Is the yoke you are bearing a blessing or a curse?
As one born and raised in America, my identity is so closely tied to this land and culture I’ve grown up with. Freedom has always been celebrated clearly and loudly. Our founding fathers established important direction and documents to build upon and preserve freedom for all the people, citizens of this country. This was for the many who were here and the many who would come.
Is a man who bears a yoke really free? Does every man bear a yoke and then what does freedom mean within that reality?
It is clear from God’s word that we are all born under the yoke of sin. It is also clear that sin is a hard taskmaster – it steals, kills and destroys even while under the pretense of offering us what we desire and think we must have in this life. This is a ‘yoke’ that carries a curse – utter damnation, eternal Hell, the judgment of God for every sinner.
Enter Jesus Christ – the God-man! He bore a yoke. He bore the yoke of the Cross, and he bore it on our behalf. Sinless, he became sin for us so that we might bear the yoke of his righteousness.
Is mercy a blessing or a curse? Is grace a blessing or a curse?
In Jeremiah, chapter 27:1-7, God commands his people to submit to the yoke of a man; a king, yes, but still a man. How can this be?
In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah[a] the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord. 2 Thus the Lord said to me: “Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck. 3 Send word[b] to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the sons of Ammon, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon by the hand of the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 Give them this charge for their masters: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: This is what you shall say to your masters: 5 “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 7 All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.
In Romans 13:1-7, God commands his people to submit to yoke of a man – governing authorities. How can this be?
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
In the gospel according to Matthew, Mt 11:25-30, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, calls us to bear a yoke.
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[g] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Jesus Christ offers us love, mercy and grace. He came to redeem us from the yoke of sin and the yoke of sinful man. He offers us ‘His yoke’ which he promises is easy and light. Under his yoke, we may appear under the yoke of sin – because we still struggle with sin each day and we may appear to be under the yoke of sinful man – because we remain here as heavenly citizens in an earthly context and called to submission, not by man anymore, but by our Savior and LORD whose yoke is bearable in Jesus Christ.
These precious realities are giving me hope for living in an America that is changing, for the worse. Not that America was ever perfect or sinless, but it seemed to afford what we all wanted – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whether here in America or some other place in this world, we all live under a yoke.
Some of us live under the yoke of the Cross. Jesus promised it is easy and light – do not mistake that promise and do not disregard the love, mercy and grace that are abundant under that yoke. Under his yoke, we can bear the ‘lesser yokes’ of a king Nebuchadnezzar and we can bear the ‘lesser yokes’ of a local, national or global earthly governing authority. And we can, because our yoke is born in Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ – our All in all.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”