“Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish” (Joel 2.13 NLT).
Tearing the clothes was symbolic of deep grief, mourning and repentance; however, like many symbolic traditions, the “rending of garments” had become a hollow action with no implication of true humility. When Caiaphas, the High Priest, tore his clothing, claiming Jesus (God in the flesh) to be blasphemy, he did so in an atmosphere of self-righteousness. Pride caused Caiaphas to miss the Truth standing right in front of him, and as he tore his clothes, he puffed up his own deceived heart. His actions did not reflect the true nature of his heart. The Bible declares that God is merciful and wants to forgive us. But our actions mean nothing if they are not stemmed from a repentant heart. We can’t be deceived in thinking that our symbolic actions are enough to ignite the Lord’s compassion. The Lord sees the heart, and He knows when we are covering up a hardened heart with a torn facade (1 Samuel 16.7). True repentance comes when our heart is broken before the Lord, and we are exposed and vulnerable to the power and mercy of an almighty God. When we return to the Lord with torn hearts, He is eager to rescue, redeem and restore us because of His unfailing love towards us.
“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds” (Hosea 6.1 NIV).