Isaiah 42:1-4 (MEV): Here is My servant, whom I uphold,
My chosen one, in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon him;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.
He shall not cry out, nor lift up his voice,
nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break,
and the smoking flax he shall not quench;
he shall bring forth justice faithfully.
He shall not be disheartened nor be discouraged,
until he has set justice in the earth;
and the coastlands shall wait for his law.
I had a conversation in which a portion of this passage was cited for some off-the-wall explanation. It was a friend of mine whose words helped to explain a portion of this.
“A bruised reed he shall not break,”
The idea explained here is that Jesus would not break those who are already beaten and trodden down. It characterizes Jesus in a way that is easily recognizable for the pattern that Isaiah has established.
Reeds were often collected to be used as kindling for starting fires. Fire was a necessity for heat and cooking. We don’t think that way because of modern conveniences. When collecting the reeds, it was preferred to not take a green reed. It was easier to break off one already bent. These were collected and dried to use in fires. The idea is that these bruised reeds were removed from their source of life and fruitfulness. The is the same way that the Servant would regard people.
Jesus wouldn’t break these. Moreover, He wasn’t the cause of these reeds being bent. The reeds would have been bent by wind, people or other animals who went amongst them to the water they grew in. It was a part of life. As my friend said:
“Jesus, who is God in the flesh, did not regard people as just kindling for the fire.” Wayne E. Parsons
He didn’t cause the reed to be bent nor would He purposely cause people to be completely severed from the source of Life. This idea is no more epitomized than with Jesus’ purposeful encounter with the Samaritan woman. John says it was necessary for Jesus to go through Samaria (John 4:4.) It was a purposeful encounter, even to the very place… Jacob’s well. Jesus sat there in the middle of the day.
John 4:9 (MEV) Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
There is that bruised reed. The woman was a Samaritan, someone an Israeli may have considered beneath even serving them. The Samaritans were generally considered half-breeds and not fully Jewish. Yet they are descendants of Jacob, but it is more than the well and the water.
John 4:10-13 (MEV) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, along with his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water that I shall give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.”
In this simple conversation, Jesus is pointing to Himself as the Giver of Life. Yet the Samaritan woman had not yet understood. Her eyes were focused on the well before her, and that she could see Jesus had no utensils for even drawing water from the well. Jesus must explain, that the water He gives won’t come from that well. We see that the reed before Him is twice bruised. She is a half-breed and lacks eternal life (a pathway to God.)
John 4:15 (MEV) The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Just like that, we see the next portion illustrated.
“and the smoking flax he shall not quench;”
The smoking flax is the smoldering wick of a candle. It puts out a little bit of light, but with lots of smoke. You’ve seen it, when the wax puddles up to the wick, the flame get very small and may even begin to smoke for a lack of oxygen and/or fuel. We would snuff that candle out; not Jesus. We see by the woman’s testimony that she still wanted to serve God, but her faith was weak because of the circumstances she found herself in. These weren’t caused by God, nor did she fatalistically end up there as we shall see. It was clearly her own choices that put her faith in such a precarious position of being smothered out by life.
John 4:16-18 (MEV) Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman answered, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and he whom you now have is not your husband. So you have spoken truthfully.”
I love this part. Jesus called her to a task. It led to her confessing the truth to Him. It is given to us in such a matter-of-fact way, I don’t know if there was any shame. I certainly don’t think that was Jesus’ intent. His intent was to win her!
She quickly perceived Him to have some way of knowing secret things. She was still quite unsure of things, being separated from the only way to approach God at that time. He didn’t quench that little spark of faith, she wanted to know how to seek God.
John 4:16-26 (MEV) The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you all say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. Yet the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. For the Father seeks such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
I can imagine in my minds eye the protracted silence that existed in that moment. A half-breed Samaritan woman who had perceived wrongly her own rejection by God because of her circumstance of birth. She was also a woman five times divorced, and the man she had didn’t marry her. Really who is she that the Elect One of Israel came to meet her?
The silence seems to continue as the disciples show up and are caught up in their own marvel.
John 4:27-30 (MEV) Then His disciples came. They marveled that He talked with a woman. Yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
The woman then left her water pot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” They went out of the city and came to Him.
I am still imagining, there she is thinking probably with her mouth agape. His friends show up, they too are surprised. She then takes off, leaving her stuff behind. I am laughing as I am thinking it like the old cartoon Road Runner… That fast!
That smoldering flax caught fire again!
John 4:39-42 (MEV) Many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to remain with them. And He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His word.
They said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this Man is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
We have an account of the first evangelist. She was a woman.
There is another account that I think of when reading of a bruised reed He will not break. It is that of the woman caught in adultery which is given a bit later in the book of John.
Jesus isn’t here to crush you… Really.
“he shall bring forth justice faithfully.”
But in the meantime, would you want justice for what you’ve done?
Or would you prefer compassion and mercy?