Justice for the Bruised Reeds

By Jennifer Woodruff Tait

January 11, 2020

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Isaiah 42:1-3 (NRSV)


Some of the most beautiful passages in the Old Testament are in the prophetic book of Isaiah, speaking about God’s future plans for his people. Isaiah repeatedly describes a servant who will aid God’s people, culminating in the famous passage about this servant being “wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” in Isaiah 53. Christians have historically interpreted these passages to be ultimately a prophecy about what Jesus Christ has done and does for us.

This week’s passage from Isaiah is one of my favorite of these passages. I love the picture of leadership it gives. God’s servant will be someone who brings justice to all, someone who will not “toot their own horn” in the street but will care for the weakest and least. The servant will not further oppress or attack those who have already been beaten down by what life has dealt out to them; instead, these people will be comforted and have the justice they seek done to them.

I don’t know about you, but I suspect that, like me, there have been many times in your life when you have felt like a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick. I suspect that there have been times when those you love and those whom you influence have felt like bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks.

“Servant leadership” is a term that gets bandied around quite frequently. It is a good term, and it is at its best when we root it most firmly in the Scriptures: when we see what God’s word teaches us about what servants who are leaders do. True servant leadership will never break a bruised reed, but will see what needs to be done to heal the wounds. This is the kind of leadership Jesus showed us, and this is the kind of leadership he asks us to exercise to those around us who are bruised and burning.

Tomorrow we’ll think more about how Jesus’s leadership and ministry modeled this. For now, think about the following questions.

Something to Think About:

When have you been a bruised reed and a dimly burning wick? Who helped you, and how did they help you?

When have you had the opportunity to help those who are bruised reeds and dimly burning wicks? What did you do?

How can you help bring God’s justice wherever you are right now?

Something to Do:

Think about someone you know who needs God’s justice for the bruised and burning right now. Prayerfully think about how you can help this person.


Lord, thank you for helping us when we are bruised and burning. Thank you for sending those who heal our wounds—above all the Great Physician, Jesus. Help us discern how, by your grace, to help those around us who need hope, healing, and justice. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
The Servant Who Brings Justice

Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Editorial Coordinator

Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University; MSLIS, University of Illinois; MDiv/MA Asbury Theological Seminary) is the copyeditor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also senior editor of

More on Jennifer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn