Richard Sibbes writes that the bruised reed is the person who is sensitive to sin and misery even to the point of seeing no help in themselves. This leads them to bruising but sparks hope in Christ. “This spark of hope being oppressed by doubtings and fears rising from corruptions makes him smoking flax; so that both these together, a bruised reed and smoking flax, make up the state of a poor distressed man” (4).
Sibbes argues that our post-conversion need for bruising illustrates that we are but reeds and not strong oaks.
- We must go boldly to the throne of grace to find help (Hebrews 4.16).
- Christ’s way is to first bruise and then heal.
- Christ is more mercifully inclined to the weakest of His children.
Who are the bruised reeds?
- Bruised reeds see their sin. All former sins and present crosses in life join together to make our bruises more painful.
- Bruised reeds see their sin as the greatest evil and God’s favor as the greatest good.
- Bruised reeds would rather hear of mercy than of a kingdom.
- Bruised reeds see themselves as not worth the dirt they walk on.
- Bruised reeds are filled with compassion and sympathy when it comes to others.
- Bruised reeds think that others who walk in the comforts of God’s Spirit are among the happiest people in the world.
- Bruised reeds tremble at God’s Word.
- Bruised reeds are more interested in the inward exercises of a broken heart than with religious formality.
The bruised reeds is self-aware in the best way possible. “Conviction will breed contrition, and this leads to humiliation” (12). Sin is made odious and Christ is above all. “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us” (13).
What is the smoking flax?
It is grace mingled with corruption. “Grace does not do away with corruption all at once, but some is left for believers to fight with …Broken hearts can yield but broken prayers” (18). Sibbes writes of the mingling of light and smoke in our lives and offers some good Scriptural examples. The light of belief mingled with the smoke of unbelief (Mark 9.24). The smoke of being cast out of God’s presence mingled with the light of hope in looking again toward His holy temple (Jonah 2.4). The smoke of self-awareness when it comes to our wretched state mingled with thanksgiving for Christ’s victory (Romans 7.24).