In His Name Shall the Gentiles Trust
By Beth, May 28 2018 10:50PM
Matthew 12:20 A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.
Matthew 12:21 And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.
A dear friend of mine asked me to write a blog post on these verses after we chatted about their meaning.
You see, I was thinking about the things that are happening in the Church right now…have you read or heard about them?
In a nutshell, many corrupt Church leaders are being called on the carpet. Their failures and injustices range from telling women to stay with abusive husbands to covering for sexual offenders to being stealth abusers and offenders themselves. There is even a #churchtoo movement, echoing the #metoo movement in the secular community.
1 Peter 4:17 says: “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…”
Indeed, it has come. But why hasn’t it come earlier? Why has the abuse of power been allowed to continue for so long? Why have we “looked the other way” for such a long time and at the expense of so many victims of false teaching and injustices?
As Rachael Denhollander aptly put it: “As long as the culture is conducive to abuse there will be abusers.”
Sadly, the culture of the Church has been conducive to abuse.
But in its covering up of abuses within its ranks to preserve its reputation, was the Church actually demonstrating the character of God?
More succinctly: does God hold people – even Christians, and even leaders in the Church – accountable for their actions? Or does he sort of “grandfather” them into His good graces, and ultimately into Heaven “because of all the good they’ve done…”?
This is what Bill Hybels, former pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, thinks God will do for him…and, apparently, so does his congregation. They recently gave Hybels a standing ovation despite the fact that he is being accused by nine women (who have worked closely with him) of sexual harassment over the past 30 years. They seem to think that “all this talk of sex is merely a distraction from the many good things Bill has done and continues to do…”
And this happens so many times. And so many times, we are told to overlook people’s purposeful choices that reveal major character flaws “for the sake of their ministry,” or because we should be forgiving, we should let it go, “think of all the good they have done...”
Now here’s where those verses come in; let’s get God’s perspective on this:
“A bruised reed shall he not break…”
This is referring to the tenderness of God, his patience and gentleness. A reed becomes bruised by some outside source that has bumped it or injured it. It is not the fault of the reed, and God will not forsake it simply because it is bruised. He will protect it and patiently, tenderly, allow it to grow back to full strength and health. And it will! It may have some mark of its past damage upon it, but it can be a fully functional, effective, healthy plant with time and persistence.
In fact – this is pretty remarkable – but in 2012, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that some plants, after they had been damaged or “nibbled” by critters, had the capability to grow back stronger than they were before!
The article at futurity.org reads, “Now, researchers may know the reason why, for they discovered what might be one mechanism behind these comeback plants. Remarkably, these plants increase their number of chromosomes after being damaged.” (https://www.futurity.org/nibbled-plants-grow-back-stronger/)
So the “bruised reed” could end up being the strongest reed of the bunch! And God knows that, so He will let time and perseverance have its work, and it may just yield an extraordinary harvest.
Now, to the second part of the verse:
“…and smoking flax shall he not quench…”
These are two contrasting thoughts within one line of Scripture.
It’s a literary technique in Hebrew poetry called “antithetic parallelism,” which simply means the second phrase contrasts with the first. The first part of the verse represents the mercy of God; the second part, His justice. (Mercy and Justice are just two sides of the same coin; Jesus Christ embodies them both.)
At the top of this post, I inserted a picture. It is a photo of flax that has been gathered for harvest and bundled up for use. Despite the fact that it’s been cut down, doesn’t it look nice and green and vibrant? Just imagine how it looks when it is still growing! It would be nearly impossible to light it and get it to burn while it still had roots and was that green, wouldn’t it?
But after that has been cut, detached from its roots for a bit…. well, I bet it would make some impressive smoke, wouldn’t it? And eventually, that smoldering flax would catch fire and burn impressively for quite a good bit, wouldn’t it?
Please understand -- green and growing flax would not be smoking. Dead flax would. The Bible is telling us an important truth here:
If you are dead at the roots and the stench and smoke of Hell is already rising to God’s nostrils from your body and soul, God is not going to put it out for you.
In this verse, each plant has a distinct quality; one is injured, but alive; one is so dead it is already smoking.
ABUSERS AND PREDATORS ARE SMOKING FLAX. They are dead inside, completely detached from the roots of their Godly image, incapable of bearing fruit, already halfway to Hell...and they put off a powerful spiritual stench. Their path is marked, their choices made (time and again)...and God's not going to bail them out.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: those who have willfully, purposefully, unrepentantly abused their positions of power, whether in the home or in the Church or in any other institution or situation will find that it is, indeed, a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
And that’s the reason for the next verse: “And in his name shall the Gentiles trust.”
They trust Him because they know God lovingly protects the innocent and squarely holds the guilty accountable. He will not let them escape their fate or ride the coattails of their worldly successes into Heaven.
Anyone who teaches differently is deceived or has an agenda to create a “culture conducive to abuse.”
"For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I WILL repay, saith the Lord." Romans 12:19
Be encouraged, bruised reeds. God sees you trying, He’s sending you comfort and cheering you on toward victory…and you can trust Him to set ALL THINGS in order in the end.
Be afraid, smoking flax. You are about to meet the Lion of Judah.
Excellent. There is another concept taught in scripture that I often think about and teach the kids: blameless. It's so interesting how that is put into action in life. Seek to harm no one but tell the truth. Easier said than done when we are tempted to protect someone we are involved with at church, etc. We tend to rationalize everything and confer cheap grace.
Lydia, thank you for commenting.
You're right, walking blamelessly or walking "worthy" of our vocation as Christians is little spoken of in the churches today!
Grace is certainly not cheap; Jesus laid down his life to offer it to us, and he asks that we lay down ours and take up our cross everyday.
Tough to do...but a requirement if we are a true Christian.
(Click on the word "Comments" at the bottom, then scroll back down to the bottom to add a comment on the study!)