Smoking Flax and Bruised Reeds

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Photo courtesy of Mary Lallier Photography

Passover.

By the time this post goes live, we’ll be just two nights away. Two nights away from the start of it all—from the lynchpin on which hangs the crux of God’s entire plan of salvation. In two nights, we’ll be commemorating the death of our Savior—a death that, for us, opened the door to eternal life.

The path to that night is never an easy one. In addition to Satan’s increased volleys against God’s people, we also face the emotionally taxing process of self-examination. We hold ourselves up to the standard of God’s word, we compare where we are to where we’ve been, and we measure our spiritual growth against the perfect model of our older Brother.

And if you’re anything like the rest of God’s people, you’ll find that you aren’t quite there yet.

Because you’re weak. Because you’ve given in to temptations you thought you’d conquered. Because for every step forward, you can count too many steps back.

Because you were hoping to be a roaring fire, and instead you feel like smoldering tinder. You look back on your shortcomings, your flaws, your sins, and you wonder how much more patience God could possibly have with you—how many more times He can possibly forgive you before deciding you just aren’t worth the effort.

These thoughts aren’t uncommon, and I think they’re one of the big reasons we need the Passover service every year—because it’s a reminder. A reminder that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). A reminder that He offered up His own life on our behalf “when we were still without strength” (Romans 5:6).

You weren’t worth the effort when Christ died for you. You just weren’t—not by any human standard. But He did it anyway, because He and God the Father love you. You have worth to Them—They want you in Their family forever, and so the Son of God willingly died to give you that opportunity. If They were willing to go through with that, do you think God is going to give up on you now just because it’s a harder road than you were expecting?

Sometimes I think we imagine God like the Greeks once imagined Zeus: lightning bolt held at the ready, just waiting for the smallest infraction to rain down punishment. But that isn’t the God we serve. While He certainly won’t abide a person or nation with a heart set on evil, He is also “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

One of my favorite prophecies about Christ is from Isaiah: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). How often is that us? How often are we a bruised reed, struggling just to keep ourselves upright? How often are we a piece of flax, lacking the strength to do anything but smolder?

Sometimes, as we make our way through this life, we find ourselves barely hanging on—pinned down under the weight of trials and our own sins, bruised and smoking instead of standing tall and shining brightly. But when our Brother sees us in that condition, He doesn’t walk by and snap us in half for being weak. He doesn’t snuff out our last dying ember because we’re struggling to keep our heads above the water.

Christ builds us up. When He sees us at our weakest—when our fire is burning low and we can’t find the strength to build it back up, Christ gives us what we need to keep going (Philippians 4:13). It’s the reason Paul wrote, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). It’s the reason Christ Himself said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). If all we have left is the smoldering hope of a flame, Christ is going to work with that.

So maybe you are weak right now. Maybe you are a bruised reed or smoking flax. But Christ is the same Christ who died for you when you didn’t deserve it. God is the same God who gave you His Holy Spirit as a down payment when you hadn’t earned it. And that’s what Passover is really, truly about—remembering the sacrifice of a Brother who came to reinforce the bruised reeds and give fuel to the smoking flax, and looking to the covenant we made with a Father who calls us His sons and daughters.

When you accepted the sacrifice that Passover reminds us of, you entered into a special relationship with your Creator. You’re not where you want to be yet; none of us are. But you have the covenant promise of a Father who told us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

No, you’re not where you want to be, not yet—but that’s okay. God is going to get you there.

Wishing everyone a meaningful Passover,
Jeremy

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