‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.’ (Matthew 12 v20-21)
This week we take a momentary break from considering the activity of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament history to reflect on an incident recorded in Matt 12.
It’s the Sabbath and Jesus and his disciples are walking through a field (v1,2) picking the corn and eating it. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have been a problem for Jesus or his followers but to the Prarisees that had spotted them doing this, it was a grevious offence because it was considered as an act of defiance against God and his rules.
Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees, reminding them of how King David once helped himself and his men to the consecrated bread in the temple, angers the Pharisees even more who (unable to counter his argumant or defend their zealous actions) leave for home – but Jesus is not finished with them yet because:
‘…going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus,they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.(v9-14)
But what has all this got to do with Isaiah’s prophesy about how Messiah (Jesus) will neither quarrel nor cry out, nor break a bruised reed? To understand this we must look to Jesus’ generosity to his detractors, refusing to chasticse or speak revenge on them. Indeed, in the same way he was gentle to those who would persecute him and those in their care, but he is loving and forgiving too.
‘Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do their spirits rise up and praise you?’ (Psalm88v10)
For me, this scripture speaks prophetically into the ultimate purposes of God – namely, that when our human flesh is unable to support us any more and death comes upon us, that will be the time that the sessence of our being – our spirit – will rise up to be with God.
What’s more, the spirit rises not do this to mourn the loss of human life but to praise God to whom the believer’s continued existence becomes manifest in the heavenlt realms.
Truth is, God does not show wonders to the dead but to those who are spiritually alive!
‘He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth.’ (Psalm 76v12)
Although the psalm of Asaph starts with God being described in rather humanistic terms – by that I mean owning a tent (v2), being able to ‘break arrows’ (v3), plundering the enemy (v5 ) (etc ) – none of these adequately describe God or do the Divine justice.
Indeed, the difficulty for humans in describing what God is like requires that we be limited to those metaphors and vocabulary that are known to us which are (at best) insufficent for the job. In much in the same way that a toddler’s drawing of his/her mother can never chart her shape, form and love.
True, some of the other attributes that follow later in this psalm in which God is described as ‘light,’ or like a ‘king’ (v4), or ‘occupying heaven’ (v8) or providing ‘salvation’ (v9) are all helpful but we are again limited in our understanding of what it is the psalmist wants us to comprehend.
Could it be that when we read in v12 that ‘God breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth’ that this is an observation of how the enormity of God should render each of us as awestruck and reverent before our powerful and indiscribable God? If it doesn’t, it should do.
I think most christians become familiar with these verses early on. This scripture – with its accompanying storyline – resonates with us and the constant battle we each have with temptation.
However, the response from King David is far more than an utterance to forgive his wayward actions or a messed up thought life. Nathan challenges David over three things:
- David’s act of adultery with Bathsheba while husband Uriah is away at war.
- David’s attempt to hide her pregnancy by recalling Uriah from the frontline in the hope he will sleep with Bathsheba, think the child is his own and raise him.
- David’s descent into murder by sending Uriah back while hatching a plot that he be inadvertantly killed by the enemy as support is withdrawn from around him.
Sent by God to challenge David over the incident, Nathan tells the King a story that lures him into moral outrage in which he heaps judgement on the perpetrator who could steal from another with such scant regard only to realise at the end that the story that is actually about him – read it here in 2 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 12
Caught in his sin, David realises the gig is up! But rather than being proud or bitter, David acknowledges his sin as he realises that for God to send Nathan to him, suggests something of God’s plans to restore him in the future.
Yes, David has sinned! Moreover, there is a consequence. Indeed, this incident will haunt David and Bathsheba for the rest of their lives…but God is still open to forgiving and restoring them despite David’s weakness and failure – something each of us would do well to remember and act upon when called to face up to the consequence of our actions. Hence, the reason why David feels confident enough to utter these words in hopeful expectation:
…My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.’