by Robert Stroup
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
When oxen are yoked together, the younger, less experienced ox is often teamed with an older, more practiced animal. The younger one can then learn what is expected of him by yielding to the elder to whom he is yoked. The end result is that the field gets plowed – a task that would never have been completed if the younger ox had been left to himself. Staying yoked with Jesus gives us our only hope of finishing our work in His field.
“Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth… ” (John 16:13). The Holy Ghost is more than a salvation experience. He comes to us as a guide – to teach us – to instruct us. The purpose of our being yoked with Him is that we might be taught by Him as we defer to Him. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” If we willingly stay yoked with Jesus, in time, our own selfish agenda will be lost – our natural shortcomings and way of doing things will be replaced with Christlikeness. The resulting fruit of staying in union with Him will be “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, (and) temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The Lord encourages us to willingly “take” His yoke and to learn from Him. “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go… Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle… ” Psalm 32:8-9). Here’s the problem. There are some things about this yoke that we may not like – some things He wants to teach us that we may not want to learn. “For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to this people. To whom He said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing, yet they would not hear.” (Isaiah 28:11-12). The problem here is with the will – “they would not hear.” Meanwhile, the Lord has a field that is waiting – a job that needs to be completed. So His plea to us is that we not be headstrong – that we not to be stubborn or obstinate like a mule. “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” (Deuteronomy 22:10). These two just don’t think alike. While both are considered to be beasts of burden – the donkey can sometimes find it tough to yield his will to another.
How difficult it is for us to consider our own refusal to yield to Him as being sinful. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes… ” (Proverbs 21:2). We may find it hard to acknowledge – yet it is nonetheless sin when we refuse to yield these vessels to that One who bought us. Our aversion to surrendering to the guidance He offers those who are yoked to Him results in His field going untended and the job remaining unfinished. “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you… ” (Isaiah 59:1-2). Through our unwillingness to capitulate to His leading we can break free from His yoke – and when we do, the prospects of our accomplishing His purposes are gone – for, as Jesus said, “without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
The admonition of the Lord is to “be not as the mule.” “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Sin is so subtle and deceptive that we can get to the place where we trust our own feelings more than the clear teachings of God’s word. Yet “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The only way to be safe is to take the Lord’s good advice – “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26). He says, “Let me help you – allow me to guide you.” Just because a way seems right does not mean that it is right. The tendency of the unyoked “Christian” is to go astray and thus fail to satisfactorily “plow” the field. But when yoked to Jesus we can rest assured that He will correct us when we start to veer off course. “Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21). This verse encourages us to allow Him to turn us around when we get sideways in our thinking and when we endeavor to justify attitudes that are not yielded to Him.
I close with a few verses from James 3. “Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.” (verse 13). Wisdom learned while yoked to Jesus has a humbling effect – “for I am meek and lowly in heart… ” James continued, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” (verse 14). We lie against the truth when we pretend that we are yoked with Him when we have obviously gone off on our own. “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” (verse 15). You might be yoked, the writer says, but it isn’t to Jesus – for “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (verse 17). Hebrews 12 tells us that the way to run and finish the race that is set before us is to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Let’s allow Him to author the plan that will enable us to finish the job. May we not be stubborn like the mule. Let’s willingly acquiesce to His yoke, saying, “Lead on, Lord
Jesus, show us the way.”
Rev. Robert Stroup is the District Superintendent of the Indiana District, United Pentecostal Church International and Pastor of Pentecostals of South Lake in Merrillville, Indiana.
Indiana Apostolic Trumpet / March 2007 3