The Yoke

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My Grandpa was a farmer.  The manual labor involved in preparing for the end product of a harvest is a monumental task.  When I was little, I went to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks in the summer.  One of the things I remember about that time was Grandma going out to the field and telling Grandpa how homesick I was and it was time to take me home.  That meant leaving the field with all the work that needed to be done and driving me from Minnesota to Vermont in order to take me home.  For a farmer, that was a huge sacrifice.  That is a very vivid memory for me that I have always cherished.

In the Bible, many different illustrations are used to assist us in understanding the principles that God wants us to live out in our daily lives.  One such illustration is the visual of a yoke.

 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently 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).

 

The yoke here does not refer to a yoke used for oxen (as I had originally thought) rather it refers to a person coming under another person’s leadership and following in their footsteps.  Jesus was speaking here and telling those that would listen and those of us that read these words to “come.”  Jesus will not hog tie us and make us follow Him, rather we must come on our own accord.  The reason we are to come to Him is because the yoke we are carrying is heavy and causes us much labor.  The reference here is to the religious leaders who were making the people of the day carry the heavy burden of the law.  Following laws out of fear is a heavy burden. These religious leaders seemed perfect on the outside, but on the inside their hearts were dark with the deceitfulness of sin.

When we take on the yoke of Jesus we can learn from Him.  What do we learn from Him?  We learn “gentleness and humility.”  Living a life filled with gentleness and humility is a much easier and the yoke is much lighter to carry.

During the time that Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders had added extra rules to the laws that were already given to make sure that the previously recorded rules were not inadvertently disobeyed.    To illustrate how extreme it had gotten the religious leaders had 39 sub categories under “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”  Thirty-nine sub categories that helped define what work was and what work was not.  They were deceived into thinking that external perfection equaled holiness.

Jesus’ teaching was different.  He taught that it was not the externals that made the person holy rather it was what came from the heart.  What was in Jesus’ heart?  “Gentleness and lowliness.”

My grandpa was hard working.  My aunt calls it the legacy of the Lichtys.  Yet, when the rubber met the road, my grandpa was gentle and lowly.  As I started writing this, I was thinking about farming and these verses thinking that a yoke was a piece of farm equipment.  I remembered this story about my grandpa and wrote it down.  Then I went to study the meaning and history behind the yoke.  I never realized that the yoke here was not intended for oxen but rather a metaphor for discipleship.  A metaphor for following in the footsteps of a leader.  So Grandpa Lichty what you have taught me is to work hard, but do it with gentleness and humility remembering that what is important in the end is not the work, but the people.  This yoke is “easy, and this burden is light.”

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Seeds and Fruit

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I am excited this year to have a garden.  Now that we live on 5 acres there is plenty of room to have a garden.  Growing up as a child in Cedarville, we had a large garden.  I did not like all the work that went into having a garden.  I did not like weeding the garden, picking the produce, or cleaning the produce; but I did like eating it.  I did not realize how good that homegrown produce was until I had eaten store bought produce and realized the flavor was so much richer when it could be picked with my own hands and eaten when it was ripe and ready to be plucked from the plant.  I had a small garden years ago, and the year we moved from there I had the best tasting strawberries I can ever remember.  The flavors were so rich and bold.  To say the least, my winter has been spent dreaming about tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, green beans, potatoes, cucumbers, etc.   I realize it will take time for some of this to all take shape and produce a harvest, but the anticipation of what is to be is exciting.  The quest between my dreams of this great tasting produce and the plot of ground it must come from is going to take some work. I have a few more trees to cut down, a lot of ground to till, a fence to build, and seeds and plants to plant.  Then comes the maintenance of the garden through watering and weeding until one day, the fruit of my labors can be enjoyed.

In the end, I can do everything in order to enjoy the end result: the fruit or vegetables; but I cannot actually make the produce or the plant grow.  I can plant the seeds, I can make sure the soil is amended perfectly, but the end results are in God’s hands.  I have two options.  I can sit by the piece of property I have picked for my garden and wait and pray for the produce to appear.  My second option is to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and make sure I keep the weeds out of the garden.  It seems rather obvious which one has a higher likelihood of producing some produce to enjoy at the end of the season.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (I Corinthians 3:6, 7).  So many things in life can be related to this analogy of a garden.  These verses remind us that we must do the due diligence of evangelism at all times with all people, but the end result is in God’s hands. God is the only One that can prick someone’s heart and bring them to Himself.  God is the only One who can convict someone’s heart to cause them to turn from their sin.  No matter how hard we try or pray, the end result is God’s.

When we fully realize this concept, it removes a weight.  It defines our responsibility.  When we try to produce the fruit ourselves and make the results what we think they ought to be, it produces a burden on our hearts.  This level of responsibility that we take on ourselves also shows our lack of faith in God.  Only God can give the answer to our prayers.  Only God can give the results to our labors.  Only God can cause the fruit to grow. In the garden and in our lives, God produces the end result in His timing.  When we truly trust Him for the end result, our faith increases and the burden of the end result is removed from our shoulders and placed on the shoulders of our Savior.  The enigma of Matthew 11:28-30 takes on a whole new light.

“Come to me, all 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).

Our responsibility is defined. Our yoke is defined.  But the burden of ultimate responsibility rests on the shoulders of our Creator and not us, this makes our burden light.   We must plant, or we must water, but we must let God give the increase.  The fruit is sweeter and the taste is much richer.  To God be the glory.