As we prepare for a new year how many of us could use rest for our souls? Most of us I suspect. So, experientially how do we get to that place of our soul functioning from rest or being at rest? The easy answer is that we simply come to Jesus. After all that is what He instructed.
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV)
There is as usual a ‘however.’ Jesus said if we come to Him then He will bring us to a place of rest. The however is that this rest is conditional upon taking His yoke. I will explore and explain what that means and explain the role of ‘binding and loosing’ in connection to Jesus yoke. Another area I will address is the role of the High Priest carrying the nation on His heart when he went into the Holy of Holies and the present day application in our lives.
So now that I hopefully have your attention. What does it mean to take Jesus yoke? There are a couple of applications. One is the idea of training a new ox by yoking it to an old ox. See the picture below of two oxen yoked together. The concept of yoking the old ox to the young ox is that the old ox would train the young ox around when to pull and stop; when to turn and so on. If the young ox pulled against the yoke it would eventually learn to submit to the older ox or be continually frustrated.
In Jesus day being under someone’s yoke meant being their disciple. For example Paul was viewed as having taken the yoke of Gamaliel because he was Paul’s primary teacher and Paul (Saul at the time) was his disciple. Jesus was in effect saying become my disciple and allow me to train you and I will teach you to walk in and live from rest (see Heb. 4:1-13).
What does it mean in practice to be discipled by Jesus, to take His yoke? First it means we can’t have other yokes. Look again at the image of the oxen. What would it be like to have another yoke attached to another animal and pulling in another direction? Rest would not be the first response! Yet that is what I think most of us in the church have done. What are some ‘other’ yokes that are pulling at us? The first response may be to consider obvious sins. However, what about the yoke of human expectations? The yoke of the pressure to be ‘successful.’ The yoke of pleasing others? These are examples of things that keep us from true rest. Paul addressed this clearly and he was so effective in his ministry because he only had one yoke.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (NKJV)
Some of the other yokes pulling at us are the result of both the secular and church cultures around us, and of course our responses to it, yet many of these yokes are internal, rooted in our own fears, insecurities and unwillingness to lay down our own agendas. What would our Sunday services look like if in actuality our only agenda was pursuing His heart and releasing His life to others? A little different than most services I think!
So, to address this I invite you to pray a prayer. “Lord Jesus I loose myself from the yoke of carnal thinking and expectations and I bind myself to your yoke and purposes and ask You to bind my heart to Your heart purpose for my life.”
27 It shall come to pass in that day That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, And his yoke from your neck, And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Isaiah 10:27 (NKJV) 6 THE SHULAMITE TO HER BELOVED Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Song of Songs 8:6 (NKJV)
Is this different than what you thought? Most teaching on ‘binding and loosing’ focuses on trying to bind the enemy and loose or set people free. While that is an application of Matthew 16:19 below (see also Matt. 18:18-20) we can also turn this around as in the Song of Solomon and seeing what Paul spoke in the verse below.
19 “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 (NKJV)
22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, Acts 20:22 (NKJV)
So, as we prepare for a new year may we also pray that we are prepared for His purpose by breaking off wrong yokes and praying that our minds will be renewed to take only His yoke. To truly be Jesus disciples.