It was the summer of 2009 and Jamey and I were attending a conference in Colorado. I distinctly remember sitting outside on beautiful sunny days admiring the splendor of the mountains surrounding us and questioning God about this verse:
“Come to me, all you 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
God, what does this mean? I thought I took your yoke, so why am I weary? Why is this so hard? Why is this so heavy? I know this verse should be encouraging, but it isn’t when I didn’t find the truth in it. So I kept seeking the Lord for understanding and over time He answered me. Perhaps you have struggled with this verse as well?
Let's look into these verses together.
Let's start with the yoke. Do you know what a yoke is? I didn’t really. I am definitely not a farm girl. I don’t even know how to properly plant a flower, let alone to have any knowledge of archaic farming equipment. I am thankful the Internet provides a wealth of information about yokes and oxen from which I gained much insight about Biblical references to yokes.
What is the purpose of a yoke? How does it work?
A yoke is a wooden beam placed on the backs of a pair of oxen and a u-shaped bow is placed around the neck of each ox, which enables them to pull a heavy load TOGETHER. A yoke makes the work easier for the oxen because the burden is shared.
In Matthew 11, Jesus invites us to come to Him and take His yoke. Yes, we are to carry a load, but with Jesus’ yoke the load should be lighter as we share the burdens with Him or with fellow Christians.
The yoke must be the right fit. When researching I discovered there are specific directions for fitting oxen for their yoke. In fact in the past yokes were custom-made because yokes that didn’t fit just right would cause chaffing and would wound the oxen. During Jesus’ time, the yokes were made of wood and fashioned by carpenters. Hmmm, wasn’t Jesus a carpenter? I wonder if he ever crafted yokes?
Yes, my yoke was ill-fitting. I was being rubbed raw and wounded. On the website, oxhilldevons.com, I read, “You can’t expect an animal to give their all with ill-fitting equipment.” Then I read in Oxen: A Teamster’s Guide, when an ox is wearing a yoke that is too big or too small it will exhibit signs of discomfort such as backing away, unwillingness to work, and dropped heads. Wow! I was an ox with an ill-fitting yoke! I was showing the same signs. I wasn’t giving my all. I was employing the equipment with the wrong fit. How about you? How is your yoke fitting?
The problem was I picked up the wrong yoke. I wasn’t wearing the one the master carpenter crafted for me, the tailored-made one. The One, who knit me together in my mother’s womb and knows everything about me, knows how to custom make my yoke, so I am not wounded or too burdened.
The Amplified Bible describes His yoke as, “wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant).” He has made a yoke for you, too. Which yoke sits on your back an ill-fitted one or the custom-made, properly fitted one? Are you wearing the yoke of sin? Or the yoke of the law? Or the yoke of lies? Or the yoke of expectations? Or the yoke of trying to do it all? Are you chaffed? Are you wounded? Are you weary?
May I encourage you to take off any yoke that Jesus has not given to you and allow him to fit you with the right one? Jesus invites you to come and take the yoke he has for you, the one that is comfortable, gracious, pleasant and easy to bear. No more backing away and dropping your head.
Hopefully next week we can learn how to be trained to work with a new yoke!