The yoke is an instrument of wood used to join an ox with another. The yoke is placed over their necks with the purpose to divide the load between both. For this purpose, both animals must be robust and with a strong neck, as this is this the area they need to use to accomplish the hard work. Generally, they are utilized to pull carts and plowing.
A good joint is not only to unite two animals in a yoke, they must go to a process of training for it; the capacity of each animal has to be identified to determine their roles and their position in the joint; they also have to learn to work as a team. The yoke is not use for light weight, the work is done slowly because it is used when it is needed to carry a lot of weight.
The word Yoke in the original of the Greek language, describes an instrument that is used to balance two things together. When we talk about yoke, we immediately think about subjection, burden, work, discipline and it always symbolizes submission. Slavery is yoke, and is related with obligation. The term is use in the sense of: who we obey, serve or are tied to.
With this explanation, we can better understand what the yoke represents in our lives. In the Bible we find many references over this subject:
1.- The yoke of sin. We must break with a life of sin, this means that we have to emancipate totally from the bondage of sin and the iniquity, that makes of slaves to the selfish passions and desires.
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to lose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” Isaiah 58: 6
Only God has the power to take away or place a yoke for our sins. “The yoke of my transgressions was bound; they were woven together by His hands, and thrust upon my neck. He made my strength fail; the Lord delivered me into the hands of those whom I am not able to withstand.” Lamentations 1: 14
2.- The Bible prohibits to join two different kind of animals as they will be consider unequally yoked. The Old and New Testament keep this basic principal, otherwise it will be cruel, because each animal will try to go their own way hurting each other.
“You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Deuteronomy 22: 10 It means that if we are Christians, we should not join or hang out with people that are not believers.
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
2 Corinthians 6: 14.
Life is like pulling from a cart, sometimes the weight is light and other times is heavy; to advance in it basically depends on whether we are or not submitted to the correct instructor or teacher, who instruct us how to avoid and overcome the different challenges we face. It also depends on our capacity to learn about human relationships, communication, love and forgiveness through our daily living with others and if the roles, the responsibilities and the team effort of each one, in our lives, are defined and utilized properly.
3.- The yoke of Christ or the Yoke of Discipleship, is the decision of being imitators of Jesus Christ. For us to submit, the Lord imposes barriers and goals using pressure: whether is through repentance or breaking our pride and rebellion to reach His objective, because “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” says, Luke 6: 40.
His focus is to teach us to have compassion for our brothers and sisters, to love each other, to tolerate each other’s mistakes and to forgive each other regardless of the circumstances.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
“ Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Colossians 3: 13.
He utilizes situations and limits, to keep us in the way he has prepared for us. ‘’ For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2: 10
For an ox to learn quickly, they place him next to another ox that already has experience in the yoke and the dominant ox teaches the younger one how to work. In the same way, we learn with Jesus Christ when we accept to walk with him in the narrow road, so His character be formed in us so we could be holy and purified instruments in His hands.
Is not only about us renouncing to the freedom of deciding for ourselves, is to freely chose in the love for His name to take the burden and live like He lived; is not to keep his word is to live by it. “Because[a] narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7: 14
There are 2 characteristics of the disciples of Christ: meekness and humility and the purpose of the yoke, is that we learn it.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart These, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51: 17
Meekness is knowing how to control our strength. A meek person is not someone who serves, it’s someone who has self-control and who controls their reactions. Jesus did not make any decisions by Himself, he accepted the yoke of his Father.
“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5: 30
While Moses led the people of Israel he was an example of meekness, he had the strength to control his character in the midst of adversities and the needs of the people.
A humble person, is not considered greater or better than others, it’s someone who demeans themselves voluntarily.
“who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2: 6 – 8
The Lord will allow circumstances in our lives, that will teach us to have meek and humble hearts such as: lack, difficulties, sicknesses, isolation, rejection, injustice, and all those things that we go through that will help us to identify with the humiliation of Christ, and will allow Jesus to manifest in our lives and not our pride. This requires submission on our part and we can only do it by letting go of our own will and submitting to the will of God to be purified. Through those experiences, we learn about the love and our spiritual responsibilities.
“Come to Me, all you 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.” Matthew 11: 28 – 30
Our mind needs to be under the yoke of Christ. He says, “take my yoke over you, and learn from me”, this requires a decision, a mental action and a spiritual willingness. “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. John 4:34
His yoke is light and easy and it will be like that if we voluntarily accept it as an act of love, because the yoke of Jesus is lighter than the burden of sin.
Our daily lives leave us spiritually exhausted and only the forgiveness of God can take away that burden. The rest of the soul comes when we can prove that the will of God is perfect and acceptable. We need to stop fighting in our own strength and accept his control over our lives, the only way we can do it is with the strength of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the teacher is to guide us regardless of the circumstances that we go through, so that our walk through life would be a blessing and a victory for each one of us, as a person, as a family member, as a church, and as His servants.
“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” 1 John 2: 5 – 6
We need to understand, that the Lord has a plan for our lives which surpasses what we can choose by ourselves. These teachings will be a blessing for us and for the lives of others; training disciples for Jesus.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28: 19
In a great manner, the new believer learns from those who have been walking longer in the ways of the Lord. The testimony that we give to others is very important, not what we say but what we do.
The people that are not in agreement with the Lord, will work very hard and will put upon themselves heavy burdens difficult to manage so they can satisfy the desires of their soul, demonstrating to God that they don’t need Him, but that labor will not be fruitful, because the will of God will be done. “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked.” Isaiah 57: 21
This is for those who don’t know the Lord and are still lost in their sin and for the believers, because only a mind that is under the yoke of Christ, will be able to absorb and assimilate the divine revelation, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”[a] But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2: 16
Only through obedience and the acknowledgement of the absolute authority of God and the Holy Spirit over our lives, we can enter in the kingdom of heaven. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:21-23
Submitting to the Lord is something that only a few are willing to do, and, we need to understand that if we don’t do it, our human efforts will not give fruits that will last, the work will be permanent and hard. The sin of rebellion, the need and the burden of living separated from God is heavy.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” Psalm 127: 1
The natural reaction of all, is to escape from the yoke of Christ, seeking to alleviate the pressure that it creates, but by doing this, we are being rebellious, stopping our spiritual growth, affecting our relationship with the Lord, rejecting his control over our lives; and the suffering that we don’t desire; we will live it as part of the corrective discipline in place of the lovely treatment of Christ in our hearts.
‘’ I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5
Just like the yoke is for the robust animals, the yoke of Christ, is only for those who has accepted Him in their hearts. They will have the strength of the Holy Spirit inside of them and the power of God to face the challenges of life. Believers that are firm in the faith, will be able to endure the hard work and the heavy burdens of reconciliation and the contradictions of the world.
We can continue fighting in our own strength, trying to serve God in our own way, avoiding the suffering and living a comfortable Christian life, but that is not the plan of God for his people. If we want the peace that surpasses all understanding, we need to share and accept the yoke of Christ, which is founded in love; in Whom, the true burden is carried by the Lord, and we only hold the yoke. The job of winning souls for Christ does not happen suddenly and we should not take it for granted, it requires time and a firm spiritual growth. For that purpose, the Lord uses the Yoke in our lives.
His power and strength, sustains us to overcome the circumstances that we must face for our growth. When we ask, the Holy Spirit which is inside of us, helps us to understand this in our mind and our heart, filling us with the power we need to make the decision to accept His yoke in our live, so we can experience the true rest.