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Isaiah 42:1-4


Intro: Ill. Messianic Prophecy. Looks forward to the coming of the Messiah. Both advents in view. Messiah is God’s chosen vessel, selected and anointed to accomplish God’s work among His people. The Messiah will not exert His authority like an earthly ruler. He will not need to proclaim His power like other men. He will faithfully and humbly do His work.

        When Jesus comes, His faithful people will be weak and their flame nearly extinguished. He will not break them down or snuff them out. He will heal their weaknesses. He will bind them up and restore their usefulness. He will rekindle their flame so their light shines bright again. The Messiah will not fail in His mission to redeem and restore His people.

        There is a word here for us today. There are times when we become weak and unusable to the Lord. There are times when our light grows dim and the flame of our faith is nearly extinguished. When those times come, the saints have a Friend in Jesus. Our Savior is a Tender Lord and I would like to talk about that aspect of Christ’s character today. Allow me to share the realities I see in this text, as I preach on the subject of Our Tender Lord.



·         Isaiah writes about two different plants in these verses. He mentioned the reed and the flax. Let’s consider both of these for a moment.

·         Reeds are very common in the Middle East. There are several varieties that grow there. The kind most often referred to in the Bible can grow to a height of 12 feet. When they are freshly cut, they are flexible and strong. When they are dried, they are stiff and strong. They are used for a variety things including:

Ψ  A measuring device 6 cubits (9 Feet) long called a “reed”, Eze. 40:3-8; 42:1-6; 45:1; Rev. 11:1; 21:15-16.

Ψ  Walking sticks – Eze. 29:7.

Ψ  Musical Instruments such as flutes.

Ψ  Pens, 3 John 13.

Ψ  Baskets and other woven vessels, Ex. 2:3.

Ψ  Spears because of their jagged edges, 2 Kings 18:21.

Ψ  Fishermen sometimes used spears to catch fish.

Ψ  Other products like shoes, mattresses, sails, ropes and paper were made from reeds.

Ψ  Sometimes reeds were crushed for their fragrance.

Ψ  A reed was mockingly given to Jesus as symbol of royalty, Matt. 27:29.

Ψ  The same reed was taken from Him and He was beaten with it, Matt. 27:30; Mk 15:19.

Ψ  When Jesus was one the cross, a reed was used to lift vinegar to Him, Matt. 27:48; John 19:29.

Ψ  Reeds were topped by a large blossom that caused the tender plant to wave back and forth in the wind. At times, the reed would be bent almost double under the weight of the flower. It is a sign of weakness, 1 Kings 14:15; Matt. 11:7.

·         Reeds are a picture of the people of the Lord. When we are functioning as we should be, we are useful to Him in His Kingdom work. After all, that is what He saved us to do.

Ψ  Eph. 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Ψ  2 Cor. 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:”

Ψ  1 Cor. 12:7, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”

·         Flax is a delicate plant that has been grown and harvested since ancient times. It is gathered and dried and turned into thread from which linen cloth can be woven. The ancient Egyptians cultivated flax for linen, Ex. 9:31. Ancient Canaanites grew it. Rahab had flax drying on the roof of her house, Jos. 2:6.

·         Flax plants were gathered, soaked in water to separate the fibers and left in the sun to dry. The fibers were spun into thread and linen cloth. According to the Bible, linen was used to make the priest’s clothing, Ex. 25:4; shrouds for the dead, Matt. 27:59; as well as for ordinary garments, sails, ropes, nets and twine.

·         Our text verse reminds us that flax threads were used as wicks in oil lamps. A piece of thread would be placed in the oil. After the thread had been thoroughly soaked with the oil, it would be lit and would serve as a wick, drawing the oil from the lamp, producing light.

·         Flax is also a picture of the people of God. When we are functioning as we should, we are like a fine linen garment. That is, we are a picture of the righteousness of Jesus in this lost world.

Ψ  2 Cor. 2:14-16, “14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.  15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:  16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?”

Ψ  2 Cor. 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

        When we are functioning as we should, we will be a light to this world, showing them the way of God and the way to God.

Ψ  Matt. 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Ψ  Eph. 5:8, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:”

Ψ  Phil. 2:15, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;”



·         We are told that the “reed” is “bruised” and the “flax” is “smoking”. These two plants have problems that need to be examined.

Ψ  The “reed” is “bruised”. The word “bruised” means “to be broken; to be crushed; to be crushed to pieces.” This is a picture of weakness. A bruised reed cannot be used for any of the purposes I mentioned earlier. It has lost its effectiveness. A bruised reed cannot even be crushed for its fragrance, for a bruised reed is rotten and gives off a foul stench. The “bruised reed” has lost its strength, its stability and its soundness. A “bruised reed” is unreliable and unusable.

Ψ  The “flax” is “smoking”. The word “smoking” means “dim, dull or faint.” This is a picture of a wick that has dried out. There is no oil and the flame is nearly extinguished. There is little or no light and thus there is no usefulness. The “smoking flax” has lost its light and its glory. A “smoking flax” has become unusable.

·         Both of these injured things are pictures of the believer who is no longer where he or she should be with the Lord. Like the reed and the flax the wayward saint has ceased to be usable to the Lord. They have lost their strength, their stability, their soundness as well as their light and glory.

        A “bruised reed” believer is not usable to the Lord. Everything about his life will be lacking. His music won’t be right; he will have no power; he can’t be a weapon in the hand of the Lord; and his fragrance will no longer be the scent of Heaven, but it will be the stench of sin.

        A “smoking flax” believer is not usable either. When we are out of God’s will our light will be very dim. We may throw off a lot of smoke, but that will be the energy of the flesh. Smoke does not equal light.

·         When we are like either the “Bruised reed” or the “Smoking flax” we have ceased to function as the Lord intended. We are not where we need to be.

·         There are times when we all become a “bruised reed” and a “smoking flax”. There are times when we get out of our place and wander from the will of the Lord for our lives. When we do, we cease to be usable to Him. When we do, we cannot give His light to a lost world.

·         How do we get in that shape? There are many answers to that question. Things like Sin, Sorrows, Struggles, Satan, and just the Sameness of life can all result in our becoming less than the Lord saved us to be. That is the problem we encounter in this text and in life.



·         There is a problem in the text, but we see Our Tender Lord at work here. Look at His response to the “bruised reed” and the “smoking flax”.

        He does not “break” the “bruised reed”. The word “break” means “to break down; to break into pieces; to rend violently”. The Lord sees the weakness and the uselessness of the “bruised reed” but He does not reach out in anger to finish it off. He does not come to the “bruised reed” to destroy it, but to mend it, to repair it, reinforce it and to restore it.

        He does not “quench” the “smoking flax”. The word “quench” means “to put out or to extinguish.” The Lord does not snuff out that smoldering wick. He does not finish it off without a care. Instead, He comes to rekindle its weak flame. He comes to make it useful again. He comes cause it to shine its light one more time.

·         Our Lord is still a Tender Lord! Our text says in verse 3, “he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.” That phrase means that our Tender Lord will do the right thing by those who have been bruised and almost extinguished by life. This truth can be seen throughout the ministry of the Lord.

Ψ  He had compassion on a “bruised reed” named Matthew, Matt. 9:9 and another named Zacchaeus, Luke 19, who were tax collectors for Rome.

        He had compassion on a “bruised reed” with a withered hand on a Sabbath day, Mark 3:1-6.

        He had compassion on a “bruised reed” who was hanging beside Him on a cross at Calvary, Luke 23:39-43.

        There are countless others that could be mentioned today. (Ill. Name some!)

        It is not true that He has had compassion on many “bruised reeds” in this building? Have there not been times when Our Tender Lord passed by when you were useless and weak? Have there not been times when it would have been easy for Him to simply break you in two and be finished with you?

        Instead, hasn’t He always been faithful and ready to restore you, to reinforce you, to repair you, to mend you and make you useable once again!

Ψ  The Lord had compassion on a “smoking flax” named Peter, Matt. 26:69-75.

        The Lord had compassion on a “smoking flax” named Jonah and used him to bring revival to a large city, Jonah 1-4.

        Hasn’t He done the same for us many times? How many times have you and I seen our light nearly extinguished? How many times have we been all smoke and no light? How many times have our faith and our witness grown dim along life’s way.

        It would have been easy for the Lord to quench our feeble flame and simply snuff us out, but He is always willing to forgive us, restore us and rekindle us when we call on Him confessing our sins, 1 John 1:9.

·         How is Our Tender Lord able to do this for us? He can do it because He has been a “bruised reed”. He can do it because He has been a “smoking flax”. Oh, He has never had a sin problem, but He did die for our sin problem.

        When Jesus went to the cross, He was literally “crushed” under foot by His father. He was “bruised” in our place and He was completely broken that we might be saved, Isa. 53:4-6; 10. When Jesus died on the cross, He became “sin for us”, 2 Cor. 5:21. When He was on the cross, He died in our place. When Jesus died, Satan was sure the light of the Lord had been snuffed out forever. Jesus became a “bruised reed” and a “smoking flax” on the cross. Three days later, rose from the dead and He ever lives to help His people through the times when our faith and our light grows dim, Heb. 7:25.



·         The Messiah will accomplish His mission, He will not fail, but He will establish His kingdom in the earth. The picture is of a powerful, persistent Lord Who will complete everything He sets out to do.

        The word “fail” means “to grow weak, to grow dim, to falter.” The word “discouraged” means “to be crushed”. These words “fail” and “discouraged” translate the same words as “smoking” and “bruised”.

        Do you see it? We are often like a “bruised reed” and “smoking flax”. He became a “bruised reed” and a “smoking flax” for us. But, He will never again be a “bruised reed” or a “smoking flax.”

        Our Tender Lord is superior to everything that would crush Him, stop Him or cause Him to fail. Our Tender Lord is all-powerful and He is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” He is the Victor over all these things and He gives His victory to His people, Rom. 8:37; 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 2:14.

        We need not fear the trials, sorrows, sins, enemies and troubles of this life. None of them will ever be able to break us completely or utterly quench our light. Our Tender Lord is able to sustain us, to support us and to see us through!

·         God did not save your soul to allow you to be completely broken or to have your light snuffed out along the way. He saved you to do a work of grace in your life that would endure through eternity. He saved with the assurance that He would complete His work in you.

Ψ  Phil. 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”

Ψ  2 Timothy 1:12,  “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”


Conc: God sent this word to someone in this building today. There are people here and you are like that “bruised reed”. You are weak, nearly broken, and unusable in your present condition. Come to Our Tender Lord right now and let Him reinforce, restore, and repair you. If you are not where you need to be with God, come home. Do it today!

        Others are like that “smoking flax”. Your light has grown dim. Oh, you are still serving the Lord, but its all smoke and no light. The Spirit of God is not in control of you or your life. Come to Our Tender Lord today. He will trim the wick, put fresh oil in the lamp and rekindle the flame once more. He will cause your light to shine brighter than ever. If you are not where you need to be with God, come home. Do it today!

        Others here may have never been saved. You have never asked Jesus to come into your heart and life. You need to do that today! He is calling you to come. Come to Our Tender Lord and watch Him mend your broken life and bring you out of the darkness of sin and into the light of the Lord Jesus Christ.

        Then, there are many who have been just like that “bruised reed” and that “smoking flax”. You have been in a place where the usefulness was gone and the light was dim. In your condition, Our Tender Lord passed by and gave you strength, stability and soundness. He trimmed your wick, replenished your oil and allowed you to burn brightly for Him once again. You need to come thank Him for that.

        Jesus is Our Tender Lord. If you need Him, He will receive you. Come to Him and He calls you just now.

 The Fundamental Top 500    


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