For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30
Personal Experience with the Verse
Have you ever stressed out over your Christian walk, your purpose for God, or what He is calling you to do? Over the past several weeks, I have been out of my comfort zone, in the public view, witnessing with an evangelist at festivals and fairs. At these events we set-up a tent with banners, tables and an intriguing box with three doors with a label above, “FREE. Come see three things mankind cannot do.”
We have a special term for our humble arrangement, called “a church in a box.” In our temporary “church” some of the “blind” have gained sight, the “sick” were healed. We have also encountered some bizarre events that I can only chalk up to the Divine.
At one festival, this young married couple was pushing their newborn in a stroller, and I kid you not, a wheel fell off right in front of our booth! This gave us the opportunity to share Christ with them, as we helped fix the stroller. We have seen little children in the distance break away from their parents and run straight to us for no apparent reason, which the parents had to follow, and of course talk with us.
We have also seen the other side, ridicule, disbelief, contention, disagreements in doctrine, absolute rejection, and the most heart breaking, the rejection when you feel someone is at the point of surrender, only to see them shake their head and walk off. The culmination of these events can take their toll, leading to a spiritual, physical and emotional rollercoaster as the mind settles down and reflects back on the events of the day.
In this country we do not have a fear of persecution like other countries, or the early church, yet, I have been in a high anxiety mode as these festivals approach, during and afterwards. In my heart, I want to do God justice, I don’t want to mess up, I feel inadequate, ill-equipped, for after all, I am now partaking in the eternal destination of one’s soul. I picture in my mind, being at the white throne of judgment with someone I shared the Gospel with, and having God turn to me and ask, “What did you tell him or her?” Needless to say, anxiety took its toll.
After a few physician visits, some pills, and several prayers, the Lord impressed upon me a verse, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” With an explanation badly paraphrased, “Why are you stressed about being my witness? You cannot save them, relax, calm down and enjoy sharing my word.” A peace came over me. It was okay to enjoy being a witness, and isn’t that part of it? Sharing a true joy with others? I was to attend another festival that afternoon, did not take an anxiety pill, and for the next two days faced a barrage of contention and rejection I had not experienced in times pasts. I remained calm. I did not like the outcomes. I felt the presence of evil, but I did not panic nor worry. I have a peace about me that exceeds all understanding.
Later, I went back and studied the verse with the thought, “Do we have to be burdened down with Christianity?” Had I placed too heavy of a burden on myself? Even though I reminded myself, “this is not about me, I cannot save them. God calls them, His Spirit convicts them, and He saves them.” My part is to be a medic on the battlefield, attending to the wounded and perishing, administering the Gospel of Peace to them.
Let’s look at the context of what Jesus says with the subject verse (Mt11:28-30)
28: Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls.
30: For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I see Jesus comparing his Gospel to Judaism, more specifically, the first five books of the Bible called the Torah with its 613 commandments. As I understand, during Jesus time, the Pharisees had taken these commandments plus some to such an extreme, no one could follow them. Here is a Jewish website that categorizes all 613 commandments in the Torah: http://www.jewfaq.org/613.htm
To make sure I understand what a yoke is, I refer to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
1. a bar or frame that is attached to the heads or necks of two work animals (such as oxen) so that they can pull a plow or heavy load
2. something that causes people to be treated cruelly and unfairly especially by taking away their freedom
In the accompanying picture, a yoke was used to attach an animal or human, to an object, referred to as a burden. In the case where two or more animals were used, the yoke distributed the weight or the force needed to move the burden.
Still in use today, a yoke is very important. Yoked oxen were responsible for shaping the letter “A” we use today. Around 1200 BC the Phoenician and Paleo Hebrews drew the first letter of the alphabet as two yoked oxen pulling a burden. Here is a history of the letter A.
In researching the Mishnah, an authoritative collection of Jewish writings embodying the oral tradition of Jewish law, I searched for the word yoke. In Avot 3:5, Rabbi Nechunia the son of Hakanah would say: One who accepts upon himself the yoke of Torah is exempted from the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares; but one who casts off the yoke of Torah is saddled with the yoke of government duties and the yoke of worldly cares.
I have seen the Mishnah referred to as the “Yoke of Torah.” I ask the question, was the law, the Ten Commandments, or the 613 commandments a huge burden to the Jewish people? I am not sure, for I do not think its intention was to be a heavy burden. There are a lot of similarities between the Torah and the constitution of the United States of America. Reading through Psalms, the law is referred to as a delight, six times. Here is one verse.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” Psalms 1:2
When I conduct a word study in the New Testament, I also like to look at the Hebrew word and its origins. Sometimes this gives me further insight into the study I am conducting. The word yoke is found five times in the Torah, and is pronounced ‘al (Ayin-Lamed), having a numerical value of 100.
Due to the divine nature of the Hebrew language, words having the same numerical value may have a relationship to the word, to teach us. Reading the instances in the Bible where the same numerical value is found, I learn interesting things, which may apply to the yoke Jesus says, “Learn from me.”
The first word of interest is malal which means to speak, found in Gen 21:7. “And she added: Who would have declared [malal] to Abraham that Sarah would nurse sons! Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” In this lesson, God shows us the “yoke” of age is no obstacle.
Kaph, palm or hand, Gen 32:25 “Then he saw that he did not prevail against him. He touched the [kaph] of his thighbone, and the [kaph] of Jacob’s thighbone was strained in wrestling him.” Jacob’s “yoke” was in the form of a limp. When God gets a hold of someone, there is a change.
Ke’lim, vessels, goods or articles. Ez 1:11 The return from the “yoke” of Babylonian captivity. The children of Israel are taught a harsh lesson about idolatry, but God kept his promise. After seventy years they return.
Madon, measure, strife, quarrel. 2 Sa 21:20. David faces and defeats another giant, a Rapha, with six fingers and toes. David not only killed Goliath, but also his brothers and other giants of the day. In the spiritual sense, we can “face” and defeat the giants in our lives.
In Proverbs, the word Madon is used for quarrels. A quarrel can place a yoke of burden that last a longtime. Other proverbs with madon: Pr 16:28, 22:10, 26:20, 28:25 and 29:22
Proverbs 17:14 “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.”
Proverbs 15:18 “A venomous man stirs up a quarrel, Yet one slow to anger quietens a dispute.”
Pak, a box, vial. 1 sam 10:1, Anointing of King Saul. Anointing of King Jehu 2Ki 9:1, 2Ki 9:3. Kings can place heavy yoke or light yokes upon their people.
Mas/Mac 1 Ki 5:13 Solomon sets up a tributary service of 30k men. Est 10:1 King Ahasuerus imposes a tribute. A tribute is another word for forced labor, or slavery. The yoke of a tribute can be harsh.
Chatsab, dig, hewer: 1K 5:15, 2 Chr2:2, 2:18 Solomon had 80,000 stone hewers. Ps 29:7 The voice of Yahweh is hewing with blazes of fire. In Isaiah 5:2, the imagery is the Lord digging out (or gathering) the stones from his vineyard. He prepared a place for his chosen ones, but instead of grapes, it produced wild grapes.
Another study I will conduct is to review the word and letters in Primitive Hebrew. This would have been the writing font Moses used, and a yoke would have been written as:
The letter Ayin in Hebrew is the word for eye, and primitively, was an eye in the ancient hieroglyphic style. The Lamed in Hebrew is the word for teach, and was a shepherd staff representing authority of a shepherd. In the esoteric approach to the word for yoke, ‘al, the letter Ayin stands for eye, perception and insight. The letter Lamed for teaching, learning, and purpose, or authority. One way to look at a yoke is the perception of authority, or teaching insight. One source I read described it as “experience the staff.”
When Jesus says, “take my yoke and learn from me”, is following the teachings of Jesus gaining us insight to the Father? A new perception into God, through his Son? A new relationship? As I have experienced, his teachings and corrections are kind.
Lastly, I want to mention the word easy in, “My yoke is easy.” One scholar translated the Greek word used in this verse, χρηστὸς as “fit for use”, and other translations: better, goodness, gracious, kind. In your personal experiences, how have you experienced the yoke of Jesus?
My Summary – What I obtained from this
In my career and life, I place additional burdens upon myself. I want to excel, stand above, be recognized, be successful, but in the Christian world, it is one of servitude, humbleness, peace, joy, a very peculiar make-up.
I had stressed myself about being a witness for Jesus. In witnessing I took upon myself additional burdens to the point of having anxiety attacks. Being physically ill. At the events I would be nervous, anxious, and had started taking anxiety pills.
When God reminded me of this verse, He sent a peace over me. Why should I be so stressed? We do not face persecution of the early church, or the persecution of missionaries in hostile countries. I am sharing the Light that lives inside of me, and besides, I cannot save anyone, that is God’s responsibility.
As I have studied this verse and pondered over the past two weeks, Jesus is a gentle shepherd. He corrects us for being “fit for use” in his kingdom. Putting on his yoke has been a delight, a joy that surpasses all understanding. Instead of harsh punishments where I feel I have failed Him, I receive gentle corrections.
Can we say as the Psalmist, I delight in the commandments of Jesus. In his commandments I meditate both day and night?
Taking the yoke of Jesus upon me, I get the privilege to pray with people, to teach, and to lead others to Christ. I have a yearning to do this. He blesses my soul. He prepares me in my studies, in my prayers, and in my experiences. He will do the same for you