Tenderness of Might

"A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench," wrote the prophet Isaiah of the coming Messiah; adding, by way of contrast, "he shall bring forth judgment unto truth." A strange prophecy, and likely to pass unheeded by the ruthless generation in whose midst it was uttered, where force determined right, and the bloody scourge of war fell heavily and constantly on the surging nations. Not only in prophetic vein, but doubtless for his own reassurance, were the words immediately following: "He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law." The aged prophet, disheartened, it may be, by repeated failures, oppressed by discouragement, still clung to the ideal of a world consciously governed by divine law, and resigned himself to wait with the isolated portions of creation for its certain establishment. It may be, too, that he recognized the similarity between the bruished reed and his own rejected message, between the smoking flax and the sluggish perception of his people, and in picturing the unusual treatment to be accorded reed and flax, prefigured that "tenderness" which "accompanies all the might imparted by Spirit" (Science and Health, p. 514).

In striking contrast to the common custom of the prophet's day and the custom throughout the succeeding ages and not widely different now, is the treatment indicated for the reed and the flax at the hands of the Messiah. What could appear more worthless than a bruised reed,—bending at a touch, swaying with the gentlest breath of air, its slender symmetry marred, fit only to be plucked up and cast away, to be trampled under foot by the careless passer-by! But the eye of the seer detected the single ray of hope for the condemned stalk. Though badly bruished, it was yet alive, and the tenderness that should forbear to break the wounded reed, would eventually by loving care restore it to its accustomed uprightness and healthful vigor. If in the thought of the prophet the reed served to symbolize the message uttered by him and repeatedly rejected by his people, we can in some degree appreciate the comfort and consolation which healed him of his sore disappointment in the triumphant assertion that this same message, the word of God, "shall not return ... void, but it shall accomplish ... and it shall prosper."

Further, the smoking flax not only seemed useless for any purpose, it was even an annoyance, with its acrid fumes stinging the nostrils and blurring the vision of any who chanced in its vicinity. Why not scatter the heap, and throw water upon the fragments, that the lurking menace may be removed? Nay, the tenderness of might forbears to quench, but carefully tends the smoldering heap until the smoke gives way before a blaze that rapidly consumes all trace of past annoyance, and yields warmth and guiding light to the erst-while wanderer. Again does Isaiah utter a strong word of comfort to cheer his solitude of waiting for the growth of perception in the consciousness of his loved people: "They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine." Out of the pain and disappointment which attended the seeming failure of his mission, came the healing tenderness of that mighty uplift into fuller prophetic vision embracing the world, and illustrating so forcefully that message from the seer of our later age, "The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares" (Science and Health, p. 574).

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November 28, 1914

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