"A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish." (Isaiah 42:3)
The Hebrew children would often go to the riverside to play where the reeds grew. The reeds were useful for making flutes. The children would cut them down, hollow them out and make flutes to play their little songs.
The riverbank would be full of these reeds, and many of them were not perfect. If they came across one that was cracked or bruised, they would break it in half and toss it away. After all, they needed reeds of quality in order to make a flute that would play well. Cracked or bruised reeds were worthless to them.
Bruised reeds are metaphors for people. The word "bruised" is used to refer to suffering, discouraged, broken people.
We are all bruised reeds in one way or another. We all experienced disappointment in ourselves, were hurt and perhaps, almost broken.
Why won't the Messiah break the bruised reeds?
The children would break them and toss them away because there were thousands more along the river. One broken reed wasn't important and they weren't good for anything anyway.
Why wouldn't Christ do the same thing with "bruised reed" people?
"A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish." (42:3)
He will also not extinguish a dimly burning and smoking wick.
The Hebrews used to light their homes with little oil lamps. These lamps looked a lot like gravy dispensers, with an open top. The bowls were filled with oil and contained a wick, made of flax or linen. As long as the wick would stay moist with the oil, it would burn and give light. But when the oil burned out, the wick would smoulder and get smoky. Then you had to extinguish the damaged wick and toss it away. There was plenty of flax where the first wick came from.
But the Messiah would not extinguish such a dimly burning wick. Again, these wicks can be compared to people. They represent people who are exhausted, or even "burnt-out", in their Christian lives.
We all burn dimly and our lights are smoky.
God says that we will recognise the true Messiah in that he would not break the bruised reed or extinguish the dimly burning wick.
When you think about the meaning of these metaphors in terms of God’s people, you realize what is said.
We are not perfect. We often feel down-trodden failures and at best, not the flutes that are able to make the heavenly music of Christ heard or let his eternal light shine in a dark and desperate world.
We feel that we don’t get our act together and do not live up to expectation as representatives of Christ on earth.
Some, who may think they are providing perfectly bright light and harmonious music, may be quick to reject imperfect people, but Jesus does not.
To the contrary, we know that Jesus is the true Messiah – the anointed One of God - because it is his character to play the glorious music of his Kingdom through bruised reeds like us and make his gracious light shine through the smoky, smouldering wicks we so often are!
This is how we know that he truly is the Redeemer of the bruised and the burnt out and the lost:
He works through people like us!