Review: The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

In this book, seventeenth century puritan preacher Richard Sibbes offers a tender-hearted exposition of Isaiah 42 v 3: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”

While this book is especially encouraging to those struggling in their faith as a result of life difficulties or indwelling sin, and was especially uplifting to me in a difficult season of life, it will no doubt be an encouragement to every Christian who picks it up.

Sibbes breaks the text down into its three parts, and delves into the implication of each, and why the struggling Christian should be encouraged.

1.     Christ will not break the bruised reed:

We humans are so easily shaken and tattered with every wind of difficulty. And yet, there’s no difficulty so great that Christ has not walked the painful road before us. I was reflecting this week how in a span of days, He was betrayed by Judas, abandoned by his disciples, denied by Peter, and then forsaken by His Father on the cross. Life is often marked by difficulty and pain, and as bruised a reed you might feel today, take heart: Christ may bruise, but He will not break. He bruises to bring His people to a faithful dependence on Him, as a shepherd does his sheep, but He will not utterly cast you aside. In fact, He says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” -Matt. 11v 28

2.     Christ will not quench the smoking flax:

While you may feel your faith to be weak and feeble, as long as there is a spark of faith in your heart, you can be assured you are Christ’s child. In Sibbes’ words, “A spark from Heaven, though kindled under greenwood that sobs and smokes, yet it will consume at last. Love, once kindled, is strong as death, much water cannot quench it . . . Oh, what a confusion is this to Satan, that he should labour to blow out a poor spark, and yet should not be able to quench It.” Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a tiny grain of mustard seed that grows to become a mighty, unwavering tree. The spark of faith, perhaps now small, will in due time grow into a consuming flame.

3.     Christ will not do either of these things until he has sent forth judgment into victory:

Christ will cherish you as one of His own children, and protect you until judgement turns into victory. He will not break, He will not quench, and He “will not leave us, till he hath made us like himself, ‘all glorious within and without, and presenteth us blameless before his Father.’”

Sibbes so beautifully writes: “Shall our sins discourage us, when [Christ] appears there only for sinners? Art thou bruised? Be of good comfort, he calleth thee; conceal not they wounds, open all before him, keep not Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ though trembling; as the poor woman, if we can but ‘touch the hem of his garment’, we shall be healed and have a gracious answer.”

What an encouragement for both new and experienced Christians alike.

In short—if you’re weary (aren’t we all?) and in need of encouragement (aren’t we all?), then give this book a read! 

-Gerrit Van Dorland

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