Chapter One is entitled, "The Reed and the Bruising" and Sibbes set out to give the reader his subject directly from Isaiah 42.1–3:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench. This is Christ's calling laid upon Him by the Father. This is His servant's work on our behalf. As Christ does this great work, God the Father is tremendously pleased.
This calling that the Father commissioned and the Spirit sanctifies is carried out by Christ as He calls out to us, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11.28, ESV). Christ came for "bruised reeds and faintly burning wicks" – the weak, the sin-weary, the poor in spirit (Matthew 5.3), both those prior to their conversion and to those of us who are in Christ and find ourselves burdened heavily in life.
What is this bruising? What does it mean to be a faintly burning wick? It's nothing short of seeing our sin and finding ourselves in this miserable state "…separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, without God in this world" (Ephesians 2.12, ESV). It is to see our great need and to come running to Christ and His ministry of healing us, making us whole once again.
While it might appear to us who love to live in such squalid comfort (yes, I meant to say squalid comfort, for the comfort of this world is filthy, mucky and foul) that this kind of misery is to be avoided at all costs, this type of bruising has many good effects. It is necessary to all who will be saved. It assists one in seeing that the gospel is indeed good news. After one's conversion, it helps us maintain humility. It also contributes to our identifying with Christ, who was bruised for us (Isaiah 53.5, KJV).
This is first-rate pastoral work by Sibbes. It's also vitally necessary today. As I mentioned, we don't like to be in pain. Don't agree? Just walk down the "Pain Relief" aisle at your local supermarket. We're not different when it comes to emotional or spiritual anguish; we don't like it, we don't want it. You'd think that with this great dislike of such suffering, we'd jump at the opportunity to be rid of it. However, we don't; because it seems like pain to our sin-saturated hearts to acknowledge that we can't fix ourselves, that Someone else must do it.
Thanks, Tim, for this recommendation. This will be a feast for my soul, and for, I pray, for everyone else who participates or reads these posts.
Christ, Christian living, God, God's love, Gospel, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Savior, Challies.com, Tim Challies, Westminster Bookstore, wtsbooks.com, The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes, Reading the Classics Together