"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." Matthew 11:29
Ordinarily the yoke stands for subjugation (from the Latin subjugere, to bring under the yoke) and bondage. Oxen on whose necks the yoke was laid were subjugated, that is, placed under the yoke, so that they could be controlled as heavy draft animals.
In the Bible the term “yoke” is sometimes used figuratively, representing a person’s oppression under sin. Jeremiah declares, “My sins have been bound into a yoke … They have come upon my neck” (Lamentations 1:14). In a messianic prophecy Isaiah envisions the coming of the Deliverer to free God’s people from “the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressors” (Isaiah 9:4).
Jesus Christ has broken the yoke of sin and has freed us from every burden of guilt and punishment that the Law threatened. Saint Paul writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
Obviously it is another kind of yoke that Jesus has in mind when He tells us, “Take My yoke upon you." He emphasizes that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Christ’s yoke is not forced on anyone, it is willingly and gladly assumed. It is the yoke of service to Him and to those who need our love. It is the yoke that links us to our Savior, who is “gentle and humble in heart.” In His presence we find rest for our souls. It is a yoke that unites us with our family and our church to get adventuresome things done.
A pious legend has it that Joseph and Jesus in Nazareth had a woodworking shop in which they made yokes for oxen. They supposedly made their products so well that they did not chafe the necks of the oxen. If true, we could well understand why Jesus would later speak of the yoke of discipleship under Him as easy. Try it, and you will find it so.
PRAYER: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for freeing me from the yoke of sin and the Law’s condemnation, and for giving me rest for my soul. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)
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