Weary? Burdened? Then you are likely in a place where you have stepped outside of Jesus' care over your lives and are trying to do things in your own strength. Weary and burdened existence is usually because we find it so doggone hard to let anyone else be in control of our lives - demanding to hold on for dear life despite the obstacles in our path. Most work animals, such as the oxen or horses, will not look upon a yoke as a great piece of "jewelry" or even an "adornment". In fact, when they see the yoke there are some animals who might just say, "Nope, not gonna happen!" Honesty is the best medicine here, so I must admit, there are times when I have said those words! Yet, when I finally submit to the yoke, I find I am taken in a totally different direction than I had planned. What the yoke does is bind me together with others traveling in the same direction I am now bound, and it allows someone who knows the directions to my destination to drive my life!
The Father has handed over everything to My care. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son—and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal the Father. Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Put My yoke upon your shoulders—it might appear heavy at first, but it is perfectly fitted to your curves. Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. When you are yoked to Me, your weary souls will find rest. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:27-30 VOICE)
One thing I learned about "yoking" animals together is quite illustrative of why I think Jesus used this word picture. You see, when two animals are yoked together, they pull together. When one grows a little weary, the other takes over the "lead" for a little while. It is a shared burden. There is much to be said about not going through life "pulling your own weight" all the time. In fact, when we finally "yoke up" with the right individuals in life, we find the burden of "pulling" becomes one we not only share, but we actually get through with more grace, ease, and enjoyment.
Did you know there are different types of yokes? I always pictured either that bar of wood which kind of binds the two animals together just over their neck region, or that oblong piece of leather and wood which fits over their heads and connects to the reins. Here are some interesting tidbits about the various types of yokes:
- The neck or bow yoke is a wooden cross-piece across the shoulders of the animals with an "oxbow" made of metal which encircles the neck of the animals individually. As one animal moves forward, pressure is applied to the shoulders of the other. The pressure is born upon their shoulders, with the load being drug by a beam which extends from the middle of the wooden cross-piece. The weight is distributed and the pressure is not hard to bear because they are both bearing it together. Ever find your shoulders just a little tense? I often realize I am carrying "weight" in ways which makes me tense - I wonder if it is because I am trying to carry that weight myself instead of having it "evenly distributed" so it can be born with ease.
- The head yoke may not be most familiar to many of us, but it is a bar of wood which fits behind and over the horns of the oxen. It exerts a great deal of pressure on the forehead, so it needs some padding. In the most literal sense, these animals are using their "heads" to do the work of the day. I know many of us go about our days trying to figure out how to make things "work" in our lives, musing over things until our heads hurt! Maybe what we need is to be fit with a yoke which helps us think things through together instead of all on our own!
- The collar harness is a type of "yoke" used in modern wagon gear. It is placed over the head of the horse, moved down just to about the withers and then it is hooked up to all manner of straps and eventually to the wagon's "tongue". There is a neck yoke bar which is at the end of the "tongue" which connects to the collar. As the animal is placed into the gear, the weight is again born by what some might think of as the shoulders, just over the top of the horse's front legs. The placement of the collar harness allows the yoke to be attached, again securing the two animals (and sometimes even more) to bear the burden together.
Yokes aren't meant to hold us captive, but to help us bear burdens and weight beyond our ability in ways we could not do alone. They are not hard to wear, but they take some getting used to. If we want to get through life with the best chance of not bearing all the load of life on our own, we might do well to embrace the yoke of God's love and care over our lives instead of stubbornly trying to pull it all on our own! Just sayin!