Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 28, 1967
NUMBER 21, PAGE 9c-10

Bruised Reeds

Hoyt H.Houchen

In previous articles we have written on some statements found in the very interesting book of Isaiah. It is a book that deserves the careful study of everyone, especially God's people, because it portrays the history of God's people in the past, revealing how they were blessed when they trusted in Jehovah and how they were punished when they turned away from Him. One of the key admonitions in the entire book is found in ch. 26, verse 3: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee." The people of God were strong when they trusted in Him but when they put their confidence in man, they became weak and were doomed to punishment. In the middle verse of the Bible, Ps. 118:8, it is declared: "It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to put confidence in man." It is this truth with which this article deals.

The prophet Isaiah experienced perilous times. Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, fell to the Assyrians in B. C. 722. Judah was on the brink of disaster, as she was being threatened by Sennacherib and the Assyrian army. The Assyrians wanted to subdue Judah and then extend their conquests on into Egypt. Already the country of Judah had been ravaged, strong towns and fortresses had been taken, and Jerusalem itself was about to be seized Sennacherib sent an army to Jerusalem under Rabshakeh for this purpose and Hezekiah, king of Judah (then in the fourteenth year of his reign), was preparing Jerusalem for its defense. It is at this point that we have the lesson for consideration.

"And Rabshakeh said unto them, Say ye now to Hezekiah, Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, What confidence is this wherein thou trustest?... Behold, thou trustest upon the staff of this bruised reed, even upon 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 on him." (Isa. 36:4,6.) Rabshakeh chided Hezekiah and accused him of trusting in Egypt. He compared this trust to a bruised reed, upon which if a man leaned, it would pierce his hand. Reeds grew numerously in the Jordan valley along the river. They were lofty and sometimes grew to a height of twenty feet. Sometimes they were used as walking sticks. The idea here is as a slender reed would break when a man leaned upon it and it would pierce his hand, so would be the case for those who relied upon Egypt.

Many today are leaning upon broken reeds. Whoever trusts in man and his institutions is leaning upon broken reeds. Morality alone is a broken reed. There is a popular idea that a man can be saved if he is only moral. Thousands of people are trusting for salvation in this belief. They are either unaware of or they ignore such scriptural teaching that the church is God's family (I Tim. 3:15), that all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3), that redemption and forgiveness of sins are in Christ (Eph. 1:7) and that we must get into Christ by baptism (Gal. 3: 27) and there is no other way.

Denominationalism is a broken reed and millions are anticipating salvation because they are in some man-made church. They too are either unaware of or they ignore such plain scriptural teaching that Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers (Jno. 17), that denominationalism is the very antithesis of this prayer, that every plant not planted by God will be rooted up (Matt. 15:13), and that those who seek to establish their own righteousness cannot be saved (Rom. 10:3).

Many brethren are guilty of the very thing in principle, however, that they have accused the man who depends upon his morality alone and the denominationalist of doing. They are trusting in the institutions of men by attaching them to the church to be supported and maintained by the church. Jesus did not die for a benevolent institution, or for a school, or for a youth camp, but some brethren insist upon making holy what God has not made holy by incorporating them into the work of the church. They have also placed their unholy hands upon that which God has made sacred and holy, the church, to alter God's arrangement to suit their own desires. They change what God has made sacred and holy into that which is not holy, and they would make that which is not holy, holy. They are either unaware of or they ignore the scriptural teaching that God has designed the church for a purpose and that purpose is to "make known the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Eph. 3:10,11). God planned and designed the church to do every work which God gave it to do. It was not in the wisdom of God to make out of the church an institution through which any thing and everything is to be promoted.

We are referred to the circulation of the "1967 Yearbook of the Benevolent, Educational, and Evangelistic Activities of Churches of Christ and Interested Individuals," a publication of the R. B. Sweet Company of Austin, Texas. It lists the church supported institutions. With these brethren, it is no longer just the Lord's church. To them, the church is no longer sufficient to do its work - the church is no longer unattached. Now it is church of Christ schools, church of Christ hospitals, church of Christ homes for the aged, church of Christ youth camps, church of Christ "fellowships", church of Christ homes for unwed mothers, church of Christ sponsored evangelistic campaigns, church of Christ "Herald of Truth," and on and on as the list expands. It is church of Christ "this" and church of Christ "that". There are church of Christ "campus ministries," (student centers), many of which provide entertainment and recreation. Indeed the church is undergoing a "face lift" by the modern stylists but the new look is far from the New Testament pattern. It is a new look as far as the church of Christ is concerned, but it really is not a new one - it is the same old face, that of the denominations.

We never cease to be amazed at the human reasoning offered by those who would justify such theories as salvation by morality alone, denominationalism, and all of the other doctrines of men, and we are now even more amazed by the human reasoning and utter disregard for the authority of God's word by those who claim to be followers of Christ. Liberalism, modernism, and pseudo-intellectualism are broken reeds.

We appeal to all the faithful brethren everywhere that we continue to trust in God, rely upon the sufficiency of the church to do its work, and make every effort to keep the church pure. While not leaning upon such broken reeds as mentioned above in this article, we need to be cautious that we do not lean upon other broken reeds such as nominal Christianity. Indifference and self complacency are broken reeds. Let us lean upon them but let us be active, zealous, soul conscious, and soul winners, "always abounding in the work of the Lord." (I Cor. 15:58). This labor is not in vain.