I’ve been thinking about yokes lately. Weird, huh?
A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that’s fastened over the necks of two work animals and attached to the load they’re pulling. The idea is that it’s much easier for two to pull a heavy load than one alone. In fact, the word ‘yoke’ comes from an ancient Greek root word that means ‘unite.’
We’re readily acquainted with the New Testament passage where Jesus himself invites us to “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 our souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).
Now, I’ve always found this invitation a bit confusing. To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, yokes are not worn to rest. They’re worn for work—hard, grueling work at that. If you’re already weary and burdened, why on earth would you plunk a big wooden thing the size of a kitchen table on your shoulders? How could it possibly produce rest when you’re struggling to support this monstrous additional weight? (Not unlike the squashed, heavy weariness many of us have experienced during the past two pandemic years, right?)
Then I came across the story in 1 Kings 12:1-15, where King David’s self-centered grandson, Rehoboam, is crowned king and is asked by his subjects to lighten the “heavy yoke” of harsh labor his father (Solomon) had inflicted on them. (In case you’re wondering, rotten Rehoboam refused and made their burden even heavier because they dared ask for mercy.)
So, can a heavy yoke actually be lightened?
A little research revealed that many yokes can indeed be made lighter when a faithful, hard-toiling team has earned some rest. The yoke is not completely removed, for there’s more work to be done later, but in order to reduce pressure, the yoke is lifted or ‘made easy’ so the two can rest comfortably together.
I love this analogy.
Probably because during the past couple of difficult years, there have been many times when I’ve felt like I’m struggling to pull that ridiculously heavy load all by myself.
But, when I stop long enough to allow myself to be yoked with the source of all strength, Jesus, He carries the lion’s share of the burden and knows all the best places to rest my soul and body. Really rest. So, I leave that place infused with His presence—refueled, refreshed and renewed.
My friend, if you’re limping along all by yourself, try yoking yourself to Jesus for some real rest. His yoke is truly easy, and His burden is light.