Bible Society of South Africa

Relationships – to tear away or try to heal? - 16 November 2023

By Ewald Schmidt

Bible text(s)

7the time for tearing and the time for mending,

the time for silence and the time for talk.

Ecclesiastes 3:7GNBOpen in Bible reader

We can see that this verse uses the image of needlework – the making of clothing. My mother would have given me a hiding if I had torn my clothes on purpose! It brings us to the question: when can there be a time when it is fitting to tear your clothes? In biblical times, it was a sign of deep emotion. People tore their clothes when they were in mourning, when a loved one died. They tore their clothes when someone committed blasphemy in their presence, in anger at the abuse of God’s name. There was also tearing of clothes in times of national disasters as a sign of humbling before God, a time of atonement. The tearing of clothes was followed by intense prayer, where God’s help was sought. We see an example in Isaiah 37:1, when King Hezekiah heard that the Assyrian army was on its way to conquer Juda. In Joel 2:13, the Lord says, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

Yes, there are times when we need to rend/tear our hearts before the Lord.

God, however, is also full of grace and compassion; he wants to heal. After times of mourning and times of national humbling in the Bible, there were times of restoration and time to mend that which was torn. Ezekiel 37 tells us of God’s plan to heal his land, to bring together that which was torn apart. Verse 22 promises: “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms.” There is a time to restore broken relationships. There is a time to finish mourning, that we may once again experience joy in our lives. There is a time of forgiveness and new beginnings, when God heals and restores; then, follows prayers of thanksgiving and praise.

Prayer: Lord, sometimes we need to take time to humble ourselves before your throne. We may have lost our way, committed sin or missed our purpose in life. Then, we rend our hearts and turn back to you. Thank you for your grace and compassion. Thank you for your healing and restoration. Thank you that you turn our lamentations into songs of praise and joy! Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.16
Find us on