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A Smouldering Wick He Will Not Snuff Out

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. His name will be the hope of all the world. Isaiah 42:3-4 (NIV and NLT)

These are comforting words about God’s servant’s compassion and gentleness. He looks after delicate things and will not act harshly towards us. And he will not tire until the whole world hopes in him. I wonder if there is more to these verses though?

A bruised reed and a smouldering wick are indeed fragile things but for very different reasons. 

A smouldering wick is very different to a bruised reed. Isaiah is talking about the kind of flax that would be used in an oil lamp. Once lit it needs oil, air and relative calm to get going. A smouldering wick has begun a process which if continued leads to a bright flame and light for the whole house. If not properly looked after the smouldering wick can easily be snuffed out. One clumsy finger or the lack of oil or air will starve the spark of its heat and quench it. Once an oil lamp is burning it can tolerate being moved around in a breeze, but as a smouldering wick it needs protection and sometimes a little encouragement to get going.

So how can we be like a smouldering wick? Maybe we have the spark of gifts within us but we are struggling to practice or get going in those giftings. Maybe there is the spark of zeal for the Lord within us but it is being quenched by distraction, deception or disillusionment. Maybe we have the beginnings of a calling towards something but because we aren’t seeped in the Holy Spirit we don’t have the confidence or power to pursue our calling. Jesus promised to never smother or snuff out a smouldering flame. By looking after us and gently encouraging us he will nurse that spark into a bright flame. He will strengthen us when we are weak and tempted to allow our zeal to dissipate or be quenched. He will fill us to the brim and overflowing with the oil of the Holy Spirit that we need to fuel the flame. 

Why include v4 in this? In the original Hebrew, the word that is translated as ‘fail’ or ‘falter’ is translated in the previous verse as ‘smouldering’. And the word translated as ‘discouraged’ in verse 4 is translated as ‘bruised’ in verse 3. You see, Jesus has been chosen and anointed by the Holy Spirit to be the perfect servant of the Lord. He is without sin so his heart cannot be dented by conviction, no outward evil or inward weakness can make Jesus change his course. He is perfectly equipped to care for both the bruised reed and the smouldering wick. 

To Jesus no person is so bruised by the evils of this world that they are beyond repair. Sin hasn’t got its claws so deeply into a person’s heart that Jesus cannot forgive them. There is no person whose weakness is so deep rooted that Jesus cannot fan into flame the smouldering ember of goodness in them. Is this the Jesus we are making known to others by our way of life? If not why not!!

Read the first part of this reflection HERE

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