A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
Isaiah 42:3 | NIV | Other Versions | Context
Holy week just ended, and we often call the crucifixion of Christ God’s greatest act of love for us, that he so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life [John 3:16]. He ‘so’ loved the world. I do not intend to argue against that – indeed, sending his only son to die for us was an ultimate act of love. But God’s compassion for us is so much greater. It didn’t just end there. God didn’t just send his send to die on the cross for us, and leave behind a bunch of apostles, and that’s it. That wasn’t the end of his love for us. He continues to show his compassion to us in little things, in big things, everyday. What is the end of this love of God? What is the extent of God’s compassion for us? I do not know, but in this verse we shall examine some other acts of love- apart from sending Jesus to the cross – that God has done for us.
A bruised reed he will not break – Now I’ve no idea what exactly a reed is, so I googled it. Apparently it looks like weed, or grass, but just taller. It belongs to wet places, yet is highly flammable. Due to it’s lanky yet fragile nature, a reed also refers to someone who’s easily swayed and too weak to be relied on. It appears ‘reed’ has a connotation of being weak – so imagine a bruised reed? The weakest of the weakest, God will not break. It is easy to break a reed. It may not even withstand a blast of wind, or even a breeze. It may not last through a shower of rain, not to say a storm or a typhoon. You can even burn it easily. It is easy to break us. But God will not do so, because he has great compassion on us. Have you ever been so conscious of your sinful self that you become defeated, discouraged, helpless and hopeless? Have you ever been shocked by the things that you know you shouldn’t be doing, but you have done? Or do you have a dark past that you just cannot get over? We are like that reed – that bruised reed – amongst all the other reeds. Yet God will pick us out, one by one, to protect us from the winds and the storms, the heat and the wild. When we expect him to break us, he is protecting us, for he has great compassion on us.
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out – This is another analogy pretty much in the same mould, but perhaps it is easier for us to picture this image. Fire requires oxygen to burn, yet a flame can die with the motion of the air – wind. A strong flame on a candle can be killed just by blowing it out or pinching it out – but a smoldering wick is even easier to snuff out. Yet he will not do so. God will not extinguish our fire, our struggling, smoldering flame, because he has great compassion on us. This probably isn’t so much that God will not extinguish our fire – for a dying flame doesn’t need any help to be killed. This probably is more like – God will not allow our smoldering wick to be snuffed out. He will feed us, he will supply us with oil. Even when we are discouraged, disheartened and disillusioned, even when our flame of faith is smoldering, even when we are ready to give up on God – we can still hold on to the promise that God will not snuff out our flame. Holy week was just over – this was what Jesus told Peter days before Peter denied him – “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” [Luke 22:31-32]. Even when we are at our weakest moments, even when we are facing our greatest temptations, even when we are about to let go of that hand that has clung onto God for so long, let us remember that God hasn’t given up on us – we can still turn back. God will not allow our faith to fail.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice – Our God is faithful – eternally, unconditionally so. There’s a difference between the faithfulness of a faithful man and the faithfulness of God – because there are no blemishes and no ‘buts’ in God’s eternal faithfulness. You don’t have to worry if he is going to betray you tomorrow, because he has never done so and will never do so. And more importantly, in man’s faithfulness we may find limited comfort, but in God’s faithfulness, we find more than just comfort – there is also justice in God’s faithfulness. In Matthew 12:20 when this verse is referenced, this phrase was rendered – till he has brought justice through to victory. This is a justice of truth, a justice of victory, and in delivering justice, in delivering his judgement, God is faithful. He will not forget you. Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness [Psalm 96:13].
We cannot compare the extent of our faith in God to the extent of the faithfulness of God in us. At the risk of sounding immature, it’s not a fair comparison. A lot of things can stumble us in our faith – bad reactions to the good that we’ve done, or the sins we’ve never realised we were committing – or just a scowl that we have to face everyday. Little things, big things. Or maybe you’re so matured in your faith that you cannot forsee yourself stumbling. Like Peter, when he insisted that he will never deny God. Of course, if life just went on as usual, and nothing unexpected happened, I believe that Peter would never have denied Christ. But the unimaginable happened. A situation that Peter did not expect to happen, happened. If your life went on as usual, you’ll probably be fine in your faith. But you never know. One day, out of the blue, you may stumble – and you may realise you’re just a reed trying to hide its bruises, or a flickering fire trying to pretend its flame is still going strong. At that time, remember that you can turn back to God. Like Peter. The alternative is to turn away, and like Judas, attempt to resolve your life’s guilts by your own power.
God is good. He has great love and compassion for us. Even beyond the cross.
Thank you Zec…I’m a 61 year old dad meditating in the forest on the Bruce peninsula…and this verse came to mind and led me to your blog…my 3rd daughter getting married today and can truly say God has been faithful through many trials and the struggle and victory of faith..
Thank you for sharing your journey.
Syd the Squid.