The images of a “bruised reed” and “smoking flax” (v 3, NKJV) reveal a rural setting.
I remember how my father used reeds to help beans grow tall so that they could be picked with ease. For this purpose you have to push the reeds into the ground and bind them together to stand in a neat “A-frame” row. When you try to push a bruised reed into the ground, you will quickly understand why it gets thrown away.
Better known, perhaps, is the irritation of an oil lamp that produces more smoke than light. Instead of giving light to see, it burns your eyes. Your logical reaction will be to quench it and find another lamp.
These images of the “bruised reed” and “smoking flax” are images of people whose life experiences have bruised them so that they become like smoke in your eyes. We easily write them off as “useless for society” and “an irritation to live with”. Therefore, anyone who refrains from breaking a bruised reed or quenching smoking flax is seen as a person who has exceptional kindness and patience.
The servant of the Lord will do this.
According to verse 1 the Lord delights in the servant He has chosen. He has given his Spirit to him and He sends him to bring justice to the nations. The servant will bring justice, not through power and might, but in a quiet and humble manner (cf v 2). Although his labour for justice will be arduous, he will not “grow weak or lose hope”, nor “give up”, until he has accomplished his task (cf v 4, NIRV). Because he knows the weaknesses and abundant vulnerabilities of people, he will not damage the crushed reed further (cf v 3). He will open the eyes of the blind and “will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons” (v 7, NLT).
Behind this humble servant who brings justice to the bruised, stands the sovereign Lord. It is the Creator God who sends his servant (v 5), who holds his hand and gives him as a symbol of his covenant to his people (v 6). It is the Holy God, who shares his glory with no other and who reigns over the future (v 8-9), who personally strengthens the servant to bring justice through kindness and long-suffering (cf v 1 & 4).
To think about or discuss: Is it possible to bring justice although you do not have power and political influence?