God’s Timing and Purposes – Ecc. 3:1-8
Pastor Vicky MootsKingman, Kansas
Ecc. 3:7a: “A time to rend…” “To rend” means “to tear.” In Old Testament times, the tearing of one’s clothes was considered a powerful outward expression of an inner grief. It was done as a sign of mourning, sudden loss, or in repentance. Some Jews still practice this today in a modified manner. According to tradition, a mourner was supposed to tear the clothing over the heart to signify that his heart was broken.
In II Chron. 34 we read that the book of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah, the high priest, in the house of the Lord and brought to King Josiah. Verse 19 tells us, “And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes.” Josiah was grieved to learn of the curse that would be upon them because they had been disobedient to God, and so he tore his clothes in repentance and mourning.
But God knew his heart and comforted him as we see in v. 27: “Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God…and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also…” God looked past the outward tearing of his clothes and saw down into his broken heart.
Did God listen to Josiah’s cry of repentance because he tore his clothes? Do our outward actions impress God or earn His favor? No! Because “…man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (I Sam. 16:7).
In Joel 2:12-13 God exhorted the backslidden Jews through the prophet to repent: “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart…And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God…”
David tells us in Ps. 34:18, through his own experience, “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart…” When we rend our hearts and we are broken before Him, then His ears are open unto our cries, David also assures us of this in Ps. 51:17: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”
Even though it was the custom at that time, not everyone was allowed under the Mosaic Law to tear their garments in response to grief. Lev. 21:10 informs us that the high priest was not allowed to do this: “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured…shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes.”
Since Jesus is our spiritual High Priest, it is not surprising to find that God did not allow His clothing to be torn at the time of His crucifixion. This event was recorded in John 19:23-24: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots…” Jesus’ garments were not torn, but His heart was. It was broken for us. Nor was his head uncovered, for He wore a crown of thorns, His priestly mitre.
However, there was something else which was very important that was torn at the time of Jesus’ death, as we discover in Matt. 27:51: “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom…” The veil was the curtain in the temple that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Only the high priest was allowed to go past the veil into the Holy of Holies, and that was only once a year on the Day of Atonement in order to place the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat to atone for the sins of the people.
When the veil was rent, it allowed free access into that sacred place where only the high priest had been able to meet with God. Who rent the veil? It was God, Himself, because it was torn from top to bottom.
We learn from Heb. 10:19-20 that the veil represented Jesus’ fleshly body which was sacrificed for us to make atonement for sin. The veil of Jesus’ flesh had to be torn away on the cross so that we might have access to God’s presence without fear. The work of salvation had been completed when Jesus cried, “It is finished.”
From that point on, it was no longer necessary to have an earthly priest to intercede for us, because Heb. 9:11 explains to us that Christ became our High Priest, and v. 12 declares, “…by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Then in v. 24 we read, “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”
Because of this, Paul states in Heb. 4:14,16 that we can now safely approach God in prayer for all our needs: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God…Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Praise God for the veil that was rent on Calvary! Now is the time to rend our hearts and to enter into God’s presence through the veil that was rent for us: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest [Holy of Holies] by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…” (Heb. 10:19-20,22).