Maybe you have always viewed the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Come unto me, and I will give you rest’, merely as a gospel call to the sinner to lay down his burden of sin. They do have that application, but I believe they are also a call to Christians.
Addressed to all who are weary, labour and are heavy laden, they appeal to the widest of audiences. Do you feel like that at times? Work-weary, you droop with cares and responsibilities, you feel tired and dispirited, cast down and troubled.
CONTRIBUTORS TO OUR CONDITION
It may not just be the amount of things we try to fit into each day that causes our spirit to be burdened, but our feelings towards these circumstances also play a part. We look at the state of the world, or the condition of the church, or the spiritual state of our own souls, and it makes us feel low and burdened. In this case, it is not so much a state of physical weariness, but psychological, or more accurately, spiritual weariness that causes our heartache. Have you been there or are you there now? It may help to know that many have been before you.
Although the Saviour says to us, ‘Come, come to Me. Don’t go on any longer trying to cope with it yourself. I will give you rest’, yet, most often we just keep plodding on, trying to make it in our own way. We are trying to live the Christian life in our own strength, even perhaps with a certain hardness or abrasiveness of character. We see it as a fight that we try to cope with by ourselves, battling along as best we can.
Perhaps we are one of those who think they have it all wrapped up, so to speak. We feel we know all there is to know about how to please God, yet this is spiritual pride lurking in our hearts. All the time, we are hardening our necks, and refusing the yoke that He holds out to us, refusing to bow and submit to His authority. We can be stiff-necked, with our own ideas of how to please God. As the Pharisee in the temple, we can all too easily exhibit a spirit of saying, in effect, ‘O Lord, I thank Thee that I am not as other Christians are. I know all my Old Testament typology, I know how to interpret Scripture dispensationally, I steadfastly keep every word of doctrine and church order …’. But the other man alongside us is also praying, ‘O Father, I want to be like Your Son in thought, word and deed. Take me and mould me, so that the Spirit of Christ may rest upon me’. He seems to have the peace and we seem to have all the problems. We need reminding ‘What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?’ 1 Cor. 4. 7. RSV.
HIS ANSWER TO OUR NEEDS
Whatever your own personal situation and need may be, follow the instruction He gives when you turn to Him, to take His yoke and learn of Him.
A yoke is a wooden frame for harnessing two animals together, that they might jointly pull a plough, or other farm implement. The Lord Jesus knew all about yokes. He had doubtless watched Joseph make them, and perhaps listened to his instruction. He knew full well, without being told, how important it was that the yoke should fit comfortably across the animals’ shoulders, rounded and smooth. It must not chafe, or it would hinder rather than assist the animals in their task.
The Lord used this everyday illustration to teach this most important of spiritual lessons. He invites us, not only to come to Him, but also to stand alongside Him, and take His yoke upon us. So then we are in a position where He is at our very shoulder, and we are yoked together with Him. This concept of Him coming alongside us in our need is also expressed in Hebrews 2. 18, ‘For because he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour (come to the aid of, come alongside) them that are tempted’.
Under the law, God stipulated that an ox and an ass were not to be yoked together in ploughing, Deut. 22. 10. The two animals were unequal both in strength and size, and so would not be able to pull in harmony. The result would be constant friction, with the animals being a hindrance or even a danger to each other rather than a help. But with Christ’s yoke, there is no such problem. This spiritual yoke works to lift our load and ease our burden, even though we are so weak and helpless and He is so strong and powerful. The way it works is that the more we become like Christ, the lighter our load becomes.
THE PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS
How do we take up Christ’s yoke? W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, says that the yoke speaks metaphorically of submission to authority, and of a yoke not simply imparted by Him, but shared with Him. We must place ourselves, by an ongoing act of will, under His rule, and thus, under His way of life. This should characterize us every moment of every day.
Now, says the Lord, ‘Learn from Me, watch how I cope with all that life brings, all its struggles, its burdens and its heartaches. Learn from Me, in adopting the same attitudes of mind and the same traits of character that I displayed in My life’.
What are these characteristics that the Saviour exhibited so beautifully in His life down here? He gives but two, meekness (or gentleness), and lowliness (or humility). They are not the most sought after virtues in the world are they? But they are God’s virtues, and they are precious in His sight, 1 Pet. 3. 4. They are part of the fruit of the Spirit, worked out in us as we submit to His gracious authority and rule. This requires us to abide in the Vine, John 15. 4. ‘To this man will I look, says God, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word’, Isa. 66. 2. W. E. Vine also makes these helpful comments: ‘The meekness manifested by the Lord and commended to the believer is the fruit of power. The common assumption is that when a man is meek it is because he cannot help himself; but the Lord was meek because He had the infinite resources of God at His command. Described negatively, meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and selfinterest; it is equanimity of spirit that is neither elated nor cast down, simply because it is not occupied with self at all’.
To be lowly, or humble in spirit, is likewise to abase ourselves before God and ‘in lowliness of mind to esteem each other better than themselves’, Phil. 2. 3.
The word ‘esteem’ here has the underlying meaning of ‘to lead out’ and is the sad lesson that proud Haman learnt as he was made ‘to lead out’ Mordecai, and pronounce to all, ‘Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour’. Not that Haman was changed inwardly, but at least he had to swallow his pride.
We are to esteem one another better than ourselves from the heart. It calls for an attitude that takes the lowest place, as the Lord taught in the parable of choosing the lowest seat at a wedding feast, Luke. 14. 7-11.
These two graces of meekness and lowliness are the oil that will help to lubricate the wheels of life. This is how our souls will find rest, for this is how the Lord Jesus met all the demands that were made upon Him. To lack these graces, is to fall short of what God expects of us, Eph. 4. 1, 2.
THE FINAL CHALLENGES
So what should our response be to His call ‘Come unto me … learn of me’? We need to pray with the Holy Spirit’s enabling,
‘Lord, I want to exchange my impatience, my intolerance, my critical spirit, my feverish activity, for thy meekness, and thy gentleness.
‘I want to exchange my conceit, my little pedestal that I have carved out for myself, my self-interest, my insincerity, for thy lowliness, and thy humility.
I want to temper my Martha-spirit, distracted, anxious and troubled, with a Mary-spirit of sitting at thy feet, and learning of thee the one thing that is needful, that good part’. Amen.
How will we find it, when we take Christ’s yoke, and learn of Him, seeking that these graces and attitudes of gentleness and humility are formed in us?
‘My yoke is easy’, He says, ‘and my burden is light’. He doesn’t necessarily remove the burden, but He deigns to share it with us, and thus give grace and strength to carry it lightly. ‘You shall find rest for your souls’. Life will no longer weary us, even though we might wear ourselves out physically in His service. We shall be walking as Christ walked, in daily fellowship with the Father. We shall be filled with the Spirit of Christ, bearing fruit for His glory and praise.