Peace if possible. Truth at all costs. ~ Martin Luther

What Mercy Means to Me Now (Part of the “Mercy Mondays” Project)

mercyWe’ve come to the final day of this series called “Mercy Mondays”. Every Monday for the past 7 weeks, Jenn LeBow has written a prompt on the subject of “mercy”, and invited others to respond with posts on their own blogs. (You can read all the responses for this week on Jenn’s blog.)

The final prompt offers a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last 6 weeks:

“What Mercy Means to Me Now

Here’s a quick bullet-list of just SOME of the gleanings I will carry forward with me:

Mostly, my thoughts have been repeatedly turned back to the Lord, and His amazing mercy toward miserable human beings like me (I’m the wretch that the song talks about). It’s HIS mercy that is the motivation and the source of any mercy we can show.

There’s a verse of Scripture that has been one of my favorites for a long time, and I have wanted to preach on it so very often but I never have. I’ve held back because it’s one text that I’m terrified of not doing justice to.

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench …” (Matthew 12:20)

There are 2 pictures embedded in this prophecy about Jesus:

A Bruised Reed

A reed is a tall stalk or plant with a hollow stem, usually found in marshy areas or near a supply of water. It’s a tender plant, so it bends easily when high winds or swift waters strike. Yet the reed can only bend so far before it finally breaks and is carried away with the flood.

Most often employed as measuring sticks in ancient times, only the perfect reeds were useful. You can imagine a man collecting reeds for his workshop, but any he comes across that are “bruised” (crushed, weakened) he just turns them and snaps them over his knee and discards them.

The bruised reed speaks of people broken by life, unable to measure up to God’s perfect standard, falling short of the mark. Sinners.

We often want to portray God as angry at sinners, and there is a truth to that. “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11).  God is so angry with sin that He will punish the unrighteous for all of eternity.

BUT over against those truths we must always remember that God has done everything to be able to justly show mercy. This is His heart toward sinners … He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That’s His heart.  Right now the gates of grace and mercy are open. Jesus stands between sinful people and a holy God, providing the way for them to be accepted.

“A bruised reed He will not break”. God is today gathering and restoring sinners; not snapping them and discarding them.

I’m a bruised reed. We were all bruised reeds

We need to have that same heart toward those who are still lost. Jesus’ heart of compassion that they be found before it’s too late.

A Smoking Flax

We’ve probably all seen a smoking flax. Think of the wick of a candle. The smoking flax is what you get after the flame has been snuffed out.  All that’s left is the little wisp of smoke rising up from where the flame was burning. It can give off a noxious smell. All you want to do with a smoking flax is wet your fingers and squeeze it to put it out completely.

The smoking flax speaks of people who’ve known God’s love and mercy in the past, but have lost the fire.

There are a lot of reasons people become smoking flaxes.  Hurts.  Heartbreaks.  Disappointments.  Just simply running out of fuel; the wax or oil burning low.

The heart of Jesus is to restore, and relight, not to snuff out in anger.

Revelation 2:4-5 tell us that if we find ourselves losing our first love for the Lord, it calls for repentance. But my experience is that believers come to that realization by mercy and grace – not anger.  “It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.” (Romans 2:4)

I’ve experienced this lovely tender hand of Jesus in my life. I’ve been the smoking flax. Thank God He never snuffed me out.


So, Mercy Mondays is finished, but thank God that MERCY is not finished.  It’s new every moment for bruised reeds and smoking flaxes, fresh from the One who never changes.




  1. Phil, your contributions to Mercy Mondays have delighted me and made me think. Thank you for your participation! I love that verse from Matthew, as well. I’m feeling pretty bruised these days, but definitely encouraged that I will not be broken. Thanks for bringing that verse to mind for me again.

    After the holidays, I’ll be hosting a Mercy Mondays in January. I’ll keep you posted, and I’ll be stopping by to read your blog in the meantime!