseph, who had a cup put in Benjamin’s sack. The brothers discovered this, “tore their clothing in despair, loaded the donkeys again, and returned to the city” (Genesis 44:13) to seek the mighty man’s mercy.
This custom of tearing one’s clothing dramatically demonstrated inward mourning and sorrow. But as is often the case with outward signs of inward things, the ritual eventually took the place of the reality.
Joel, the prophet, had to call Israel to true repentance. “That is why the Lord says, ‘Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief; instead, tear your hearts.’ Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful. He is not easily angered. He is filled with kindness and is eager not to punish you” (Joel 2:12-13).
Joel knew that when we rend our hearts and not our clothing, God sews them up for us with the stitches of forgiveness.
For Further Study: Ecclesiastes 3:1-7
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Women, Copyright ©2000 by Jill Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Jill Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.