“A bruised reed He will not break
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish”
Those words were written about God’s “Servant” (v.1), His “chosen one” – the Messiah, Jesus. And, O, what gentleness they reveal to us! Gentleness from a heavenly Father who is willing to send such a Servant into the world. And, of course, gentleness, meekness, kindness, tenderness, compassion, and patience on the part of the Servant himself!
Aren’t these attractive pictures of the tenderness of Jesus? “A bruised reed He will not break.” He does not, in other words, walk into His Father’s garden, find a stem that has been trampled upon and bent at a 90 degree angle … and then just immediately determine to cut His losses by grabbing the bruised reed between His thumb and forefinger and finishing the job. No! Jesus sees such bruised, bent-down people, and is tender with them. He splints them with His word, and with the encouragement of His saints, so that wounded Christians begin to grow strong again, and stand straight again, and produce fruit again. Perhaps you have known Him to do that for you from time to time.
And then the Lord goes on to say of His Servant that “a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” Or, as the KJV renders it, “the smoking flax shall he not quench.”
Another beautiful portrait! And one upon which the Puritan, Richard Sibbes, elaborates marvelously in his classic book The Bruised Reed. Among his many helpful observations is to note just how a “dimly burning wick” or “smoking flax” portrays many a Christian (especially many a new Christian):
“In smoking flax there is but a little light … and that little mixed with smoke. The observations from this are that, in God’s children, especially in their first conversion, there is but a little measure of grace, and that little mixed with much corruption, which, as smoke, is offensive; but that Christ will not quench this smoking flax.”
Isn’t this true, at times, of the Christian (and even sometimes beyond our “first conversion”)? Our light doesn’t always shine as brightly as we would hope. It is more like a little glowing ember than a burning flame. And, in such a state, we sometimes produce as much smoke as we do light. But even so, Jesus does not place a snuffer over the “dimly burning wick” so as to save Himself any further trouble. For, as Sibbes also points out, even amidst all the smoke; and even though the light we emit is “but a little light” – yet that “little light”, that glowing ember is Christ’s ember … and He values it highly! He is committed, not to blow it out, but to fan it into flame!
Do you ever feel like “a dimly burning wick” – like you are producing as much smoke as light (and maybe more)? Isaiah 42.3 is not, of course, an excuse to settle comfortably into that state. But it is a reminder that Christ loves you there; and that Christ will not abandon you there, or blow out your candle altogether! He is not into cutting His losses … but splinting bruised reeds, and fanning dimly burning wicks. And His people should know Him as such, and believe Him as such, and love Him for such gentleness to us, His sometimes struggling – but always beloved – people!