A Time to Rend and to Sew
“There is a time to rend and a time to sew back together; a time to be silent and a time to speak.”
A mark of deep sorrow in many cultures is that of rending one’s garments. And so indeed, we find Solomon setting out another set of human experiences that mark time. Now, it should be pointed out that Solomon has already spoken of life and death, and while he could be repeating himself with different illustrations, in the context of the couplet, it seems to be that he has another kind of sorrow in mind.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled.”
In the context of the beatitudes, Jesus is not talking about those who grieve the death of loved ones, but he is speaking of those who grieve their sins. And this seems to be what Solomon is addressing here. Take a survey sometime of all of the times the people rent their garments and sat in ashes and sackcloth in the Biblical times. One thing that you will discover is that while such actions were often done at the death of a loved one (e.g. Genesis 37:34), you will often find that it is done in times of great grief regarding sin (e.g. Numbers 14:6, 1 Kings 21:27).
Thus, if we understand Solomon’s words in the context of grief and godly sorrow over sin, then there is a time to rend our clothes in confession of sin and repentance and then there is a time to sew those clothes back together, receiving the promise of forgiveness in the completed work of Christ (see 1 John 1:9).
Then, when one parallels this idea with the words that follow it in the couplet, we discover that there is a time for silence and a time for speaking — a time for awed and humble silence before the Lord of the universe (the proper response of the sinner before God on high — see Job 40:3-5) and a time to speak — to lift our petitions before a glorious heaven, not just in confession and repentance but in praise of the God who sent his glorious Son to pay the debt that we believers owe for our transgression of his Law.