Jun 082015

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.

Isaiah 42:3 (ESV)

One of the great encouraging words from the prophet Isaiah comes in chapter 42. The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Spirit, presents Christ to us as the servant who will not break a bruised reed and will not quench a faintly burning wick. In Matthew’s account of the Gospel, he takes us back to this text to describe the ministry of our Savior in 12:18-21. The servant, chosen by God, is Jesus. The great love of God for His people is seen in the fact that He called His Son to save and serve the elect and the Son executes the offices of their Prophet, Priest and King.

Are you a bruised reed or a faintly burning wick today? Are you weak and tired? Do you feel like you are barely hanging on? Do you ever wonder how you will make it through another day and do you have difficulty believing that ‘God loves me like this?’ Does it seem that God has forgotten or that He doesn’t care?

The invitation of our Servant was spoken (as a prophet the greater Moses speaks) tenderly in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” In Isaiah 53 we read that the Servant, our Great High Priest, is wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.

We see in this verse the condition of those He came to rescue: weak reeds and faintly burning wicks. He came to rescue those who were not impressive in the eyes of the world. He came to rescue the broken and needy, the desperate and despised.

The Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote a masterpiece of a book entitled The Bruised Reed. The Puritans were so wise in giving care to one another’s souls. In his book he asks, “Who are the bruised reeds?”, to which he answers, they are those not only that are brought low by the burdens of life, but who by them are brought to see their sin, which bruises most of all (my paraphrase).

Yes, we go through God’s bruising, and in them our sin rises to the surface. That hurts! So it is this text above that encourages me. The bruised reed he will not break and the faintly burning wick he will not blow out. Listen to Sibbes here: “For our encouragement to a thorough work of bruising, and patience under God’s bruising of us, let us all know that none are fitted for comfort than those that think themselves furthest off.” Christ’s sheep are weak sheep. But He seeks them, calls them, is tender to them, feeds them, loves them, and heals their broken hearts. He is very familiar with souls bruised by sin and gently restores them. Look at Peter’s failures. He denied Christ three times and yet three times Christ said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Peter forsook Christ at the cross and Christ said following his resurrection, “Go your way, tell his disciples, and Peter.” Our Savior is so patient and kind and gentle. Let us praise God for the faithful ministry of his chosen Servant in the lives of his sheep.

Broken, yet healed in Christ,

Pastor Bill

Jul 062012

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:11-12 (ESV)

Three weeks have gone by since my last post on this subject, and I am sure that many who will read this have had some circumstances in their lives made straight (and some made crooked) by the hand of God. It is my great prayer that the crooked lots in our lives would not break us, but that we would mature through them. As Michael, our minister of music, prayed recently: God has not designed the crooked lots to destroy us, but rather that we would hope and trust in Him. His grace is sufficient for each day and we can rest assured that God is working his plans for us. I pray that God would wean us from the world and that we would think biblically regarding the crooked lots in our lives.

Who can make straight what God has made crooked? (Ecc. 7:13) When one crooked lot gets straightened, be warned that another will be made in its place! In the Old Testament, Rachel’s crook was barrenness. God closed her womb for His redemptive purposes, yet this was a shameful crook for her to endure. Every day she was reminded of her crook. Her husband, Jacob, was producing offspring by others, and God granted her none. Her lot was finally straightened when she gave birth to Joseph. But when she was found to be pregnant for the second time, her crook was straightened until she found herself in hard labor, gave birth and named her son Ben-oni (the son of my sorrow), then departed from this life.

Let’s look at three things that Thomas Boston describes as the nature of that which is crooked.

First of all, the crooked lot is disagreeable to our nature. Crooked lots give no explanation of their presence and, to put it simply, we just don’t like them, particularly those of a more intense degree. But we must remember this: There is not, in anybody’s lot, any such thing as a crook in respect of the will and purposes of God. Boston writes, “Take the most harsh and dismal dispensation in one’s lot and lay it to the eternal decree, made in the depth of infinite wisdom before the world began, and it will answer it exactly, without the least deviation, “all things being worked after the counsel of his will.” The greatest crook of the lot on earth is straight in heaven. There is no disagreeableness to it there. Our natural inclination does not see the crook that way. This is where the fight of faith is. We must walk by faith and not by sight. We must quiet ourselves in the will and purposes of God and not insist that things should go according to the way we think it should go.

Secondly, crooked things are unpleasant to the eye and no crook in the lot seems to be joyous, but grievous, making an unsightly appearance. How often do we dwell upon that which is unsightly? It seems as if our minds keep the unsightly crook in view. I mentioned that Rachel named her son Ben-oni, which means “son of my sorrow.” Jacob, however, would not keep the crooked lot in view and so named his son Benjamin, which means, “son of my right hand.” Jacob did not want to be reminded of the crook in his lot every time he spoke the name of his son. Faith will discover a hidden sightliness in the crooks in our lot. We will see beyond the circumstance to our covenant-keeping God who is working His plans for us.

Thirdly, crooked things do not move easily. A case in point is the crook that came in my lot last week. My son pulled the tractor in the garage so that I could fix one thing. I fixed the problem, then I tried to back the tractor out of the garage and the steering mechanism broke! Now the tractor really could not move easily. Crooks in the lot make it more difficult to walk as a Christian, “walking” being a metaphor for living as a believer. Crooks in the lot give easy access for temptation to overtake a believer. They are like fish hooks that Satan will diligently use for his advantage. They can grab a hold of us and drag us to where we really do not want to go. The tempter can entangle the tempted as in a thicket, out of which he does not know how to escape. We can be tempted to doubt God’s love, power, goodness, and wisdom. We may be tempted to say, “Following Christ is just not worth it.” We might be tempted to self-pity. But let us not be too hard on those that are going through severe crooks. Let us have compassion on them and encourage them not to fall into Satan’s traps. Let us pray for them and seek ways to bring relief if possible. We are exhorted to “encourage one another daily as long as it is called ‘Today’.” (Hebrews 3:13)

“The Lord is the strength of His people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever” (Psalm 28:8-9). He is carrying us in His loving and strong arms and He will never let us go no matter how straight or crooked the lot!