Tag Archives: God’s love

Invitation to a Yoking, Part 2

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  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.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

What was the audience’s reaction to Christ’s invitation to a yoking? The yoke was a figure of bondage and burden borne by slaves (Ex.5:5-7).  Why would anyone want to wear it?  The incentive to respond “positively” to Christ’s invitation is based on the following.

Who was the provider of the yoke?  “Come unto Me.'” Christ was the Yoke.  God the son was offering Himself to those who were hurting and in need of relief; relief from the hypocrisy and indifference of the religious institutions of that day and relief from social injustice and oppression by the Roman Empire.  Christ came to offer justice and hope where none existed—a holy commission that could only be accomplished by the God of Creation (Jer. 32:17).  Only He could fulfill that which He promised (2 Cor. 1:20).

What was the purpose of the yoke?   “Take my yoke…Learn of Me.” These two actions—take and learn—highlight the role personal responsibility plays in acceptance of Christ’s invitation to salvation.  The yoke of Christ represents His lordship over the life of the believer. Under His yoke, they would learn to live using “kingdom principles” (Col. 3:12-14) versus the ways of a fallen world.  Believers could be fully confident that the Provider of the yoke would accomplish a purpose that would result in their good and God’s glory (Rom.8:28).

What was the privilege of the yoke?  “Rest for your souls.” Christ alone, by His person and work, could accomplish two holy mandates. First, He could reconcile men to God (2 Cor. 5:18).  The intimacy man once experienced with God in the Garden could now be restored at the foot of the Cross.  Secondly, He could offer “rest” by the removal of sin’s guilt and the provision of eternal life (Rom. 6:23).  Therefore, Christ’s yoke was “easy and light”.

Christ’s invitation to yoking is still being extended today. He is patiently waiting for nonbelievers to take His yoke and learn of Him.  Believers, as “true yoke fellows” (Phil. 4:2-3) are to be likeminded in our efforts to share the Gospel at every opportunity (Matt. 28:19-20).  The yoke of Christ offers both “blessing and burden” to those who would wear it.  It is in its wearing that God gives the strength to receive both.

The word “stiff-necked” originated in ancient Israel.  lf the oxen didn’t want to follow the guidance from the farmer, it would stiffen the muscles in its neck. This makes it impossible to guide the ox where it needed to go.  Are you following the Spirit’s “lead” or are you “stiff-necked” like an oxen?

Invitation to a Yoking, Part 1

 

 

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”   Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)

How do you respond when you receive an invitation? What are your criteria for rendering a positive response? Do you first identify the   sender of the invitation? Are they a friend, a casual acquaintance, or part of an exclusive circle you’d like to join? Do you evaluate the event?  Will a similar invitation be offered at a later time or is this a special occasion?  lnvitations, by their very nature, infer a “closed event”, therein requiring a special request for entry. However, when Jesus extended His invitation “to come”, He invited “not the wise, the mighty, or the noble” (1 Cor. 1:25) but to those in greatest need of Him–“they that labor and are heavy laden.” And to what was He inviting those who heard Him that day? His yoke.

The yoke is a powerful symbol in the Bible. The literal references to the yoke speak of a wooden bar or frame used to join animals to enable them to pull a load, a plow, often together so they could work in tandem. When used in the Old Testament, the yoke is often used figuratively of bondage and of the burden borne by slaves (Ex. 6:6-7). The image is used powerfully by the prophets to portray the fate of disobedient generations (ls. 10:27; Jer. 27:11; Ex.34:27).  ln most of the Old Testament references, the yoke is a negative image–something a person would do virtually anything to avoid.

But Jesus turns his paradoxical rhetoric to represent something “good”–subjection to Him: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,  and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt 11:29-30 NIV). Jesus saw the need of the people at that time. He saw a religious system that was demanding yet indifferent to the needs of its people. He saw a social system that was unjust and oppressive. Jesus saw a hurting world in need of a Messiah.    Very much like our world today.   When Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth on Sunday morning, He confidently proclaimed:

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:78-21)

Christ’s yoke is very different from the world’s yoke. The world’s yoke presents itself in the form of fear, guilt, and shame.  lt is heavy, demanding, and burdensome.  Christ’s yoke is “easy” and consists of forgiveness, love, and acceptance. Christ’s “burden” is light because He took the full weight of sin on Himself at the Cross.

Was Jesus’ reference to the yoke, a “symbolic invitation” to join Him and find in His strength release from unbearable burdens? Or was it “His call” to people to become His slaves and experience freedom from the crushing weight they experience from the Law and religious activity?  ln either case, the theme and the invitation are central. Jesus still calls, “Come,” and He promises us “rest for our souls.”  Accept His invitation today and let Him “lighten” your load.

Rehearsing God’s Mercy

“Hallelujah!  Thank God! And why?
Because He’s good, because His love lasts.”  Psalm 106:1 (The Message)

When we hear the word “rehearse”, we conjure up visions of singing, dancing, or acting. A rehearsal is a preparatory event that is performed before the official public performance, as a form of practice. The intent of a rehearsal is to ensure that all details of the performance are adequately prepared and coordinated for presentation. This Psalm is a timely rehearsal for recounting God’s loving protection and provision in our lives.

In Psalm 106, the psalmist rehearses or prepares the Jews who have returned from Exile by recounting the mercies extended by God to the nation of Israel. Can you imagine returning to your hometown after a seventy-year absence?  Many of the older Jews had died in captivity; younger Jews had little to draw upon to refresh their memory of God’s love and provision for Israel during her glory days. They arrived to burnt gates and broken walls. Many would have even forgotten God’s reason for allowing them to go into captivity–their habitual, sinful nature and rebellious lifestyle (v.43).  It was the psalmist intent to prepare the returning Jews’ hearts and minds for spiritual revival—a return to God.

There are several key learnings to be gained in reading this psalm.

  • Confess and repent of your sins to avoid God’s judgment. “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.” (v. 6)
  • Seek God’s wisdom and acknowledge in all your decision making. “They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel.” (v. 13)
  • Eliminate complaints about what you don’t have and express gratitude for God’s provision. “Yea they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD.” (w.24-25)

Even in Israel’s rebellion and sin, God never failed to extend His mercy and grace. “Nevertheless he regarded their distress when he heard their cry.  For their sake he remembered His covenant, and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (vv.44-45).  God always gives mercy and restoration.

Also read:  “God in and among us:  The Presence of the Lord

If the psalmist were to rehearse God’s mercy in our life, what would he write? Would it be similar to Israel’s history reflecting a life pattern of sin and backsliding? If we now walk under the guidance and direction of God’s Spirit, remembrance of our life B.C. (Before Christ) should not be an indictment against us but evidence of the immense love God has for us. While Satan uses our memory to evoke shame and guilt, we can use it in our testimony to others about the saving love of Christ. What God has done for you, He will do for others. There is nothing better than living in God’s A.D. (Abundant Dominion). Let us continually rehearse God’s mercy in our hearts and minds as we prepare for effective service and kingdom building.

SELAH:   Do you see evidence of God’s love and mercy?  It is through God’s divine love and mercy that we receive care and protection, regardless of the circumstance we may face.  Take time to reflect on where you’ve come from and then write your own psalm reflecting when and how God’s love and mercy was extended to you.