We need mercy

Richard Sibbes was a 16th Century Anglican minister. Although a Puritan he was considered a conformist because he remained a Church of England minister and used the Common Book of Prayer. His writings have been the source of great encouragement to many and so three of us are currently reading one of his best-known works, “The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax” and I thought I’d just share a few thoughts from that …

The text he uses comes 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. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

The New Testament ascribes this to Jesus:

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.

Matthew 12:20

So Sibbes writes that this is Christ’s office.

Jesus is a servant doing a service.

Christ was God’s servant in the greatest piece of service that ever was, a chosen and a choice servant who did and suffered all by commission from the Father.

God’s greatest work is one of service and it’s on this basis that the rest of what Sibbes has to say flows – that Christ came under the authority of the Father to seek and save the lost. He came for bruised reeds and the smoking flax. He came for the broken and the weary. He came for the guilty and ashamed. He came for the weak and the humble. He came to those with no hope and no credential. Sibbes observes that all that follows – the nature of love itself – is to show compassion, care, mercy, and grace to all that He meets.

Just how marvelous that is to know that God’s greatest piece of service – of giving away – of humility – was to employ the method of servitude to save us!

Jesus deals with the Bruised Reed.

For all of us, reading this book together, we found this chapter to be the most profound. Here’s a quote (from the Today’s English version):

“Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, will not destroy their nature, but will raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will pierce and cut but not mutilate. A mother who has a sick and self-willed child will not cast it away for this reason. And shall there be more mercy in the stream than there is in the spring? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves than in God, who plants the feeling of mercy in us?

My thought on this was simple yet deep – “how much do I need the Spring to fill me with an ocean of mercy!”

Reading this my heart was moved to worship because all that I see that is good in the world is but a drop of water in the vast ocean that is Christ’s mercy. Whilst we might delight in all the good things that we delight in – these are but streams. They are not the source, they are not the spring. Jesus is that spring and our of Him flows rivers of living water. Why do we spend so much time (relatively) enjoying the stream when we could be enjoying the Spring?

Sibbes was called the “Sweet Dropper” by virtue of his encouraging sermons as in just a few chapters I have certainly been encouraged to trust Christ in my sufferings and to see them as his means to draw me closer to him. So be encouraged today, Jesus doesn’t break us off when we are bruised, or put us out when we are a smoking candle. There is hope here. He is a compassionate and able Servant who wants to draw us closer to Himself and allows the hardships of this life to do that. Don’t ignore the sufferings – they are God calling us “have I got your attention yet?”

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