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“A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench.” 

Isa. 42:3

This is a very good text.

Yes, yes, I know that all texts in God’s Word are good.

Don’t you see that there is a difference?

This is a classical text.

For instance, it is a very good text to whisper in the ear of a dying saint.

It is also a good text to whisper into the eat of the publican while he stands there, afar off, in the temple, beating his breast and not daring to left up his head unto heaven. Go ahead, whisper this text in his ear, and he will smile.

Whisper this text into the ear of the dying malefactor on the cross!

It will make his dying easier. 

Oh yes, it is a very good text. 

It will be my text today for my last meditation.

Therefore I wrote the word VALE! above. It means Farewell! Adieu! Goodbye!


A bruised reed.

Well, a reed, at best, is not much.

What shall we say then of a bruised reed?

You realize, of course, that we have a figure here. The reed stands for those whose inner and outer life is hanging by a thread. A bruised reed is a man or woman with a crushed spirit and a troubled heart.

And why?

The answer is easy. It really is a twofold answer. They are bruised reeds because of a lively consciousness of God and of sin.

Such consciousness reduces you to an extremity.

It makes me think of another text: “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” I Peter 4:18.

Come upon a bruised reed, and what is your first impulse? To step on it; to take it and throw it away; or, to ignore it entirely: it’s not worth looking at or considering.

A bruised reed is so absolutely worthless!


It is not much better with the second figure of my good text: “and the smoking flax shall He not quench.”

What is a smoking flax?

The Dutch has “vlaswiek,” that is, a wick of a candle, made of flax.

And that wick is still smoking, it has not yet gone out; but it also has arrived at its last extremity. The figures are alike: they both mean the same thing.

No, it has not gone out, it is still smoking, and you remember the proverb: where there is smoke, there is fire.

But you are about to give up with your smoking flax-wick. What can you expect?

And the meaning is clear.

That smoking flax-wick is the saint who came in contact with God who showed him his sin.

And that is also the way this saint looked at himself and evaluated himself. 

There are examples galore in the Bible to illustrate this truth.

There is David, and what more shall I say of him? Read his psalms, and you have enough witness. What does David think of David? F.i., read Psalm 51.

There is Habakkuk who was confronted with Jehovah, and what was the result? Listen to him: “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself . . .”

There is Job: “Behold, I am vile . . .”; “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” 

There is Paul: “O wretched man that I am!” 

Or, let us see the evaluation of God’s Holy Spirit with regard to the totality of God’s people: 

There is Zepheniah: “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people . . .” 

There is Isaiah: “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel . . .” Or, “From the soul of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.” Or, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” 

You might also take the time and read Paul’s evaluation of ourselves, as it is given in Romans 3:9-18. It’s a foul list. But it fits. 

Yes, examined carefully, we are like a bruised reed and like a smoking flax.


Oh, it is a good text all right. 

Excellent text to close my scribblings. 

And the strange part of it is that I did not choose this text myself. 

A little while ago a lady asked me to write on this text, and I consented. 

If you would have asked Isaiah who it is that would not break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax, he would have told you that it was the suffering Servant of Jehovah. And if you would have asked Matthew, where this same text is quoted, he would make answer and say: That is Jesus Christ, our Lord.

And, indeed, that is true. 

Reading the inspired description of this Servant, it strikes you how strange an Evangelist He proves to be. Not at all like our Evangelists of today. 

But God upholds Him, calls Him His Elect, has delight in Him, and put His Holy Spirit upon Him. 

A strange Evangelist: he does not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street: our Stranger of Galilee! 

This suffering Servant of Jehovah is a very tender Saviour. 

He reveals a tenderness that is entirely foreign to this sorry earth. 

No, He will not break the bruised reed. 

What then? 

He will do the very opposite: He will strengthen this bruised reed; lift it up; renew its strength; and cause it to stand upright. 

Do you desire a beautiful example? Or two? 

Come with me to that old rugged cross. If you want a striking example of a bruised reed, you will find it at the right of Jesus’ cross. There hangs the malefactor. Both the Church and the world deemed him worthy of death and hell. You will find no objectors. 

No, we know not what he has done. But listen to him: “And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds . . .” 

I ask you all, dear, beloved readers, is he not a bruised reed? 

Another question: Did you ever say to yourself, nay, to this malefactor: “Move over, let me hang alongside of you! I am in the same condemnation!?” 

Another question: Did you ever consider that right now, at this very moment you belong in hell? Bruised reed, indeed! 

Earlier we wrote about this, and said: “They are bruised reeds because of a lively consciousness of God and of sin.” 

Yes, that’s the story. If you see God with the eye of the heart, you see your damn-worthiness. And that’s the whole story. 

And you and I, and all the Church of Jesus Christ are likened unto a smoking flax-wick. Yes, there is still fire in that wick, for they are regenerated. The precious seed is in them. And it still smokes. 

You can tell by our earlier example, the malefactor. 

He condemns himself and the other on the left side. And he addresses himself to Jesus: “Lord, remember me! Yes, the flax-wick was still smoldering. 

Lord, remember me! 

There was a time when I thought that this poor man was asking very little. But not anymore. 

It is the sweetest prayer you can ever pity. O God, remember me! O God, my Maker, think on me! 

In the midst of my rottenness, my sins, my guilt, my corruption, my death, my curse, my condemnation, O my God! think on me! 

Think on me, Jesus, when Thou arrivest into Thy Kingdom, when the angels usher YOU to the throne of God, and when YOU reside in His bosom. Then think on me in gena, om Uw goedheid eer te geven! 

O, let me translate it for you: Then think on me in Thy grace, in order to give honor to Thy goodness! 

The malefactor prayed for everything. 

When Jesus thinks on you in the bosom of God, it is well with you. 

Jesus said it: “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise!”


No, this Servant of Jehovah will not break you, although, you deserve it. 

No, he will not quiche you, although you admit that it would be strictest justice.

But He will strengthen you, renew your strength.

He will lift you, poor broken spirit, and set your feet on the Rock.

No, He will not quench your spirit, and blow out the light that is in you, but, on the contrary, He will cause His light to burn in you.

And the end will be glory.

The malefactor admittedly deserved hell and damnation.

But he is now waiting for you and me in heaven. All this time since anno 34 (what nonsense I speak, for there is no time in eternity); all this time he has been singing and making music on the harp of God. And he is waiting for all of us. 

If you see a saint dying, then whisper in his ear: Jesus will not break the bruised reed, my brother; He will not quench the flax-wick, my sister.

And now: VALE!

—G.V.