"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 down by 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 the flutes to play their little songs.
The riverbank would be full of these reeds, and many of them were less than 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 in this verse are symbols of people. The word "bruised" is used to refer to disappointed, suffering, discouraged and less than perfect people.
We are all bruised reeds. We all experienced disappointment in ourselves and felt hurt and broken.
Why won't the Messiah break the bruised reeds and throw them away? 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)
Our Lord will also not extinguish a dimly burning and smoking wick.
The Hebrews had to light their homes with 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 in the wick burned out, it would smoulder and give off smoke. The thing to do was 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 a person who feels like a dimly burning wick. These smoking wicks represent people who are exhausted, or even "burnt-out" in their Christian lives. It seems that they became lost amidst turmoil and sadness.
We often only burn dimly and then our light becomes 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 these imageries 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 often feel that we do not have our lives together and do not live up to expectation as brightly shining witnesses of Christ.
Some, who may think they are providing perfectly bright light and harmonious music, may be quick to dispense with 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, and make his gracious light shine through smoky, smouldering wicks!
This is how we know that God, in Jesus Christ, truly is the Redeemer of the bruised and the burnt out and the lost.
And that he desires to works through us!