So What’s a Yoke Got to Do With Rest?

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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 your souls.’
For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

For the past few weeks we have discussed ‘rest’ in our elder Bible study. The term sneaks up on you in several places in God’s word. We have been studying the Israelites who left slavery in Egypt and began their trek through the wilderness. They are told not to gather manna on the Sabbath, but to rest. God made provision for this rest by giving them double on the sixth day. God Himself rested after creating our world, and reminded the people when giving the Law in Exodus 20 that He blessed the Sabbath and made it holy. In Hebrews 4 the picture of ‘rest’ widens as Sabbath rest is presented and we are told that the person who enters God’s rest has rested from his works as God did from His.

In the passage from Matthew above, Jesus promised to give rest. Right off we see that this promise is given to those who are weary and heavy-laden. Their responsibility is to come to Him. Next He says to put on His yoke and learn from Him. He explains that He is gentle and humble in heart and then quotes a passage from the Old Testament that promises ‘rest for your souls.’

So how does this fit into our real lives today? We may find ourselves in a difficult place in life, and can be over-burdened because it feels permanent, like things will never change. But it is good to remember that we don’t have to live in this ‘weary and heavy-laden’ place’ all the time. God’s intention is for us to enjoy His rest.

So we step out; we go to Him. The act of going to Him can be as simple as a prayer in which we acknowledge that we are trusting Him with our burden. We take His yoke as we learn from Him. We see that in the midst of our burden, our heavy weight, our seemingly out-of-control situation, He wants us to learn from Him. Not from our best friend, or Facebook, or some troubleshooting life guide, but from Him. He will teach us as we take the step to come to Him.

In this journey, we learn the importance of humility and gentleness. How often do we react to hard times with anger, rage, or an all-out effort to get our self out of this difficulty no matter what. We work feverishly to ‘take the bull by the horns’ and clean up our mess. But Jesus tells us that in the process of learning humility and gentleness, we will find rest for our souls.

Then comes the beautiful conclusion: For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. We do not have to live with the weight of our circumstances bearing down on us. We still have difficult circumstances and challenges; unpaid bills, an impending divorce, a drug habit, a sick child. But the weight is lifted. Jesus doesn’t say here that He will take away all burdens in life, but He does promise us that our burdens will be light because He is doing the muscle work.

~Chaplain Julie McClure