“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”
By comparing this prediction with Matthew xii. 18-20, it will be clearly manifest that this prediction was of the Mediatorial work of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Servant upheld by the Godhead, and the embodiment of the elect in whom God delighteth, embracing all his members, both of the Jews and of the Gentiles. In the immediate connection of this text God commanded Israel by the prophet Isaiah, saying, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth. I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cried, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. The bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” &c. In Matthew these words are rendered us, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul as well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment on to victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.” The glorious Son of God, who, in his own self-existent power and Godhead, is the supreme Sovereign over all beings, all worlds and all the events, who being in his Mediatorial glory in the form of God, thinks it not robbery to be equal with God, in his incarnation made himself of no reputation, but took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, “was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death,” and as a servant, who has learned obedience, came in the flesh to do the will of the Father, and to finish the work assigned him, in fulfilling the law, bearing the whole tempest of wrath that was due for the transgressions of all his members, which were laid on him. Though humbled thus, and in his humiliation made even lower than the angels, he could not fail nor be discouraged in his Mediatorial work, for his eternal Deity was mantled in a vail of his flesh, and he was upheld by his own indwelling Godhead. The spirit of the Lord God was upon him, because as the Mediator between God and man, he was anointed to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” – Isa. lxi. 1-3. Thus presented in prophecy, and thus manifested now in the gospel, Israel, the spiritual Israel now, beholds the servant in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead, upheld by his indwelling Deity, as perfectly identified with his elect members, in whom God is well pleased, as with his eternal Father. Now in the gospel he is beheld as prophecy described him, both negatively and affirmatively. We are told how he should not, as well as how he should, up here; what he should not, as well as what he should, do. “He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.” “He shall not fail nor be discouraged.” But he shall be upheld and sustained by the Godhead. “He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” “He shall set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his law.” Of him the prophet continues in the verse immediately following, “I the Lord have called thee in righteousness, and will hold by hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. I am the Lord: that is my name: and mine glory will I not give to another, nor my praise to graven images.”
It is worthy of our special and grateful observance that in the testimony of Isaiah the prophet, God has identified Israel, his peculiar people, with our Lord Jesus Christ in his Mediatorial relation to them as his elect, and whom his soul delighteth, using the same appellative terms of recognition; personally of Christ, as the head and embodiment of all his members, “My servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth.” And in chapter xliv. 1, 2, “O Jacob, my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen,” or elected: “Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.” And the figure’s of a bruised reed and smoking flax may forcibly illustrate the extreme sufferings of Christ in the body of his flesh, and the weakness of his humanity, in which he was upheld and sustained by his indwelling Godhead; and also the perishing condition of God’s chosen people, from which they are redeemed and delivered by and through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The same prophet predicted of him that he should grow up as a tender plant, and “As many were astonished and thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men,” “Surely he hath borne our Greeks and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was BRUISED for our iniquities.” “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him.” As a tender yet bruised plant, he was like a bruised reed, yet upheld by his eternal power and Godhead, he was not broken; he did not fail, nor was he discouraged. The figure of smoking flax is supposed to be taken from the flaxen wick of a candle, or lamp, when the oil is about exhausted, smoking in its faint and languishing glimmerings, and to all appearance ready to die out. So we trace the application of the figure to our dear suffering Redeemer, “Who, in the days of his flesh, when he had offered a prayers and supplications, with strong crying in tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard, and that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all that obey him.” – Heb. v. 7-9. Like a bruised reed or tender plant, scourged and crowned with thorns in the hall of Pilate, then fainting under the crushing weight of the ponderous cross, than baring his breast to the sword of divine justice and the agony of that dreadful hour, when he trod the wine press almighty wrath, “with strength enough, but none to spare;” and did he not been appear truly has a bruised reed?
And when the burning wrath of law and justice consumed his life, drank up his blood, and poured out his soul unto death, when his soul was exceeding sorrowful, and when in agonizing sweat and blood he cried, Father, save me from this hour! and on the cross transfixed, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” what could more fit the describe the scene than the last flickering, up dying, smoking glimmerings of an exhausted lamp? But he was heard, and that he feared; yea, he was heard by him who was able to, and who did indeed, save him from death, and brought him up, in his resurrection from its dark and gloomy power, to live and reign in all the power of his resurrection as the Prince of life and glory. Far indeed from quenching the power of that endless life by which he holds his endless priesthood, he conquered when he fell.
“He died, and in that dreadful night
Did all the powers of hell destroy;
Rising, he brought our heaven to light,
And took possession of the joy.”
Notwithstanding the dreadful conflict, the bruised reed, the smoking flax, the marred visage, the reed was not broken, his flesh saw no correction, the ardor of his burning love was not quenched. He did not fail, nor was he discouraged. He triumphed gloriously, and has brought forth judgment unto truth, and the isles shall wait for his law. All power is in his hands, and all things are put under him.
But unto all his redeemed members it is given of his behalf, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer with him. They all must know him, not only in the power of his resurrection, but also in the fellowship of his sufferings, and be conformed to his death. As in the visage of his fleshly body he was marred and bruised, so in his mystical body and members his visage is so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of man. From the days of righteous Abel, God’s people have been a poor, afflicted, bruised and persecuted people. “In afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report, as to see verse, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many in rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Such has been the condition and peculiar characteristics of the people of God in all ages. In themselves considered, they are like the frail reed that is bruised, and easily shaken, having no power in themselves to resist the strong winds or swelling waves that beat upon them, into which they seem continually exposed. But as God is in Christ, so Christ is in the church; therefore she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early.
We see the national Israel under the old covenant, which was weak through the flesh, having no power to heal the bruises of those who had transgressed its precepts, like a bruised reed, expos to the tempest of divine wrath, with dark forebodings, and a fearful looking for a judgment and fiery indignation; how welcome was the prophetic assurance that the bruised from reed should not be broken, that the scepter should not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh should come, and turn away on godliness from Jacob. There was a blessing in the cluster, like the new wine in the great, and it could not be destroyed. The judgment, or purpose, promises, counsel and decrees of God must first be fulfilled, and judgment brought forth in triumph unto truth; or, as we understand this declaration, the old dispensation must be continued unto the purpose and promise of God to bring seed added Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of his mountain, should be fulfilled. That generation could not pass away until all these things were accomplished. And although the portentous cloud of impending destruction had long been accumulating, and the beauty of Israel had become as a fading flower, and the old covenant had waxed old and was ready to vanish, yet before it can pass away a remnant according to the election of grace must be plucked out from them as a brand from the consuming fire. The smoking flax should not be cleansed into all the gracious promises of God should be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but every jot and tittle of all that was written in the law and in the prophets must first be fulfilled, and he in whose name the Gentiles shall trust should send forth judgment and a victory.
Again, the figure’s of the bruised reed and smoking flax are peculiarly illustrative of the gracious dealings of God with his children, as manifested in their personal and individual experience. When first brought by the quickening spirit of God to a sense of their lost and helpless condition, when the commandment comes to them in all its terrors, when the law enters and their sins abound, and they see and feel themselves justly convicted and righteously condemned before the bar of inflexible justice, how like a bruised, crushed, weak and powerless we’d they seem to be. Stripped of all their former boasted power and free agency, like the tremblingly did shaken by the win, they can see no way to avert the tempest of almighty wrath which seems to them inevitable; until Christ is revealed by his spirit to them and all his power to save, they are as powerless as the crushed and bruised reed. But he comes to them, not to execute on them that curses of the law, but to perform that gracious work assigned him in the seventh verse of this chapter; not to break the bruised, helpless reed, but to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to comfort all that mourn. Glorious Redeemer! Precious Savior! What glad tidings he brings to the meek! What beauty for ashes! What joy for having us! The flickering, dying hope for mercy that trembled in the heaving breast is not extinguished or quenched in endless night, are raised to a joyful flame. The love of God is shed abroad in the heart, slavish fear is cast out, the burden of guilt is removed, and now, instead of a bruised reed, a tree if righteousness appears, and instead of dread despair, Christ is formed in the heart as the hope of Glory.
Nor is it alone in the first and early experience of the redeem people of our God that Christ appears thus precious unto them; for in all their afflictions he is afflicted, and the angel of his presence saves them. While here in the flesh, like feeble reeds, they are bruised, and like smoking flax, their hope and patience decline until but a spark still lingers; but he will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall; but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” – Isa. xl. 29-31
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Middletown, N. Y.
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 22
November 15, 1880