The True Yoke
After the abortive mission by the children of Israel to capture the land without Jehovah (Num. 14: 39–45, Deut. 1: 41–46) , we read the following poignant words from Moses: “And we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness, by the way of the Red sea, as Jehovah had said unto me; and we went round mount Seir many days” (Deut. 2: 1). There is great moral beauty in the little word ‘we’. Moses links himself thoroughly with the people. He, Joshua and Caleb had all to turn back into the wilderness, in company with the unbelieving congregation. This might, in nature’s judgment, seem hard, but we may rest assured it was good and profitable. There is always deep blessing in bowing to the will of God, even though we may not always be able to see the why and wherefore of things. We do not read of a single murmuring word from these honoured servants of God at having to turn back into the wilderness for forty years, although they were quite ready to go up into the land. No, they simply turned back, and well they might, when Jehovah turned back as well. How could they think of complaining, when they beheld the travelling–chariot of the God of Israel facing round to the wilderness? Surely the patient grace and long–suffering mercy of God might well teach them to accept, with a willing mind, a protracted sojourn in the wilderness, and to wait for the blessed moment of entrance upon the promised land.
It is a great thing always to submit ourselves meekly under the hand of God. We are sure to reap a rich harvest of blessing from the exercise. It is really the taking the yoke of Christ upon us, which, as He Himself assures us, is the true secret of rest. “Come to me, all ye who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 28–30).
What was this yoke? It was absolute and complete subjection to the Father’s will. This we see in perfection in the Lord. He could say, “Yea, Father, for thus has it been well–pleasing in thy sight” (Matt. 11: 26). Here was the point with Him: “well–pleasing in thy sight”. This settled everything. Was His testimony rejected? Did He seem to labour in vain, and spend His strength for nothing? What then? “I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven, and of the earth” (v25). It was all right. Whatever pleased the Father, pleased Him. He never had a thought or wish that was not in perfect harmony with the will of God. Hence He as a man enjoyed perfect rest. He rested in the divine counsels and purposes. The current of His peace was unruffled from first to last.
This was the yoke of Christ, and this is what He, in His infinite grace invites us to take upon ourselves, in order that we too may find rest to our souls. Let us mark and seek to understand the words, “ye shall find rest”. We must not confound the ‘rest’ which He gives with the ‘rest’ which we find. When the weary, burdened, and heavy–laden soul comes to Christ in simple faith, He gives rest––settled rest––the rest which flows from the full assurance that all is done––sins forever put away; perfect righteousness accomplished, revealed and possessed; every question divinely and eternally settled; God glorified, Satan silenced, conscience tranquilized.
Such is the rest which the Lord Jesus gives when we come to Him. But then we have to move through the scenes and circumstances of our daily life. There are trials, difficulties, exercises, buffetings, disappointments, and reverses of all sorts. None of these can in the smallest degree, touch the rest which the Lord gives, but they may very seriously interfere with the rest which we are to find. They do not trouble the conscience, but they may greatly trouble the heart. They may make us very restless, very fretful, very impatient. For instance, I want to preach at Glasgow; I am announced to do so, but, I am shut up in a sick–room in London. This does not trouble my conscience, but it may greatly trouble my heart. I may be in a perfect fever of restlessness, ready to exclaim, How annoying! How terribly disappointing! Whatever am I to do? How inconvenient!
So how is this state of things to be met? How is the troubled heart to be calmed, and the restless mind to be calmed down? What do I want? I want to find rest; how am I to find it? By stooping down and taking Christ’s precious yoke upon me––the very yoke which He Himself always wore in the days of His flesh––the yoke of complete subjection to the will of God. I want to be able to say from the very depths of my heart, “Thy will, O Lord, be done.” I want such a profound sense of His perfect love to me, and of His infinite wisdom in all His dealings with me, that I would not, if I could, move a finger to alter my position or circumstances, feeling assured that it is very much better for me to be suffering on a sick–bed in London than speaking on a platform in Glasgow.
Here lies the deep and precious secret of rest of heart, as opposed to restlessness. It is the simple ability to thank God for everything, be it ever so contrary to our own will, and utterly subversive of our own plans. It is not a mere assent to the truth that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to purpose”. (Rom. 8: 28). It is the positive sense––the actual realization of the divine fact that the thing which God appoints is the very best thing for us. It is perfect repose in the love, wisdom, power and faithfulness of the One who has graciously undertaken for us in everything, and charged Himself with all that concerns us for time and eternity. Love will always do its very best for its object.