A Devotion for 3 September 2020 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. ~ (MATTHEW 11:28-30)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-18)
The Bible has much to say about yokes, and we will profit by considering the counsel of God in each case of the mention of a yoke. What is the simple definition of a yoke? In a literal sense, the word ‘Yoke‘ means a bar of wood, so constructed as to unite two animals (usually oxen), enabling them to work in the fields, drawing loads, pulling instruments used for farming. The yoke has several shades of meaning in Scripture – Slavery, Servanthood, our Sins, or Oppression. It can also mean great freedom when it represents the kind of Yoke our Lord offers. Any so-called burden we bear for him is not borne by our shoulders but His.
Let us examine the biblical references to the above-related characteristics of a yoke:
SLAVERY: “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.” (1Timothy 6:1)
SERVANTHOOD: “And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. 9Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: 10For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish. 11But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the LORD; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.” (Jeremiah 27:8-11)
OPPRESSION: “For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.” (Isaiah 9:4)
THE YOKE OF SIN: “The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand: they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck: he hath made my strength to fall, the Lord hath delivered me into their hands, from whom I am not able to rise up.” (Lamentations 1:14)
In all examples above, a yoke weighs the subject down and may cause him to stumble and fall. These are all yokes of the world and of injustice. But the yoke that our Lord offers is quite different. It is a spiritual yoke that is light and easy to be borne. It is a yoke of GRACE and MERCY. It makes the bearer joyful and the load seems light because any burden we bear for the Lord is not OUR burden but HIS.
There is another spiritual burden that we know as the LAW. It reveals our sins and condemns us thereby. The LAW cannot be satisfied in our human efforts to be righteous since total righteousness is demanded by God. It is this yoke that our Lord came to remove from our shoulders by His redemption. The Law demanded the death sentence for even ONE sin. That sentence must be paid either by us or by a surrogate who is sinless and therefore able to suffer the wages of sin on our behalf. There is only One who is able to do so – the sinless and unblemished Son of God. He is our Lamb of Passover and Sacrifice. Being already spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, our only hope of salvation came by way of an act outside our ability to offer – GRACE and MERCY. Our sleeping souls were awakened by the efficacious work of the Holy Ghost in our hearts to revive a dead soul and make us free of the bondage of sin.
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10) Can a DEAD man save himself?
Being saved by grace, why should we return to our depravity of the past in believing our salvation can only be secure and sustained by good works? Why should we year to restore the yoke of bondage that leads to death? There are those among us who would insist that we must earn our salvation by means of obedience to the Law. That is an impossible proposition! “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:10-11)
We are commanded to assemble together in the company of fellow believers for study and edification. A fiery hot ember of the fireplace will fade and cool when removed from the others in the burning fire. It will remain red-hot only as long as it is in fellowship with the larger gathering of embers. The same is true of the Christian believer, but, warning, joining with marginal or unbelieving others will cause our faith to dwindle and restore our yoke of doubt. “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:10) Though we are eternally secure in our salvation, the misery of the burden of an unbecoming yoke can haunt our lives when we allow that bondage of the past to be reimposed on us: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1)
When doubts and fears arise, remember the Source of your salvation and freedom! “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 PETER 5:6-11)
Which YOKE will you prefer to bear – that of Christ, or the many sordid yokes of the world?