Sometimes when the weight of this world seems far too great to bear, it’s only because we have forgotten how much greater is He that holds our world in the palm of His hand. We have the Lord on our side and nothing is too heavy for Him.
The reason we feel overwhelmed is because we are taking more upon ourselves than God ever intended us to carry. Jesus calls out, in the midst of our burden, “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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
The significance of that verse is often lost in our culture because very few farmers today use oxen to plow their fields. For the Jews, however, this verse had a deeper meaning.
To truly understand what Jesus was saying, you need to know a little bit about the Hebrew name for God.
The name for God, in Hebrew, is El. The word el is composed of two Hebrew letters, the aleph and the lamed. The ancient Hebrew version of these letters looked much different than what we observe today. In ancient times, the Hebrew people used pictographs for their letter system. Each letter had a deeper symbolic and spiritual significance.
The aleph, the first letter of the word, El, was represented as an ox head. This oxhead was simplified over time, eventually becoming the basis for our letter “A” today. The Lamed, the second letter of the word, El, was represented by a upside down shepherd staff. It isn’t too difficult to imagine what letter was derived from this pictograph. From the lamed, we derived our english letter “L“.
The aleph, or oxhead, is a picture of strength or might and the lamed, being a shepherd staff, is a picture of authority. So you could accurately define the word, El, as the Strong One with power and authority.
But the pictographs reveal an even deeper meaning. The lamed, shepherd staff, was sometimes viewed as a cattle prod, used by farmers to get their oxen moving. But, perhaps more significantly, it was viewed as a yoke, the wooden crosspiece used to join two oxen together. This staff, when laid across the shoulders of the oxen, bound the two animals together for the purpose of work.
The ancient Hebrew practice was to yoke a younger, inexperienced ox together with an older, stronger and more experienced ox. See, when two young oxen were yoked together, they would fight and struggle against one another, making work impossible, but when a young ox was coupled with a more mature ox, the elder ox would lead and teach the younger.
The Hebrew people viewed God in much the same way as the stronger, older ox. They recognized his strength and wisdom and their need to be yoked with Him, to be lead and taught by Him. When they walked, in tandem, with God, their yoke was easy. When they struggled against Him, their yoke was heavy and impossible to bear.
When Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you,” He was, in fact, claiming to be that Strong and Mighty Ox of old. He was claiming to be God Himself! He was telling His people, the young and inexperienced oxen, to come and be joined with Him, to let Him lead them, to let Him bear the weight of their burdens.
When we accept God’s free gift of salvation and become yoked with His Son Jesus Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit which prods us, leading and teaching us in the ways of the Lord. When we surrender to leadership of our Lord and walk in accordance with His Spirit, our burden is light. But when we struggle against His will and fight against the leading of the Holy Spirit, our burden is heavy and unbearable.
We were never meant to walk this road alone. Jesus Christ took our sin upon Himself. He bore our punishment upon Himself. But that’s not all! He also wants to bear the weight of your daily burdens. Not only have you been set free from the weight of your sin but now Jesus walks along side you. He wants you to place your cares upon Him, to trust Him with your heartaches and sorrows, to allow Him to be your strength in troubled times.
The Bible is filled with verses declaring this truth. Here are but a few:
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.Philippians 4:13
The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.Psalm 9:9-10
And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.Exodus 33:14
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.Psalm 46:1-3
It is God that girdeth (arms) me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.Psalm 18:32
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.Isaiah 41:10
…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.Ephesians 6:10
He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.Isaiah 40:29
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.1 Peter 5:7
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.Isaiah 12:2
Honestly, we could fill countless lines with verses declaring God as our strength and refuge. Truly, it is the prevailing theme throughout the Bible. It is so clear, from Scripture, that we cannot do ANYTHING on our own. We were never meant to.
In Jesus Christ, alone, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). “By him all things consist.” (Colossians 1:17) Do you see the pattern? God never intended for us to walk alone. We were designed to be dependent upon the Lord. We were made to be yoked with our Creator.
If you are walking all alone and have not yet accepted the gift of grace, freely offered by God, Jesus is inviting you, right now, to come and be yoked with Him. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. Come into His presence and find rest. All you need to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins, was buried and rose again for your justification, just as if you had never sinned. The moment you do that, you are a child of God and forever yoked with the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you are already yoked with the Lord, but feel overwhelmed by the weight of the world upon your shoulders, I want to encourage you to cast your cares upon Jesus, to fully submit to His lead, and to completely trust in Him, alone, to be your strength. You were never meant to bear your burdens alone. God loves and cares for you. He wants to bear your burdens but first you must let them go. Letting go can be scary but you will never know the peace of God until you do.
The following song was introduced to me many years ago by my wonderful wife Jenn. Still, even today, when I read Matthew 11:28-29, I think of this song. Its message is as true today as when I first heard it. Whether you are are already yoked to the Lord or not, Jesus is still calling out, just as He did two thousand plus years ago, to anyone who will listen, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Come and Rest
by Considering Lily
A little too much
Today was a little too much for me
A few falls too many and one win too few
A little too long
Today was a little too long for me
But someone is calling, calling my name
And rest, all who are weary rest
And rest, All who are heavy rest
Sometimes I try
Sometimes I try just a little too hard
Fighting the current and losing the fight
Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel like I’m swimming alone
But someone is holding, holding me up
Calling me softly and sweetly
Calling me like I’m a child
Calling me though I’m not worthy
Calling me even now
And a bonus of the song performed by my wife and our friend Jill: video on youtube.