An opening torn

Casting Away Stones – Ecclesiastes 3
Week 7 – Ecclesiastes 3:7

Day One: An opening torn
Day Two: A God who sews
Day Three: Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence
Day Four: a time to speak
Day Five: Mending with words


Heart verse:
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
                                                        Proverbs 16:24


Photo credit to http://sarahebaughman.blogspot.com/



Day 1 – An opening torn


My friend, Sarah, is a seamstress. 

I am so impressed with her. I do not sew. I can do buttons, or even a patch, but to turn on a machine and create something wonderful is not my forte. She creates all kinds of garments – skirts for her goddaughters, fun bags for friends, and very ornate historical costumes. I’m in awe. One minute it’s a piece of fabric, another minute it’s something wearable, fitted perfectly to an individual, making someone feel loved and beautiful. She’s also the artist for our prayer card this week. (Check it out under the Casting Stones tab at the top of this page.)

Ecclesiastes 3:7 –
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

The word for tear in Hebrew is from the root word “qara” (kaw-rah).*
This word can mean to tear, to rend, to tear apart, to split apart. It is notably used in the Old Testament in relationship to grief and loss. It sounds like we moved back a couple of weeks to a time to weep and a time to mourn. All over the Old Testament, and even a little in the New Testament, people are tearing their garments out of grief or distress. Have no fear! While these are commonly related, we are not going to work through that again. Just know that they are related. If you’d like some examples to look up, here are a few:

Genesis 37:29-36 – Rueben tears his clothes in response to the brothers misuse of Joseph
Ezra 9:1-9 – Ezra tears his garment in grief over Israel’s faithlessness
1 Kings 11:7-13 – Solomon’s kingdom is torn from him, because he has been unfaithful to the Lord

But God, He does a different kind of tearing.
We don’t want to miss it.That is the tearing we are going to look at today. There was a time for tearing in response to grief and loss, and there will be a times of grief and loss in our own lives. God has also revealed something new, though. He has torn the Old away and ushered in the New. Let’s look at Matthew 27:45-54 –

45 Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The temple curtain torn. The New has come.

Hebrews 10:14-23 helps to clarify this –
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”
17 then he adds,
I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

He who promised is faithful. All I can say to that is Amen! Let’s look at some of the language in the passage as explanation for the significance of the temple curtain, torn in two. Top to bottom, torn.

Look back through the passage above for these phrases. If you have your Bible out, let’s do a little underlining…
a single offering”
the Holy Spirit also bears witness”
the covenant that I will make”
where there is forgiveness”
the new and living way”
full assurance of faith”

Which one of these phrases speaks Grace into your life this day?
Find a phrase and breathe it in. Each of the words feel fresh off the page for me as I write this, even though they are centuries old. Bask in the mercy of the New Covenant. And listen to this phrase in particular, hear it with freshness –
since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain…”

He has opened the holy places for us. The curtain torn in two means that we no longer need to rend anything. Joel 2:12-13 is a beautiful passage with another tearing –
Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
    and he relents over disaster.

We can only see the mercy and grace of this passage through Christ’s tearing. Nothing can compare to the riches of Christ’s new covenant, Christ’s new tearing. The message of Scripture, within the framework of Christ’s new covenant for us as believers, is not simply in the tearing, but what the tearing does…the opening.

With Christ’s death on the cross (“through His flesh” in Hebrews 10:20), everything holy is open wide. Doors flung open, but even more torn open. The tearing is painful, but Christ took that tearing for me. And when that temple curtain was torn in two, open wide, out came forgiveness and mercy, in a way the world had not even begun to consider before.
Rend your hearts and not your garments…” says Joel 2:13, because we can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance…” We stand before God and ask Him to open wide our hearts. Open wide our hearts to Him, to His children, to His work, to everything that is eternal and gracious, and just.

When we read tear, we ask God to tear open anything that stands between Him and us, because He has already torn that down once and for all. In Christ, we stand assured. Oh He is faithful. Faithful.

Father, we thank you for your work in our lives. We thank you for your death and resurrection. We thank you for offering yourself. Your very self – for us. We lay our hearts before You, praising You. Asking you to keep working on us. To keep us firm in the knowledge of your continual work in our lives. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Discussion questions:
What expressions of grief have you seen or experienced that were helpful in the mourning?
What Old Testament stories do you remember about the temple?
What has God opened your heart to over time and what do you think He is asking you to open your heart to currently?

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