A Broken Reed
In his boastful message to King Hezekiah, Sennacherib’s messenger asked Hezekiah, “Now on whom dost thou trust, that thou rebellest against me?” (Isa. 35:5), and he went on to state in the very next verse, “Lo, thou trustest in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all that trust in him.” Rabshakeh tells Hezekiah that trusting in Egypt for help will only do Judah more harm, much like one trying to lean for support on a broken reed. Continuing to read this text, however, we learn that Hezekiah and Judah were not trusting in Egypt or any other nation (unlike so many other foolish kings), but they were trusting in Jehovah for deliverance. And, Jehovah (through Isaiah) ends up with a message for King Sennacherib and his crony Rabshakeh. God tells Sennacherib, in essence, “Haven’t you heard? I made you powerful” (Isa. 37:24-27); “I know where you live, Sennacherib” (37:28); “I’m going to do to you what you’ve done so cruelly to so many others” (37:29); “You’re going right back the way you came” (37:29b); and, “You won’t set foot in Jerusalem” (37:33). And, we know the rest of the story—an angel of God went forth and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers, and Sennacherib returned to Nineveh, where he was killed by his sons while sinfully worshiping his false gods (37:36-38). There are many lessons that could be gleaned from this account, but the one on which this article will focus is the fact that Hezekiah and the nation of Judah prevailed because they trusted in God. Sadly, many people, both then and now, do not trust in God; they are trusting in a “broken reed.” Notice just a few broken reeds that have pierced many a person throughout the history of mankind.
Some trust in the broken reed of riches. Paul wrote to Timothy, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). The very real danger for all men in all times is to trust in riches instead of trusting in God, but in a society as materialistic as ours, we ought to be on guard all the more against this temptation. Paul also told Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:10). We should also remember the words of Jesus, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
Some trust in the broken reed of physical strength. The psalmist stated very beautifully, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God” (20:7). David refused to trust in physical strength and was determined to place his confidence and trust only in Jehovah. What about us? It is interesting to recall the account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 and remember that it was David who wore no armor and took only a sling and five smooth stones, trusting in God, while the blasphemous Philistine Goliath put his trust in the broken reed of physical strength. No one needs any help remembering the outcome of that battle. Goliath’s broken reed not only pierced his hand, but it literally cost him his life. How many young men today think they are “successful” in life because they are such fine physical specimens? How many Americans think they are infinitely safe in this country because of her great military might? How many young ladies think success is based upon how beautiful or thin or popular they are? On and on we could go, but these all are broken reeds, “…whereon if a man lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it” (Isa. 35:6).
Some trust in the broken reed of lies. What a sad occasion it was in the history of God’s people when Isaiah was inspired to write, “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (30:8-10)! These people literally trusted in lies! Yet, how many in the religious world today do the same? Statements such as, “My preacher says so,” or, “That can’t be wrong; I’ve been taught that my whole life” become substituted for, “The Bible tells me so,” and thus we see almost an entire generation leaning on a broken reed, religious lies. As one preacher said it, “A half truth is a whole lie.” So it is with those who would teach “some” truth, but leave off the inconvenient or less likeable (to them) commandments of God Almighty—it is merely a broken reed that will pierce the soul, resulting in eternal damnation, both for the preachers of such and for those who follow that preaching.
In what have we placed our trust? Is our trust in riches, physical strength, or religious lies? All of these are broken reeds that can offer nothing but eternal suffering to those that trust in them. Only by trusting in God Almighty can we have hope, both in this life and in the life to come. The book of Proverbs is often referred to as the book of wisdom, and rightly so. Hear, then, this great wisdom from Proverbs—“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (3:5-6). Do you trust in a broken reed or the Rock of Ages?
[Article written by Chad Dollahite, taken from Bremen Church of Christ (Bremen, GA) bulletin]