Wednesday, March 3, 2010
In ancient culture tearing one's clothes symbolized deep grief, overwhelming circumstances, and utter despair. There are many instances in the Bible where people tore their clothes as they faced horrific trials that seemingly could never be reversed or fixed. As some point, I suppose, every human faces suffocating pain from which there appears to be no relief. Though it's uncommon for us to respond by tearing our clothes, we would all be familiar with the desire to crawl in bed and never come out.
But in Leviticus 21:10 the Bible says somthing that seems strange, almost unreasonable and heartless. God instructs the High Priest to never tear his clothes. Not when he faces sickness, not when his child dies, no matter what. How is that possible? Should he just be expected to pretend that all is fine and paste a smile on his face when he has fresh, gaping wounds in his heart? Why is it okay for others to tear their clothes but for the High Priest it is forbidden?
One subtle but significance difference. Once a year, the High Priest had access to the Holy of Holies. He had access to the presence of God. He lived with the annointing of God on his life. He had an intimacy with God to which the other people did not have access.
For the High Priest to tear his clothes would imply that his problems were greater than his God.
The same is true for believers today. The Bible tells us that WE are a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Through Jesus, we have access to the "Holy of Holies", not just once a year but at any moment we call upon Him. So we don't grieve like those without hope. We don't face insurmountable odds like those without faith. We don't endure trials like those without Jesus.
In this life we will face grief and pain and despair. But we face it differently because we know: There is no problem in our lives that is greater than our God!