THE LIFE-GIVING YOKE

I’d read these verses many times before. Why did they hit me so profoundly this time around?

Sometimes I think that we allow scripture to become too familiar. Also, our minds are often “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11) so that the weight of the message does not impact us until the word comes through, accompanied by a Holy Spirit electrical charge. That must be what happened to me this time around.

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

“For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (TLV)

I took time to read it again, more slowly and intentionally. What do these words really mean? Weary, burdened, rest, yoke, learn, gentle, humble, souls, easy, light.

As time rolls along, the world screams for attention and demands to pull us along with every new pleasure or horror so that we can stay current, informed, and prepared.

Ukraine. Israel. Hamas. United Nations. CDC. Do this, not that. Do that, not this. This is the real news. Actually, that is. So many things hidden. Truth? Agenda? Tolerate this, but not that. Follow this person. Listen to that one. Don’t get involved. Fight for your rights.

Christian living has similar traps.

Follow this ministry (and that one, and that one, and that one). Be wary of these. Attend this. Get refreshed there. Get equipped here and there. Listen to this “word”. Here’s today’s prophecy, tomorrow’s prophecy, next week’s, next year’s! Put your name in for a personal word. Go there for another. Love. Give here. No, give there. Help. Chase after this. You can have it all. Let us promote your ministry. Promote yourself.

Are you weary? Maybe just from reading all that?

The world can be overwhelming. Without the right direction many seek out ways to numb themselves.

Obsessively scroll Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X. Binge watch TV. Game all night. Drugs. Eat less. Eat more. Work, work, work.

Jesus said, “Come to Me.”

THE WOOING

Just as He told me to “walk with Him” a few days ago (see When Rest Accomplishes More), today He is wooing me (wooing all mankind) as God did the wayward wife in the book of Hosea.

So then, I Myself will entice her, I will bring her into the wilderness and speak to her heart.” Hosea 2:16

Why the wilderness? To be pulled aside from all the distractions. What of her heart? So that she will know the true intentions; the depth of His love, her value to  Him, for her to return to the way of truth and life.

Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28

I pulled out my concordance to see just what He meant by “weary and burdened.”

“Weary” comes from the word that is also translated as “labor.” It means to grow weary, tired, exhausted with toil or burdens or grief, to labor with wearisome effort, bodily labor.

“Burdened” (also translated as heavy-laden) means to load up a vessel or animal. It can figuratively mean to be overburdened with ceremony (or spiritual anxiety).

Are you weary and burdened? By the world, by the government, your work, friends and family, church? Jesus promises to give rest.

REST

The rest that Jesus desires to give you is the kind in which you literally take a break. It means to repose—stop your labor or movement for a time and recover your strength. Be refreshed.

Oh, that is so very hard to do at times. How many times do we busy ourselves to avoid slowing down?

If I slow down, I won’t achieve my goal. If I slow down, I won’t obtain the promotion. If I slow down, the pain that is buried may rise to the surface. I’ve GOT to keep going.

And yet:

I know the plans I have for you…” Jeremiah 29:11

Be still…” Psalm 46:10

BEING YOKED

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me…” Matthew 11:29a

He is gently encouraging you to take His yoke upon yourself. He will not force you. He does not force anything. Rather, He invites. You and I must choose to take His yoke and be joined to Him.

A yoke is like a three-strand cord that cannot easily be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). As I considered my own yokes as well as the obvious yokes of others all around me, I recognized the power of yoking. I had to ask, “What and who am I yoked to? Am I benefitting or being harmed?”

In the traditional sense, I see two oxen yoked together for their work. They must work as a team with the same pace and similar strength to be effective. One must not pull too hard and fast, nor lag behind. There cannot be a power struggle between the two. One is likely more experienced than the other, and the other must learn. One must pay attention to the pace and ques of the other and vice versa.

The yoke that Jesus offers—just as with oxen—refers to a joining or coupling. It means servitude—a submission to authority (not simply imparted by Him but shared with Him).

You mean I have to submit? Like a slave? Lose my independence? All my work I’ve done up to this point? Why would I do that? My breakthrough may happen tomorrow after all! And what could I possibly learn from Him? I’m educated. I am skilled. Anyway, the Bible was written so long ago. It’s for old people from another era. I don’t want to change… but I am tired and in pain.

Jesus invites us to be yoked with Him and learn from Him. He is the strong one of the two. We must humble ourselves to be able to agree with this yoking.

Jesus’ offer to take up His yoke is for anyone. He promises to teach in a way that each can learn from Him. The word “learn” refers to being like a disciple, or student. If He is God Himself, the Creator of all things (which He claims to be, and I believe), there is no one better to learn from. His disciple, or student, will increase in knowledge.

Just like His biblical disciples and so many others since that time, we can learn by inquiry or observation. We can ask Him anything at all. He will either tell us or show us the answer we need.

GENTLE AND HUMBLE

…for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29b

The phrase “gentle and humble” is Jesus’ declaration that He is a leader with a disposition of mildness and a gentle spirit. He is saying that you can trust in His goodness and control. He is not occupied with “self.”

Now, if I’m going to learn from someone, I would definitely prefer a person who will patiently and lovingly teach, answer, and correct me as I go along. The alternative is a boss who is demanding, impatient, condescending, and focused on self-promotion.

When I think about places where I’ve been employed, the most positive memorable ones were those that encouraged my growth. Organizations that provided the right resources for the work, provided constructive feedback, and encouragement to further my education. These were the places, and the kind of leadership that I was excited about, that I easily learned and grew from, and was even content—or at rest—to work with.

Jesus’ way of leading, teaching and correcting leads to rest; a cessation from striving, refreshment for the soul (both in spirit, as well as the soul—or mind, will and emotions).

The word “soul” in Matthew 11:29 refers to a breath and spirit. It is God-breathed life, the very breath that makes you alive. It also refers to the soul being regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life, and the soul as an essence which differs from the physical body, as it (the soul) is not dissolved by death (Matthew 10:28).

The rest we will find in Matthew 11:29 differs from a break or end of work. Rather, it is a harmonious laboring with Christ in work and everyday life. His Spirit of rest will influence our faculties, the affections of our wills, hearts, imaginations and consciences. His presence and guidance make us new, so to speak.

MAN’S YOKE OR JESUS’ YOKE

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

The crowd that Jesus spoke to that day would have known about heavy yokes and burdens. He said this about the leaders of that day:

They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. All their works they do to be noticed by men.” Matthew 23:4-5

Without trying too hard, I can think of many ways that others in leadership positions put burdens on people today. Jesus’ yoke is “easy” or gracious, kind, good. His burden is “light,” that is, easy to bear. Those are refreshing thoughts!

THE THIRD STRAND

I previously mentioned the three-strand cord. When one chooses to take the yoke of Christ, that person is trusting Him to be a better guide and a better way. There has come a willingness to put aside any personal agenda and be led by Him. But just as there is a driver (the third strand) working a team of oxen, there is also a driver for this yoke upon Christ and another person. Jesus has fully submitted Himself to this driver, God the Father.

But in order that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.” John 14:31

Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in My love!” John 15:9

He is a good Father who “so loved the world” (John 3:16). God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to show us the way to Him—to eternal life. Jesus, the express image on earth of the Father (Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3), invites us to take up His yoke of love and rest.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

I took up Jesus’ yoke many years ago and have certainly learned from Him. He has undoubtedly taught me—patiently and graciously—many things. But this world uses many things to distract my attention. That’s why it is so important for me to be in close daily relationship with Him through reading the Bible, praying, and sharing life with other believers.

As I’ve studied these verses, I again wondered why this scripture stood out with such intensity. It has led me to ask Him, “Are we still yoked? Am I veering off too far, or slowing too much? Is ‘this or that’ what I should be involved in?” I know He will teach and show me the way—the path He has designed for me.

I chose to be yoked to Christ. I have put His yoke upon me to learn from Him. He is gentle, humble, and so many other things to me. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When I remember that I am yoked to Him, I immediately receive the guidance and rest He promised.  He is good. He is pure love.

What about you? Did you need this reminder too? Are you thinking for the first time—or once again—of taking up His yoke? His life-giving yoke? If you are feeling burdened, He is the One to turn to. Simply call on Him for help.

Would you like prayer? Feel free to message your request to me through the contact page and I will pray.

Receive His blessings, and His rest, today.