Isaiah 42:3
A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment to truth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) A bruised reed shall he not break . . .—Physical, moral, spiritual weakness are all brought under the same similitude. In another context the image has met us in Isaiah 36:6. The simple negative “he shall not break” implies, as in the rhetoric of all times, the opposite extreme, the tender care that props and supports. The humanity of the servant of the Lord was to embody what had been already predicated of the Divine will (Psalm 51:17). The dimly burning flax, the wick of a lamp nearly out, He will foster and cherish and feed the spiritual life, all but extinguished, with oil till it burns brightly again. In Matthew 25:1-13 we have to deal with lamps that are going out, and these not even He could light again unless the bearers of the lamps “bought oil” for themselves.

Judgment unto truthi.e., according to the perfect standard of truth, with something of the sense of St. John’s “true” in the sense of representing the ideal (John 1:9; John 15:1).

Isaiah

CHRIST THE ARRESTER OF INCIPIENT EVIL AND THE NOURISHER OF INCIPIENT GOOD

Isaiah 42:3 - Isaiah 42:4
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The two metaphors which we have in the former part of these words are not altogether parallel. ‘A bruised reed’ has suffered an injury which, however, is neither complete nor irreparable. ‘Smoking flax,’ on the other hand-by which, of course, is meant flax used as a wick in an old-fashioned oil lamp-is partially lit. In the one a process has been begun which, if continued, ends in destruction; in the other, a process has been begun which, if continued, ends in a bright flame. So the one metaphor may refer to the beginnings of evil which may still be averted, and the other the beginnings of incipient and incomplete good. If we keep this distinction in mind, the words of our text gain wonderfully in comprehensiveness.

Then again, it is to be noticed that in the last words of our text, which are separated from the former by a clause which we omit, we have an echo of these metaphors. The word translated ‘fail’ is the same as that rendered in the previous verse ‘smoking,’ or ‘dimly burning’; and the word ‘discouraged’ is the same as that rendered in the previous verse ‘bruised.’ So then, this ‘Servant of the Lord,’ who is not to break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax, is fitted for His work, because He Himself has no share in the evils which He would heal, and none in the weaknesses which He would strengthen. His perfect manhood knows no flaws nor bruises; His complete goodness is capable of and needs no increase. Neither outward force nor inward weakness can hinder His power to heal and bless; therefore His work can never cease till it has attained its ultimate purpose. ‘He shall not fail nor be discouraged’; shall neither be broken by outward violence, nor shall the flame of His fading energy burn faint until He hath ‘set judgment in the earth,’ and crowned His purposes with complete success.

We have, then, here set before us three significant representations of the servant of the Lord, which may well commend Him to our confidence and our love. I shall not spend any time in answering the question: Of whom speaketh the prophet this? The answer is plain for us. He speaks of the personal Servant of the Lord, and the personal Servant of the Lord is Jesus Christ our Saviour. I ask you then to come with me while I deal, as simply as may be, with these three ideas that lie before us in this great prophecy.

I. Consider then, first, the representation of the Servant of the Lord as the arrester of incipient ruin.

‘He shall not break the bruised reed.’ Here is the picture-a slender bulrush, growing by the margin of some tarn or pond; its sides crushed and dented in by some outward power, a gust of wind, a sudden blow, the foot of a passing animal. The head is hanging by a thread, but it is not yet snapped or broken off from the stem.

But, blessed be God! there emerges from the metaphor not only the solemn thought of the bruises by sin that all men bear, but the other blessed one, that there is no man so bruised as that he is broken; none so injured as that restoration is impossible, no depravity so total but that it may be healed, none so far off but that he may be brought nigh. On no man has sin fastened its venomous claws so deeply but that these may be wrenched away. In none of us has the virus so gone through our veins but that it is capable of being expelled. The reeds are all bruised, the reeds are none of them broken. And so my text comes with its great triumphant hopefulness, and gathers into one mass as capable of restoration the most abject, the most worthless, the most ignorant, the most sensuous, the most godless, the most Christ-hating of the race. Jesus looks on all the tremendous bulk of a world’s sins with the confidence that He can move that mountain and cast it into the depths of the sea.

There is a man in Paris that says he has found a cure for that horrible disease of hydrophobia, and who therefore regards the poor sufferers of whom others despair as not beyond the reach of hope. Christ looks upon a world of men smitten with madness, and in whose breasts awful poison is working, with the calm confidence that He carries in His hand an elixir, one drop of which inoculated into the veins of the furious patient will save him from death, and make him whole. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.’ ‘He will not break,’ and that means He will restore, ‘the bruised reed.’ There are no hopeless outcasts. None of you are beyond the reach of a Saviour’s love, a Saviour’s blood, a Saviour’s healing.

But then the words in my text may be taken in a somewhat narrower sense, applying more particularly to a class. In accordance with other metaphors of Scripture, we may think of ‘the bruised reed’ as expressive of the condition of men whose hearts have been crushed by the consciousness of their sins. ‘The broken and the contrite heart,’ bruised and pulverised, as it were, by a sense of evil, may be typified for us by this bruised reed. And then from the words of my text there emerges the great and blessed hope that such a heart, wholesomely removed from its self-complacent fancy of soundness, shall certainly be healed and bound up by His tender hand. Did you ever see a gardener dealing with some plant, a spray of which may have been wounded? How delicately and tenderly the big, clumsy hand busies itself about the tiny spray, and by stays and bandages brings it into an erect position, and then gives it water and loving care. Just so does Jesus Christ deal with the conscious and sensitive heart of a man who has begun to find out how bad he is, and has been driven away from all his foolish confidence. Christ comes to such an one and restores him, and just because he is crushed deals with him gently, pouring in His consolation. Wheresoever there is a touch of penitence, there is present a restoring Christ.

And the words may be looked at from yet another point of view. We may think of them as representing to us the merciful dealing of the Master with the spirits which are beaten and bruised, sore and wounded, by sorrows and calamities; to whom the Christ comes in all the tenderness of His gentleness, and lays a hand upon them-the only hand in all the universe that can touch a bleeding heart without hurting it.

Brother and sister suffering from any sorrow, and bleeding from any wound, there is a balm and a physician. There is one hand that will never be laid with blundering kindness or with harshness upon our sore hearts, but whose touch will be healing, and whose presence will be peace.

The Christ who knows our sins and sorrows will not break the bruised reed. The whole race of man may be represented in that parable that came from His own lips, as fallen among thieves that have robbed him and wounded him and left him bruised, but, blessed be God! only ‘half dead’; sorely wounded, indeed, but not so sorely but that he may be restored. And there comes One with the wine and the oil, and pours them into the wounds. ‘The bruised reed shall He not break.’

II. Now, in the next place, look at the completing thought that is here, in the second clause, which represents Christ as the fosterer of incipient and imperfect good.

‘The dimly-burning wick He shall not quench.’ A process, as I have said, is begun in the smoking flax, which only needs to be carried on to lead to a brilliant flame. That represents for us not the beginnings of a not irreparable evil, but the commencement of very dim and imperfect good. Now, then, who are represented by this ‘smoking flax’? You will not misunderstand me, nor think that I am contradicting what I have already been saying, if I claim for this second metaphor as wide a universality as the former, and say that in all men, just because the process of evil and the wounds from it are not so deep and complete as that restoration is impossible, therefore is there something in their nature which corresponds to this dim flame that needs to be fostered in order to blaze brightly abroad. There is no man out of hell but has in him something that needs but to be brought to sovereign power in his life in order to make him a light in the world. You have consciences at the least; you have convictions, you know you have, which if you followed them out would make Christians of you straight away. You have aspirations after good, desires, some of you, after purity and nobleness of living, which only need to be raised to the height and the dominance in your lives which they ought to possess, in order to revolutionise your whole course. There is a spark in every man which, fanned and cared for, will change him from darkness into light. Fanned and cared for it needs to be, and fanned and cared for it can only be by a divine power coming down upon it from without. This second metaphor of my text, as truly as the other, belongs to every soul of man upon the earth. He from whom all sparks and light have died out is not a man but a devil. And for all of us the exhortation comes: ‘Thou hast a voice within testifying to God and to duty’; listen to it and care for it.

Then again, dear brethren, in a narrower way, the words may be applied to a class. There are some of us who have in us a little spark, as we believe, of a divine life, the faint beginnings of a Christian character. We call ourselves Christ’s disciples. We are; but oh! how dimly the flax burns. They say that where there is smoke there is fire. There is a great deal more smoke than fire in the most of Christian people in this generation, and if it were not for such thoughts as this of my text about that dear Christ who will not lay a hasty hand upon some little tremulous spark, and by one rash movement extinguish it for ever, there would be but small hope for a great many of us.

Whether, then, the dimly-burning wick be taken to symbolise the lingering remains of a better nature which still abides with all sinful men, yet capable of redemption, or whether it be taken to mean the low and imperfect and inconsistent and feeble Christianity of us professing Christians, the words of my text are equally blessed and equally true. Christ will neither despise, nor so bring down His hand upon it as to extinguish, the feeblest spark. Look at His life on earth, think how He bore with those blundering, foolish, selfish disciples of His; how patient the divine Teacher was with their slow learning of His meaning and catching of His character. Remember how, when a man came to Him with a very imperfect goodness, the Evangelist tells us that Jesus, beholding him, loved him. And take out of these blessed stories this great hope, that howsoever small men ‘despise the day of small things,’ the Greatest does not; and howsoever men may say ‘Such a little spark can never be kindled into flame, the fire is out, you may as well let it alone,’ He never says that, but by patient teaching and fostering and continual care and wise treatment will nourish and nurture it until it leaps into a blaze.

How do you make ‘smoking flax’ burn? You give it oil, you give it air, and you take away the charred portions. And Christ will give you, in your feebleness, the oil of His Spirit, that you may burn brightly as one of the candlesticks in His Temple; and He will let air in, and sometimes take away the charred portions by the wise discipline of sorrow and trial, in order that the smoking flax may become a shining light. But by whatsoever means He may work, be sure of this, that He will neither despise nor neglect the feeblest inclination of good after Him, but will nourish it to perfection and to beauty.

The reason why so many Christian men’s Christian light is so fuliginous and dim is just that they keep away from Jesus Christ. ‘Abide in Me and I in you.’ ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.’ How can the Temple lamps burn bright unless the Priest of the Temple tends them? Keep near Him that His hand may nourish your smoking dimness into a pure flame, leaping heavenward and illuminating your lives.

III. And now, lastly, we have here the representation of the servant of the Lord’s exemption from human evil and weakness, as the foundation of His restoring and fostering work.

‘He shall not burn dimly nor be broken till He hath set judgment in the earth.’ There are no bruises in this reed; that is to say, Christ’s manhood is free from all scars and wounds of evil or of sin. There is no dimness in this light, that is to say, Christ’s character is perfect, His goodness needs no increase. There is no trace of effort in His holiness, no growth manifest in His God-likeness, from the beginning to the end. There is no outward violence that can be brought to bear upon Him that will stay Him in His purpose. There is no inward failure of strength in Him that may lead us to fear that His work shall not be completed. And because of these things, because of His perfect exemption from human infirmity, because in Him was no sin. He is manifested to take away our sins. Because in Him there was goodness incapable of increase, being perfect from the beginning, therefore He is manifested to make us participants of His own unalterable and infinite goodness and purity. Because no outward violence, no inward weakness, can ever stay His course, nor make Him abandon His purpose, therefore His gospel looks upon the world with boundless hopefulness, with calm triumph; will not hear of there being any outcast and irreclaimable classes; declares it to be a blasphemy against God and Christ to say that any men or any nations are incapable of receiving the gospel and of being redeemed by it, and comes with supreme love and a calm consciousness of infinite power to you, my brother, in your deepest darkness, in your moods most removed from God and purity, and insures you that it will heal you, and will raise all that in you is feeble to its own strength. Every man may pray to that strong Christ who fails not nor is discouraged-

‘What in me is dark

Illumine; what is low, raise and support,’


in the confidence that He will hear and answer. If you do that you will not do it in vain, but His gentle hand laid upon you will heal the bruises that sin has made. Out of your weakness, as of ‘a reed shaken with the wind,’ the Restorer will make a pillar of marble in the Temple of His God. And out of your smoking dimness and wavering light, a spark at the best, almost buried in the thick smoke that accompanies it, the fostering Christ will make a brightness which shall flame as the perfect light that ‘shineth more and more unto the noontide of the day.’42:1-4 This prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, Mt 12:17. Let our souls rely on him, and rejoice in him; then, for his sake, the Father will be well-pleased with us. The Holy Spirit not only came, but rested upon him, and without measure. He patiently bore the contradiction of sinners. His kingdom is spiritual; he was not to appear with earthly honours. He is tender of those oppressed with doubts and fears, as a bruised reed; those who are as smoking flax, as the wick of a lamp newly lighted, which is ready to go out again. He will not despise them, nor lay upon them more work or more suffering than they can bear. By a long course of miracles and his resurrection, he fully showed the truth of his holy religion. By the power of his gospel and grace he fixes principles in the minds of men, which tend to make them wise and just. The most distant nations wait for his law, wait for his gospel, and shall welcome it. If we would make our calling and election sure, and have the Father delight over us for good, we must behold, hear, believe in, and obey Christ.A bruised reed - The word 'reed' means the cane or calamus which grows up in marshy or wet places (Isaiah 36:6; see the note at Isaiah 43:24). The word, therefore, literally denotes that which is fragile, weak, easily waved by the wind, or broken down; and stands in contrast with a lofty and firm tree (compare Matthew 11:7): 'What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?' The word here, therefore, may be applied to people who are conscious of feebleness and sin; that are moved and broken by calamity; that feel that they have no strength to bear up against the ills of life. The word 'bruised' (רצוּץ râtsûts) means that which is broken or crushed, but not entirely broken off. As used here, it may denote those who are in themselves naturally feeble, and who have been crushed or broken down by a sense of sin, by calamity, or by affliction. We speak familiarly of crushing or breaking down by trials; and the phrase here is intensive and emphatic, denoting those who are at best like a reed - feeble and fragile; and who, in addition to that, have been broken and oppressed by a sense of their sins, or by calamity.

Shall he not break - Shall he not break off. He will not carry on the work of destruction, and entirely crush or break it. And the idea is, that he will not make those already broken down with a sense of sin and with calamity, more wretched. He will not deepen their afflictions, or augment their trials, or multiply their sorrows. The sense is, that he will have an affectionate regard for the broken-hearted, the humble, the penitent, and the afflicted. Luther has well expressed this: 'He does not cast away, nor crush, nor condemn the wounded in conscience, those who are terrified in view of their sins; the weak in faith and practice, but watches over and cherishes them, makes them whole, and affectionately embraces them.' The expression is parallel to that which occurs in Isaiah 61:1, where it is said of the Messiah, 'He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted;' and to the declaration in Isaiah 50:4, where it is said, 'that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.'

The smoking flax - The word used here denotes flax, and then a wick that is made of it. The word rendered 'smoking' (כהה kēhâh) means that which is weak, small, thin, feeble; then that which is just ready to go out, or to be extinguished; and the phrase refers literally to the expiring wick of a lamp, when the oil is almost consumed, and when it shines with a feeble and dying luster. It may denote here the condition of one who is feeble and disheartened, and whose love to God seems almost ready to expire. And the promise that he will not extinguish or quench that, means that he would cherish, feed, and cultivate it; he would supply it with grace, as with oil to cherish the dying flame, and cause it to be enkindled, and to rise with a high and steady brilliancy. The whole passage is descriptive of the Redeemer, who nourishes the most feeble piety in the hearts of his people, and who will not suffer true religion in the soul ever to become wholly extinct. It may seem as if the slightest breath of misfortune or opposition would extinguish it forever; it may be like the dying flame that hangs on the point of the wick, but if there be true religion it will not be extinguished, but will be enkindled to a pure and glowing flame, and it will yet rise high, and burn brightly.

He shall bring forth judgment - (See Isaiah 42:1). The word 'judgment' here evidently denotes the true religion; the laws, institutions, and appointments of God.

Unto truth - Matthew Mat 12:29 renders this, 'unto victory.' The meaning in Isaiah is, that he shall establish his religion according to truth; he shall faithfully announce the true precepts of religion, and secure their ascendency among mankind. It shall overcome all falsehood, and all idolatry, and shall obtain a final triumph in all nations. Thus explained, it is clear that Matthew has retained the general idea of the passage, though he has not quoted it literally.

3. bruised—"It pleased the Lord to bruise Him" (Isa 53:5, 10; Ge 3:15); so He can feel for the bruised. As Isa 42:2 described His unturbulent spirit towards His violent enemies (Mt 12:14-16), and His utter freedom from love of notoriety, so Isa 42:3, His tenderness in cherishing the first spark of grace in the penitent (Isa 40:11).

reed—fragile: easily "shaken with the wind" (Mt 11:7). Those who are at best feeble, and who besides are oppressed by calamity or by the sense of sin.

break—entirely crush or condemn. Compare "bind up the broken-hearted" (Isa 50:4; 61:1; Mt 11:28).

flax—put for the lamp-wick, formed of flax. The believer is the lamp (so the Greek, Mt 5:15; Joh 5:35): his conscience enlightened by the Holy Ghost is the wick. "Smoking" means "dimly burning," "smouldering," the flame not quite extinct. This expresses the positive side of the penitent's religion; as "bruised reed," the negative. Broken-hearted in himself, but not without some spark of flame: literally, "from above." Christ will supply such a one with grace as with oil. Also, the light of nature smouldering in the Gentiles amidst the hurtful fumes of error. He not only did not quench, but cleared away the mists and superadded the light of revelation. See Jerome, To Algasia, Question 2.

truth—Mt 12:20 quotes it, "send forth judgment unto victory." Matthew, under the Spirit, gives the virtual sense, but varies the word, in order to bring out a fresh aspect of the same thing. Truth has in itself the elements of victory over all opposing forces. Truth is the victory of Him who is "the truth" (Joh 14:6). The gospel judicial sifting ("judgment") of believers and unbelievers, begun already in part (Joh 3:18, 19; 9:39), will be consummated victoriously in truth only at His second coming; Isa 42:13, 14, here, and Mt 12:32, 36, 41, 42, show that there is reference to the judicial aspect of the Gospel, especially finally: besides the mild triumph of Jesus coming in mercy to the penitent now (Isa 42:2), there shall be finally the judgment on His enemies, when the "truth" shall be perfectly developed. Compare Isa 61:1-3, where the two comings are similarly joined (Ps 2:4-6, 8; Re 15:2, 4; 19:11-16). On "judgment," see on [783]Isa 42:1.

A bruised reed shall he not break; he will not break it to pieces, but rather will strengthen and bind it up. It is a common figure, whereby more is understood than was expressed, and one contrary is left to be gathered from another, of which many instances have been given in former texts. The sense is plainly this, Christ will not deal roughly and rigorously with those that come to him, but he will use all gentleness and kindness to them, passing by their greatest sins, bearing with their present infirmities, cherishing and encouraging the smallest beginnings of grace, comforting and healing wounded consciences, and the like.

The smoking flax shall he not quench; the same thing is repeated in other words, to give us the greater assurance of the truth of it. That wick of a candle (called flax metonymically, because it is made of flax) which is almost extinct, and doth only smoke and not flame, he will not utterly quench, but will revive and kindle it again.

He shall bring forth judgment unto truth: judgment may be here taken either,

1. For the law or will of God, or the doctrine of the gospel, which he will

bring forth, i.e. publish, which he will do unto, or in, or with, or according to (for this preposition is used all those ways) truth, i.e. truly and faithfully, not concealing nor corrupting it, as false teachers commonly do. So this is a character like that which is given to Christ, Matthew 22:16, Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth; and thus this phrase of bringing forth judgment is taken here, as it is Isaiah 42:1. Or,

2. For the cause which is debated, or for the sentence which is given in the cause, as this word is most frequently used, which he will bring forth, i.e. bring to light, or discover, or publish; and this he will do according to truth and equity, and not unjustly and partially, as corrupt judges use to give sentence against the poor and meek. In this sense this very phrase of

bringing forth judgment is taken Psalm 37:6. And this sense seems to be favoured, both by the consideration of the quality of the persons, to whom this judgment is here implied to be brought forth, who are called bruised reeds, and smoking flax, whereby they are supposed to be persons discouraged and oppressed, and in a contest with themselves, or with their spiritual adversaries, about the state of their souls; as also by comparing this place with Matthew 12:20, where these very words are quoted, and thus rendered, till he send forth judgment unto victory, i.e. till judgment or sentence be given for him, in which case a man is said to be victorious in judgment. If it be said for the former interpretation, that it seems most reasonable to understand judgment here as it is understood Isaiah 42:1,4, and bringing forth judgment here as it is taken, Isaiah 42:1, it may be truly and fairly answered, that it is a very common thing in Scripture for the same words or phrases to be used in several senses, not only in two neighbouring verses, but sometimes also in the very same verse, whereof I have formerly given divers instances. A bruised reed shall not break,.... The tenderness of Christ to weak and ignorant persons is here and in the next clause expressed; by whom young converts or weak believers seem to be designed; who are compared to a "reed", because worthless with respect to God, whom they cannot profit; and in the view of men, who reckon them as nothing; and in themselves, and in their own view, who judge themselves unworthy of the least of mercies; and because they are weak, not only as all men are, of which weakness they are sensible; but they are weak in grace, especially in faith, and have but little hope, their love is the strongest; and because they are wavering like the reed, tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, and shaken with the temptations of Satan, and disturbed with many doubts and fears; and are like a "bruised" reed that is squeezed, and almost broke to pieces, and so of no use; these are broken in heart, under a sense of sin and unworthiness; whose spirits are bruised and wounded with it, and whose hearts are contrite on account of it. On these Christ does not lay his iron rod, but holds out the golden sceptre of his grace to them; he does not call them to service and sufferings beyond their strength; but strengthens, supports, and upholds them with the right hand of his righteousness; he binds up their broken hearts, having poured in the balm of Gilead, his own blood, and the wine and oil of his love; he encourages them in their application to him for salvation, and manifests his pardoning grace, and restores comforts to them, and revives their souls:

and the smoking flax shall he not quench; or, "the wick of a candle; (h)" which just going out, has some heat, a little light, smokes, and is offensive; so the persons intended by it are fired or lighted by the divine word; have some heat of affection in them to spiritual things, but have but little light; into the corruption of nature into the glories of Christ's person; into the doctrines of the Gospel; into the everlasting love of God, and the covenant of grace; and but little light of joy and comfort, and this almost gone, and seemingly ready to go out; and yet Christ will not extinguish it, or suffer it to be extinct; he does not discourage small beginnings of grace, or despise the day of small things; he blows up their light into a flame; he increases their spiritual light and knowledge; supplies them with the oil of grace; trims, snuffs, and causes their lamps to burn brighter. The Targum is,

"the meek, who are like to a bruised reed, shall not be broken; and the poor, who are as obscure as flax (or a lamp ready to go out), shall not be extinct:''

he shall bring forth judgment unto truth; which some understand of Christ's severity to wicked men, in opposition to his tenderness to his own people; see Isaiah 11:4, others of the Gospel, as preached by him in truth, as in Isaiah 42:1, but rather it designs the power of his Spirit and grace accompanying the word, to the carrying on of his own work in the hearts of his people; which, though attended with many difficulties and discouragements, shall go on, and be performed; grace will break through all obstructions, and prove victorious at last; see Matthew 12:20.

(h) "ellychnium fumigans", Junius & Tremellius; "fumans", Piscator.

A {f} bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking {g} flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment to {h} truth.

(f) He will not hurt the weak and feeble, but support and comfort them.

(g) Meaning, the wick of a lamp or candle which is almost out, but he will cherish it and snuff it, that it may shine brighter.

(h) Although he favours the weak, yet will he not spare the wicked, but will judge them according to truth and equity.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. His gentleness towards the downtrodden expiring good in men.

the smoking flax] R.V. marg. the dimly burning wick. The metaphor (like the preceding) involves a litotes: the meaning is that instead of crushing the expiring elements of goodness he will strengthen and purify them. It is an interesting question whether these rudiments of religion are conceived as existing in the heathen world or in the breasts of individual Israelites. The former view is no doubt that to which the national interpretation of the Servant most readily accommodates itself, and is also most in keeping with the scope of the passage as a whole. But in later sections a mission in and to Israel is undoubtedly assigned to the Servant, and a reference to that here cannot be pronounced impossible.

unto truth] i.e. probably, in accordance with truth. The rendering of R.V., however, “in truth,” may be right.Verse 3. - A bruised reed shall he not break. Egypt was compared to a "bruised reed" by Sennacherib (Isaiah 36:6), as being untrustworthy and destitute of physical strength; but here the image represents the weak and depressed in spirit, the lowly and dejected. Christ would deal tenderly with such, not violently. Smoking flax shall he not quench; rather, the wick which burns dimly (margin) he shall not quench. Where the flame of devotion burns at all, however feebly and dimly, Messiah will take care not to quench it. Rather he will tend it, and trim it, and give it fresh oil, and cause it to burn more brightly. He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. But with all this tenderness, this "economy," this allowance for the shortcomings and weaknesses of individuals, he will be uncompromising in his assertion of absolute justice and absolute truth. He will sanction nothing short of the very highest standard of moral purity and excellence. (For an instance of the combination of extreme tenderness with unswerving maintenance of an absolute standard, see John 8:8-11.) As Isaiah 41:25 points back to the first charge against the heathen and their gods (Isaiah 41:2-7), so Isaiah 41:26-28 point back to the second. Not only did Jehovah manifest Himself as the Universal Ruler in the waking up of Cyrus, but as the Omniscient Ruler also. "Who hath made it known from the beginning, we will acknowledge it, and from former time, we will say He is in the right?! Yea, there was none that made known; yea, none that caused to hear; yea, none that heard your words. As the first I saith to Zion, Behold, behold, there it is: and I bestow evangelists upon Jerusalem. And I looked, and there was no man; and of these there was no one answering whom I would ask, and who would give me an answer." If any one of the heathen deities had foretold this appearance of Cyrus so long before as at the very commencement of that course of history which had thus reached its goal, Jehovah with His people, being thus taught by experience, would admit and acknowledge their divinity. מראשׁ is used in the same sense as in Isaiah 48:16 : and also in Isaiah 41:4 and Isaiah 40:21, where it refers according to the context in each case, to the beginning of the particular line of history. צדּיק signifies either "he is right," i.e., in the right (compare the Arabic siddik, genuine), or in a neuter sense, "it is right" ( equals true), i.e., the claim to divine honours is really founded upon divine performances. But there was not one who had proclaimed it, or who gave a single sound of himself; no one had heard anything of the kind from them. אין receives a retrospective character from the connection; and bearing this in mind, the participles may be also resolved into imperfects. The repeated אף, passing beyond what is set down as possible, declares the reality of the very opposite. What Jehovah thus proves the idols to want, He can lay claim to for Himself. In Isaiah 41:27 we need not assume that there is any hyperbaton, as Louis de Dieu, Rosenmller, and others have done: "I first will give to Zion and Jerusalem one bringing glad tidings: behold, behold them." After what has gone before in Isaiah 41:26 we may easily supply אמרתּי, "I said," in Isaiah 41:27 (compare Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 14:16; Isaiah 27:2), not אמר, for the whole comparison drawn by Jehovah between Himself and the idols is retrospective, and looks back from the fulfilment in progress to the prophecies relating to it. The only reply that we can look for to the question in Isaiah 41:26 is not, "I on the contrary do it," but "I did it." At the same time, the rendering is a correct one: "Behold, behold them" (illa; for the neuter use of the masculine, compare Isaiah 48:3; Isaiah 38:16; Isaiah 45:8). "As the first," Jehovah replies (i.e., without any one anticipating me), "Have I spoken to Zion: behold, behold, there it is," pointing with the finger of prophecy to the coming salvation, which is here regarded as present; "and I gave to Jerusalem messengers of joy;" i.e., long ago, before what is now approaching could be known by any one, I foretold to my church, through the medium of prophets, the glad tidings of the deliverance from Babylon. If the author of chapters 40-66 were a prophet of the captivity, his reference here would be to such prophecies as Isaiah 11:11 (where Shinar is mentioned as a land of dispersion), and more especially still Micah 4:10, "There in Babylon wilt thou be delivered, there will Jehovah redeem thee out of the hand of thine enemies;" but if Isaiah were the author, he is looking back from the ideal standpoint of the time of the captivity, and of Cyrus more especially, to his own prophecies before the captivity (such as Isaiah 13:1-14:23, and Isaiah 21:1-10), just as Ezekiel, when prophesying of Gog and Magog, looks back in Isaiah 38:17 fro the ideal standpoint of this remote future, more especially to his own prophecies in relation to it. In that case the mebhassēr, or evangelist, more especially referred to is the prophet himself (Grotius and Stier), namely, as being the foreteller of those prophets to whom the commission in Isaiah 40:1, "Comfort ye, comfort ye," is addressed, and who are greeted in Isaiah 52:7-8 as the bearers of the joyful news of the existing fulfilment of the deliverance that has appeared, and therefore as the mebhassēr or evangelist of the future מבשׂרים. In any case, it follows from Isaiah 41:26, Isaiah 41:27 that the overthrow of Babylon and the redemption of Israel had long before been proclaimed by Jehovah through His prophets; and if our exposition is correct so far, the futures in Isaiah 41:28 are to be taken as imperfects: And I looked round (וארא, a voluntative in the hypothetical protasis, Ges. 128, 2), and there was no one (who announced anything of the kind); and of these (the idols) there was no adviser (with regard to the future, Numbers 24:14), and none whom I could ask, and who answered me (the questioner). Consequently, just as the raising up of Cyrus proclaimed the sole omnipotence of Jehovah, so did the fact that the deliverance of Zion-Jerusalem, for which the raising up of Cyrus prepared the way, had been predicted by Him long before, proclaim His sole omniscience.
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