Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 KJV
A yoke, a burden and rest for your soul? The combination sounds contradictory, and yet it is an invitation from Jesus to your weary soul. Rest is the fruit of proper labor. The yoke of Jesus is a perfect and proper fit for your soul.
Man was created to work; this duty to work is a yoke created by God. There was apparently something of which the brand new creation required subduing, something that required taking dominion (Gen. 1:28). Subduing and taking dominion is a yoke which the Creator has placed upon man. Work is a matter to which the family unit was created to carry out together as the most basic functioning unit of society. However, there is a light-yoke way and heavy-yoke way to work.
The light way is found in submission, yielding to the yoke of God. The burdensome way is to choose your own yoke. However, both yokes will work toward the same objective: rest for your soul. The light yoke-way is found in resting. Rest at the outset; being relieved of the tension of having things your own way. Rest on the course; knowing that God has chosen the best course for you, the course of hope and promise. Finally, rest at the endpoint, entering in the happy eternal rest of God.
The heavy yoke-way is found in resisting God’s chosen yoke. Resisting the yoke at the outset, resulting in conflict and contest and eventually throwing it off, taking up a yoke of your own choosing. Resistance along the way at every obstacle, which is seen as a threat to your chosen way that you should not have to bear. Finally, resistance at the end with a refusal to enter into God’s chosen rest.
O’ Jerusalem, Jerusalem, [you] that kill the prophets, and stone them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under [her] wings, and you would not! (Matthew 23:37)
Amazingly, both yokes bring affliction. Jesus was crucified by the Jews as He bore the Father’s yoke; however, the Jews bore the destruction of Jerusalem as the unavoidable affliction caused by their own resistance. Thus it is, the light yoke brings the affliction of rejection and persecution by those who bear the heavy yoke. The heavy yoke also brings afflictions: the consequences of the course of one’s own choosing.
Yet even the yoke of resistance, that stubborn insistence on the path of one’s own choosing, God uses to bring affliction by it to the end that we might seek Him for the remedy of our sorrows. All affliction is designed to make us search out our souls and humbly call upon the Lord. Did not that proud prodigal repent when he came to himself in the pigsty, and said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (Luke 15:17-19)
It is good to bear the yoke and it is unavoidable. Every yoke brings affliction, this also is unavoidable; however, how you receive or resist the yoke determines the source of affliction. Remember the precious response of Job to his wife at the height of his affliction: You speak as one of the foolish women speak. What? Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:10)
How wonderfully Satan uses complaints to launch self-will and self-justification. When men know God, and glorify him not as God, neither are thankful; they become vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts are darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools, and change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man. Wherefore God also will give them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, and even as they do not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gives them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not becoming; being filled with all unrighteousness. (Romans 1:21-24, 28-32 adapted)
Lamentations 3 wonderfully describes the process of affliction turning despair into hope when we remember the promises of our Faithful God.
1 I [am] the man [that] has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. 2 He has led me, and brought [me into] darkness, but not [into] light. 3 Surely against me is he turned; he turned his hand [against me] all the day… 7 He has hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he has made my chain heavy. 8 Also when I cry and shout, he shut out my prayer. 14 I was a derision to all my people; [and] their song all the day. 15 He has filled me with bitterness, he has made me drunken with wormwood. 16 He has also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he has covered me with ashes. 17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgot prosperity. 18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD:
19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul has [them] still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. 21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 [It is of] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 [They are] new every morning: great [is] thy faithfulness. 24 The LORD [is] my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. 25 The LORD [is] good unto them that wait for him, to the soul [that] seeks him.
26 [It is] good that [a man] should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. 27 [It is] good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28 He sits alone and keeps silence, because he has borne [it] upon himself. 29 He puts his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. 30 He giveth [his] cheek to him that smites him: he is filled full with reproach. 31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever: 32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. 33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.
36 To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approves not. 37 Who [is] he [that] speaks, and it comes to pass, [when] the Lord commanded [it] not? 38 Out of the mouth of the most High proceeds not evil and good? 39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. 41 Let us lift up our heart with [our] hands unto God in the heavens.
Dear ones, look for the yoke of God and embrace it! Run to the master designer Who alone can craft the perfect yoke for every dear child of His. It is natural to desire to put off the yoke, only let that yoke which we put off be that yoke of bondage to Satan, the evil one. We are called to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free, only use not that liberty as a cloak for the flesh unto bondage again to sin. Remember the exhortation to shepherds as we shepherd the lambs of God in our homes.
And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all [men], apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And [that] they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Choose the light yoke!
Superintendent of WCFS