Take My Yoke Upon You

I’m writing this as to an unbeliever, asking that one a question, aware also that sometimes we believers can be very unbelieving. Like the children of Israel in the wilderness when the going got rough. “They believed not in God…” (Ps. 78:22).

Here’s my question. Are you willing to take the risk of completely unburdening yourself of your cares? Isn’t your response that this would be wonderful? Away with them all… but what’s the catch? Why do you call it a risk?

For two reasons. First, I know how important your troubles are to you, as mine are to me—for they are ours, aren’t they, and who wants to risk not looking after them ourselves, who else would give them the care and attention they need? So we continue to carry them ourselves, and they pile up, and we are like the beast of burden yoked under heavy burden.

Perhaps you are saying that this is not true of you; you would do anything to be liberated from your yoke of cares, but you’ve been taught by long experience you can’t expect that. If this is your case there is good news for you; there is yet one thing you haven’t done; there is a way—but this too involves a risk.

Which leads to my second reason, and this will mean rephrasing my question. Are you ready to take the risk of discovering another yoke—one in which you may be sure your burdens are truly cared for while you yourself live care free?

Ah, you say, that’s the catch—to be free of all my burdens I must take upon me another yoke. And yokes, well, yokes themselves are something I would as soon be completely rid of.

Oh? All of them? What about this one? Hearken to Jesus’ words:

Come unto me all ye that labour and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Let’s go through this slowly with a listening ear, a hearing heart.

“Come unto Me…”

We are invited to come to a Person, not a formula for how to live the carefree life. “Come unto Me.” This is where it begins for those who hear these words for the first time. But—this will help some of us for whom these words are no longer new—in the Greek, come is in the present imperative tense. The implication of that tense is, continue to come, come again and again, come as often as necessary, and—“take heed how ye hear”—discover His words to be continually new.

“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…”

Young’s Literal Translation has, “Come unto me, all ye labouring and burdened ones…” Vincent’s Word Studies comments, “the first [labouring] an active, the second [burdened] a passive participle, exhibiting the active and passive sides of human misery.” So there is an unhappy synergy at work here—our own inner labourings of heart and mind trying to cope with the problems of life (in fact the word labour is the Greek kopiaO, from which our word cope came down to us); and synergizing (working together) with our inner labourings, the burdens from without, the multitude of cares that come upon you and me, which it seems we have no say in the matter; it comes with the territory of life in this world, and nobody is exempt, all we can do is try somehow to cope with it.

Again, let us listen. Here is Jesus, moved with our miseries, calling out to us:

“Come unto Me…. and I will give you rest.”

And what is rest? We will state it in negative terms for now—what it is not—and there are negative terms aplenty. No anxiety. No worry. No fear. No torment. No frazzled nerves. No stressed-out meltdowns. No turmoil of mind… The list is long. No unrest of heart. That’s a word we hear a lot in the news these days whenever there is social upheaval somewhere in the world. Unrest. Jesus says He has, and gives, rest in the midst of unrest. That one word give. No necessity to labour for or pay for it. It’s free. “I will give you rest.”

More on rest in a moment from the positive point of view. First we must join this statement with the one following it:

“I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…”

There, as I said, is the catch. We must understand that the rest comes only in another yoke—that is, in our being yoked with Christ. “My yoke.” But Lord Jesus, yokes are made for toil, for work, aren’t they? Are You actually saying that You have for us a yoke that is so different that it actually produces rest instead of weariness, a yoke that in fact is in itself rest? Yes, this is what He is saying, and He simply says, “Take My yoke upon you…” He presents it to us, to you and to me, and will surely put it upon us; our part, the grace of God helping us, is to bow our neck and take it upon us. “Take My yoke upon you…”

I wonder how you see that yoke. Some picture it as a single yoke with Jesus outside it guiding. Others, of whom I am one, see it as a dual yoke with Jesus the “lead ox”  beside me.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of Me…”

That is, from Me, not just about Me. Learn from Me, and the word learn is from the same root as disciple. So the Teacher is inviting the burdened to become discipled to Himself. Come unto Me, He says, take My yoke upon you, become My committed disciple, and learn from Me…

“For I am meek and lowly of heart…”

The lowly Son of God walked ever in rest, doing only what He saw His Father doing, speaking only what He heard Him saying. He would not take upon Himself any other burden than this, leaving all else to His Father to look after. Not for Him—the proud disposition of the seekers of self-sovereignty, who instead of being submissive to God are dismissive of Him, asserting their un-dependence, arrogating to themselves what is God’s alone… inevitably discovering to their great unrest that the liberty they sought was actually a grievous yoke under which they are burdened with what God never meant man to bear. The God of love has not left them without a way of release. How good to know with great thankfulness that One who is meek and lowly of heart, who willingly took upon Him His Father’s yoke of rest, delighting to do His will, nothing more, nothing less, calls the labouring and burdened to join Him in that same yoke.

Let’s join phrases together again:

“Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart…”

“I am meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Satisfaction, contentment, peace, fulfillment… Rest. The rest is in His yoke, in being discipled to Him; learning from Him His own meekness and lowliness, we find rest unto our souls.

But—You are so kind and patient, Lord—is someone still worrying, still finding it hard to let go, still asking, What about all these burdens that mean so much to me, Lord? Am I just to abandon them?

But what if, He responds, your burdens become my burdens, and My burden becomes yours, the one and only burden you are to carry? In My yoke you cannot carry any other burden. Only My own. That one burden alone, My burden, is all you are responsible to carry—yet not alone, but carry with Me. As to your burdens, I will look after them, each of them, all of them, I will carry them as though they were My own. In fact they are My own, once you have become My disciple. The burdens of My disciple become My very own. I will not let a single one of them fall to the ground. And yoked together, My disciple and I will pray together concerning each one of them—in My Father’s will—and do together what He bids us do. Be sure that in this yoke we shall accomplish together far more than you ever dreamed of.

“And ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is                    light.”

Again the rest is linked to the yoke. He promises rest—in a yoke—in complete submission to Him, the abandoned obedience of a yielded disciple willingly and fully surrendered to Him in His yoke—His yoke alone, while refusing any other. “My yoke,” He says, “My burden…” He is speaking of the yoke His Father had put upon Him, a yoke that is “easy,” in which he bears a burden that is “light.” I wonder at that: Jesus carried immense responsibility, and His burden—the glory of God—was surely heavier than any other. But no, He says, yoked with My Father the burden is light. Light because I am doing only what My Father lays upon Me to do—and actually it is My Father Himself that doeth the works. Now Jesus calls you and me to take upon us that same yoke in which the work is His, it is He Himself who is working—and we are simply doing His work with Him; yoked beside Him we are partners in His work.

We enjoy His rest. This does not mean inactivity or idleness any more than it meant for Him, but inward rest, rest unto the soul, refreshing rest, even though each one of us is very much involved in whatever the Lord Himself is doing. Now we too do simply and only what He is doing, and discover rest unto our souls in the doing of it. This, then, is a very different synergy, isn’t it—a synergy of rest.

“For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

“Rest unto your souls,” He says. Because His yoke is “easy,” that is, gentle, kindly, comfortable, congenial, serviceable, helpful, “like wings to a bird,” as one has described it. And “tailor made.” Someone else’s will not do, it’s not a “one size fits all” yoke. My rancher friend Ed Parke once told me of something he had read, an account of an old timer who made yokes like that. He would place the yoke on the animal and check the fit, and wherever necessary shave it down so it fit without abrasion; it would not cause raw sores by constant rubbing. In the words of old-time Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the yoke is “chrestos, not only easy, but gracious, so the word signifies; it is sweet and pleasant, there is nothing in it to gall the yielding neck, nothing to hurt us, but on the contrary, much to refresh us. It is lined with love.”

“Nothing in it to gall the yielding neck.” I love those words, I love them; evermore put Your yoke upon me, dear Lord, I come to you, and I bow and yield my neck.

And you? Ready to take the risk now for the first time?

Or like me, persistently take it again?

10 responses »

  1. Thanks for sharing, Allan! Very timely, as we’ve just been considering that rest which remains for us to enter into. I’ve been collecting kingdom paradoxes that defy the human mind. One is that we “labor to enter His rest.” Your angle on risk sheds more light on what that means and makes it very practical. And you’ve just added another paradox to my list – “Putting on a (His) yoke that frees us from our burdens.”
    I very much appreciate this word, especially in light of current events. May we have the wisdom and courage to risk continuing to trade our own yoke of hopelessness and bondage for His yoke of liberty and rest! Blessings to you, my brother.

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    • Hi Ron, and thank you. Another facet of this “risk” element is what someone has called (I’ve forgotten where I read this) “the risk of faith.” The word of God is sure, but the response of faith to hearing the word of God always seems to carry with it a sense of apparent risk. Like Peter stepping out of the boat once he was sure he had heard Jesus’ word, “Come.” He risked going under, but he took the risk. The same with us concerning our yoke of cares. A risk is involved in abandoning that yoke and taking upon us Another. But what have we got to lose? Just our cares and burdens.

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    • Allan, this was very enlightening for me. Someone pointed out that a yoke is for uniting two oxen together so that they pull the weight in unison and not against one another. You might say that their unity is an “exchange of burdens” just as you described, my bother. How often we think that if we don’t take these worldly burdens upon ourselves, who will? That is what is driving all these protests even in this hour. Yet, Jesus made it clear that HE will if we give them over to Him. Then and only then can we receive HIS leading in what is important to the building up of HIS kingdom on this earth.

      For instance, as long as I was determined to raise MY kids as I saw fit, I was a failure. But once I prayerfully gave them over to God, things started changing. Didn’t Jesus say, “Call NO MAN, father”? My burden became God’s burden, for He loves them more than I ever could. AND as I took on HIS burden, I also had HIS love and wisdom worked into me so I could rightly do my part in His kingdom work.

      Thank you so much for putting this very important and freeing truth is such clear words, my brother. I pray that He will ever keep it before us all the more so as this world seeks to press its burdens upon us. Amen.

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      • Thankyou, Michael. Indeed that’s where the “risk” lay with me– could I, would I, let go of all my troubles, my concerns– my burdens– and take upon me the the Lord’s burden in His yoke, entrusting all my burdens (the little ones as well as the great) to Him? The key is in coming to realize that only HIS work will accomplish anything; all my own strivings (and worryings) are chronically fruitless.
        Here’s a little poem I found in a book called Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret:

        Bear not a single care;
        One is too much for thee.
        The work is Mine, and Mine alone;
        Thine– to rest in Me.

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  2. Powerful. Thank you, Allan. Sadly, obedience is not a concept many embrace.

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    • Thank you, Anna. Yes, that’s true; the wonderful thing about the yoke of Christ is that in the words He speaks, there is an ingredient of grace that enables obedience. That is the distinctly New Covenant provision.

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  3. Allan, The yoke that burdens the soul, that would make us weary and heavy laden, is the attempt to be our own God. This was the Serpent’s temptation in the garden; “you shall be as Gods knowing good and evil.” This remains the Serpent’s temptation through many guises; wherever we usurp the Creator’s function of teaching the creature (us) what is to be done and what is to be left alone. This is the wearisome condition from which we need rest rather than the particular concerns of “what shall we eat? with what shall we clothe ourselves? etc.” Jesus can proclaim “learn from me” because he is the Creator, the Word who was in the beginning, in whom is the life that is the light of mankind. He is the Word that must tabernacle in our flesh. He is the grace that brings salvation that appears to all mankind, which teaches all who will hear.

    The Psalmist stated, “Be still and know that I am God.” “Learn from me” means that the learner must be still; not just absence of words but an inner peace and lack of perturbation. This stillness is the gift of God, the same stillness as Jesus calming the storm on the sea. When we attempt to calm our own storms, however those attempts may manifest themselves, we are back to being our own God. “Know that I (the Creator) am God” means that I (the creature) have proven that I am not God. I have taken off or allowed to be taken off the yoke of the Serpent that I may take up my rightful yoke of learning from the Creator. “Know that I (the Creator) am God” comes with the implicit understanding that the dialogic relationship with the Creator is restored wherein we are taught by God what is right and what is wrong as it was in the beginning.

    “In the day you eat of the attempt to be your own God, you shall die.” One does not need to look far to see the weariness that sits upon mankind because of attempting to be our own source of life. Jesus told the Jews, “You search the scriptures because in them you think you will find life. But they testify of me and you will not come to me that you may have life.” In our attempt to be our own God, even our study of Scripture in an effort grasp that key to life, we crucify the source of life. “Learn from me” because “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

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    • Ellis, as you said, even to this day the Serpent is telling people they can be their own god. In fact many new agers (or whatever the latest terminology is) ardently pursue “their own inner deity,” something unthinkable for any who have come to know the living and true God. But not only new agers, all those in Adam (although the vast majority would protest that this is not so) are under a yoke in which they are their own god–simply by living a life in which they leave God out and “do their own thing.” They call it freedom. It is a heavy yoke of bondage. The only release from it is to bow the neck and take upon them the yoke of the meek and lowly Teacher. There is “something” about His living grace-infused words that make His yoke easy, kind, appealing… and His burden light.

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      • Allan, A thought has been running around in my mind all day concerning “my burden is light”. It is a relic of the English language that we have two meanings for that word “light”. One meaning, i.e. not heavy, fits the context of this passage. But the crazy thing is that the other meaning, i.e. that which enables us to see, gives useful meaning as well. Taken in this sense, that which has burdened the soul can legitimately be called “darkness”. Jesus’ statement, “my burden is light” would then be understood as that which dispels the darkness. Christ’s light is a heavy burden to those who love the darkness because their deeds are evil. But to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, carrying his light is a glorious liberation to the soul which lifts us up rather than weighting us down.

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        • That’s an interesting thought, Ellis, I like that! I’ve often considered that there are two meaning to the word “light” but that’s as far as I took it. Truly, there is nothing more “uplifting” and unburdening than light!

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