More from Richard Sibbes’ The Briused Reed:
Sibbes starts this section by outlining that Christ will not break the bruised reed:
In pursuing his calling, Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, in which more is meant than spoken, for he will not only not break nor quench, but he will cherish those with whom he so deals.
The lion of the tribe of Judah will only tear in pieces those that ‘will not have him rule over them’ (Luke 19:14). He will not show his strength against those who prostrate themselves before him.
Having established that Christ will not break or snuff out the believer and that, much more than that, he will actually cherish and love the believer, Sibbes makes the following application:
1. What should we learn from this, but to ‘come boldly to the throne of grace’ (Heb. 4:16) in all our grievances? Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, ‘If I may but touch his garment’ (Matt. 9:21). We shall be healed and have a gracious answer. Go boldly to God in our flesh; he is flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone for this reason, that we might go boldly to him. Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him, who is not only our friend but our brother and husband. Well might the angel proclaim from heaven, ‘Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy’ (Luke 2:10). Well might the apostle stir us up to ‘rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice’ (Phil. 4:4). Paul was well advised upon what grounds he did it. Peace and joy are two main fruits of Christ’s kingdom. Let the world be as it will, if we cannot rejoice in the world, yet we may rejoice in the Lord. His presence makes any condition comfortable. ‘Be not afraid,’ says he to his disciples, when they were afraid, as if they had seen a ghost, ‘It is I’ (Matt. 14:27), as if there were no cause of fear where he was present.
2. Let this support us when we feel ourselves bruised. Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. No sound, whole soul shall ever enter into heaven. Think when in temptation, Christ was tempted for me; according to my trials will be my graces and comforts. If Christ be so merciful as not to break me, I will not break myself by despair, nor yield myself over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces.
How often does Satan accuse, suggesting to us that we cannot approach the throne of grace because of our sin? Shall our sins discourage us? Sibbes asks.
We imagine that though we are able to approach our God, we must approach a God who only grudgingly allows us into his presence, who merely tolerates us in our weakness and unworthiness. But no. Sibbes reminds us that we have a Mediator who is not only our friend but our brother and husband. And so we will never fear to go to our God, who is our Father.
Then Sibbes considers the practical implications of having such a Mediator. “If Christ be so merciful as not to break me, I will not break myself by despair”, he says … “nor yield myself over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces.” It is easy to forget that Christ is merciful, that he has died on the cross, that he has risen and ascended to the right hand of God the Father?
This has huge implications for the believer. As Luther says, “where Christ is, there shall I be also”.
How often does Satan unsettle us by showing us the ugliness of our sin? But for what purpose? That we might sin less? No. To have us turn in on ourselves in fruitless self-condemnation. He must be so delighted when we discard what our Saviour has done and when we decide to “break ourselves by despair”, as Sibbes puts it.
Christ also shows us our sin. But unlike Satan, he does this that we might be healed, that we might bear fruit, that we might be restored and made new. As Sibbes says, “Christ’s way is first to wound, then to heal. No sound, whole soul shall ever enter into heaven.” Christ desires to break us, to wound us (which is absolutely necessary if we are to be made into his likeness), but then to apply the soothing balm of his grace, and to cover us with his cleansing blood. Christ shows us our sins that we might come to him, the One who came to live, and die, and rise, and ascend — precisely for sinners.
And how often does Satan try to swing us to the other extreme, attempting to desensitize us to sin? To have us tolerate it and accept it as a part of our lives? And yet, “we will not yield ourselves over to the roaring lion, Satan, to break us in pieces.” We will hate sin as Christ hates sin, but not because of will power, or discipline, or a sense of duty. No. Because we are united with Christ and are found in him. This must be the basis of the Christian life. We cannot contend with Satan ourselves — he is far too powerful for us — but Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, has torn into him and has dealt him a fatal blow. Christ’s victory is absolute and final, and in him, so is ours.
Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”