Humility, Usefulness and a Bruised Heart
Humility, Usefulness, and a Bruised Heart
“Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in which 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.” - Isaiah 42:1-3
When I was a teenager, my pastor made me a VHS copy of his favorite Twilight Zone episode entitled “The Night of the Meek” as a Christmas gift. The story was set during the Christmas season near a department store. Art Carney stars as Henry Corwin, a good natured, yet down on his luck, alcoholic, who lands his one yearly job as the store Santa Claus. With the miracle of Christmas and his job, Corwin fulfills his life wish to help all those in need. From his Santa’s bag, he is able to bestow an endless amount of gifts on all those who were in need. The closing narration to the story sums up the message: “There is special power reserved for the little people, in short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek.” How profound and how Biblical!
Although we have just passed the five month mark until Christmas, perhaps we can borrow from advertising and have a little Christmas in July (or August) to remind us of “the meaning of the season.” As we continue to study the Sermon on the Mount in Sunday School, one of the main topics covers the meaning of the word “blessed.” The word “blessed” is used almost daily to boast of personal success, wealth and prestige. Can you see how different that is from its true meaning taught on the Mount: the blessedness of being meek and humble? So what is Isaiah saying about meekness, God and us?
In this passage from Isaiah, God has promised to send his servant. Unlike earlier in Isaiah, where Israel is identified as God’s servant, this is an individual who will succeed where Israel has failed in its covenant. This impact of this servant will not be confined to Israel, but to the whole world. In dealing with others, then and now, most people in power have little trouble exerting their authority. In Isaiah’s day, a king would be a ferocious leader that forced men and women to their knees. But that is not what we read of in Isaiah. Instead we read of this king being a servant who will not abuse his people; a bruised reed that he will not break.
In life, who are the men and women that God usually uses? Most of the time, it is as Isaiah noted and as Jesus quotes in Matthew 12:20: those with bruised hearts. All of us can envision a “faintly burning wick” that Isaiah metaphorically uses, as it struggles to remain lit and to give off a little flicker of brightness, but do we know what a bruised reed is? It is a reed that has been damaged, perhaps squashed, bent over or stepped on by an earthly ruler, or someone else in authority. Presumably, once that has happened, growth and restoration would not be possible. What is it about being bruised as a human? There is usually a common symptom. It is a heart that is wounded, vulnerable and in need of mending. Paradoxically, these are the characteristics we all experience, but ones that are not regarded highly in society; we do our best to conceal our wounds.
The Bruised Reed is a dusty old book written in another era (1630). Written in a wonderful time of practical, yet deep theology by Richard Sibbes, it has all the earmarks of living a “blessed” life as a bruised reed. In recent years, this classic has made a remarkable comeback in its impact and transformational qualities on people. As its title indicates, it is based on the above quotes from Isaiah and Matthew. It has been one of the most profound spiritual books I was ever blessed to read. Why? The answer is because it is truly reformational in its approach and understanding of our relationship with God. How? True reformation does not merely address symptoms of the wrongs of people and society, a.k.a. our sins. We do not try harder to be good, not do we cover our sins or the sins of society with “cosmetics.” Instead it goes deeper into the heart where the grace of God permeates, changes and restores. From there, evil desires and the love of sin are replaced with a greater love of God. How is it possible to live blessed with our deficiencies and shortcomings?
The answer is through the love God has for us!
This leads us to a question about love: what is it? Love goes beyond the common connotations about feelings and instead defines itself by the relationship God has with the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the Trinity. From that love, we experience Christ’s love for us through his life, death and resurrection.
The final question has to do with the meek. What is in a meek character that shows honors? It has to do with the condition of the heart. A rigid, unresponsive and self-righteous heart cannot be molded by God and is ultimately of no use!
How does all of this relate to today and our everyday lives? We too can take confidence in the promise of God through Christ, in his love and compassion. As we approach a new season, with back to school, new jobs and transitions, I implore each person to open your heart to the love of God.
Let God’s love bend and conform your heart to Christ. In life, all of us will experience the ups and downs; the good and the bad. Yet in the midst of each, God is there! He so values you, that he will meet you where you are, with mercy, grace and love. Acknowledge your need of a Savior and open your hearts to his reformational powers.
Yours in Christ,