Meditations On The Messiah - Messiah Gives Broken Reeds New Tune

by Ray Hawkins


The prophet Isaiah loves to use contrasts to convey his message. The child who will have such glorious titles (9:6,7) comes from a dismembered family (11:1). The person who comes with the glorious message is the one equated with the Passover Lamb (53:1-12).

In another contrast we gain an insight into the nature of the Messiah. This time the contrast is between a ruthless conqueror (41:2,3) who seeks to establish his sway by the sword, and one who seeks the rulership through service and truth (42:1-4). This latter will move amongst the "bruised reeds" and not break them; breathe on the "dying wick" and not extinguish it.

It has been mentioned before, but it is worth reminding ourselves again, that the One who comes is termed the Servant. In the Hebrew Scriptures this is a term of honour. Gentiles may use the term in scorn; God's Word invests it with dignity, for it is the title of some of the great men of the Bible. In Isaiah it is applied to three men.

Firstly, we read of King David: "For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake" (37:35). This man from the sheepfold became the Servant invested with the sword and song. Far from perfect, yet with a heart that yearned for God, this great king rises above his failures by the grace of God.

Secondly, regarding the nation of Israel: "But thou Israel art my servant, whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend" (41:8). Was ever a nation so favoured? The past glories of their work with and for the Eternal are recorded for all to read and heed for wisdom. The future is promised to them, which many in the Gentile realm resent. And unfortunately the present time is one of "sack-cloth and ashes" as the servant seems to be forgotten. There are many reasons for this, but one that springs from the pages of Scripture is that the servant was seduced from his quarters.

Then thirdly, there is one called My Servant: "Behold My servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth. I have put My spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles" (42:1). "Next to Jehovah Himself, the Servant of Jehovah is by far the most important personage within the prophet's gaze. He is named, described, commissioned and encouraged over and over again." (G. Adam Smith)

This Servant is given a most challenging commission. In other Scriptures we read about this Servant's mission to His brethren, but here it is to the very ones who have been scourges to Israel -- the Goyim (Gentiles). They will feel the tread of the Messiah -- it will be one of gentleness, bringing judgement, not with oppression, but a just order based on righteousness.

How different from His commission described in Psalm two! Here He is seen as a conquering hero wreaking vengeance on those who have defied and defiled His Name. Isaiah does not ignore this concept, which he expresses elsewhere, but here he reveals the Messiah's overtures of mercy. But if spurned, then mercy gives way to wrath.

The one pictured in this prophecy is spoken of as being of royal lineage and stature. It is also a characteristically royal responsibility to establish justice in His domain. Isaiah quotes the Eternal Lord as one who promises success: "The entire expression 'My Servant, whom I uphold' is tantamount to saying, 'He is mine -- no power can overcome Him'." (F.D. Lindsey) This empowering promise would be relied upon time after time as opposition, fear, apathy and vested interests seek to make His mission a failure.

We are given a tantalizing glimpse into His ministry: "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street" (42:2). "My Servant" is no rabble-rouser, no street anarchist intent on overthrow and chaos. He is not building His reign on the ashes and blood of followers and foes. If our media were present when the Messiah came to set in motion His plan for justice, He would rate hardly a mention. He would not satisfy the sensation seekers who feed their egos on editors' ink and television flashbulbs.

The word Isaiah uses for 'cry' has the overtone of self-seeking; in other cases it can refer to the barking of a dog or the croaking of a raven. It is also applied to a riotous assembly – the type of carrying-on that draws media coverage. But this was not the style of the Servant. The Jewish Scripture writer, Levi, applied this portion of Isaiah to Yeshua ben Joseph: " ... the heavens were opened and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him: and lo a voice from Heaven saying, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well plased'" (Matthew 3:16,17).

Next we are introduced to "My Servant's" gentleness: "A bruised reed shall be not break, and the smoking flax shall be not quench: he shall bring forth judgement unto truth."

Reeds -- commonplace, taken for granted, used, discarded, and if bruised, worthless. What a graphic picture of the mass of humanity! To this mass of hurting, confused and exploited humanity, the Messiah seeks to minister. Cedars may rest content in their own glory, power and independence; cedars need not the grace of comfort of the Almighty -- they are self-sufficient. They stand and fall alone, all the while perhaps rotting out from within.

But the Messiah gives the bruised reeds a new start, a rebirth from within. The bruises are removed, and wholeness comes as they respond to His touch. Reeds were used, and still are, for making music, so when the broken mass of humanity respond to the touch of the Messiah it is as though He gives them a new tune to play, a new song to sing.

The other picture presented is that of smoking flax, a wick that is flickering into extinction. A false move, a hasty touch, and the little glow would be extinguished. What a graphic insight into those exploited, disinherited, spurned people who live without hope and die without meaning! They are 'burnt up' by life with nothing to face but encroaching darkness.

Isaiah offers to these people a breath of hope. There is One to whom they can look to find dignity and delight once more. He it is who offers to 'blow' into their life and rekindle godly pride and passion. He it is who will bring them out of death into life.

If "My Servant" were to come to people in critical circumstances one would expect that they would respond with speed, but we find this is usually not the case. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till He have set judgement in the earth: and the isles shall wait for His law" (42:4).

The crushed and abused are naturally suspicious of the One who comes into their world with such humility and yet such power. This is why He must be patient and be open to their gaze and enquiry. His love can wait because it takes time to breed trust. This is another reason why He needs the upholding power of the promise of the Eternal: "Behold My servant, whom I uphold ..." (42:1).

This Isaiah Scripture speaks out for all to hear the glory of the Messiah Servant and the judgement He seeks to institute. His purposes are sure, even though He treads softly. We need to pause in our activity, or our anger, or even our apathy -- those things that create noise in our soul -- to listen. We need to ask ourselves: "Is My Servant treading softly in my life?"