A yoke is an object that is laid upon the necks of large animals such as oxen, mules, or horses that help the owner steer or control his animal. It is used to keep the animal from going its own way. It is figuratively used in the Old Testament to signify servitude and sometimes calamities or judgments.
All human beings are born yoked to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Because we are born with an inherited sinful nature, we all long for freedom when we are children, and we believe that once we can shake off the yoke of our parents, teachers, or coaches we will be free to do whatever we want to do. When young adults enter college, they usually experience this freedom that they have been desiring, not realizing that this newfound freedom might produce self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism, drug addiction, sexually transmitted diseases, and worse. Most people desire a mate. Then once yoked to the mate in marriage, many desire to be freed from the very person to whom they once desired to be joined. Many people desire a good job, but once yoked to the job or the boss, they want to be free from the duties of the job and the control of the boss.
People think they are free, but in reality all lost sinners are yoked and are slaves to the world, the flesh, and the devil. They think that they are independent, free to do as they please. But in reality they are totally bound, yoked to a sinful nature that is controlling them, instead of them controlling their own life.
In the 28th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, God lays out a long list of blessings to the children of Israel if they obey the LORD and then a longer list of curses if they disobey the LORD. After the list of curses follow these verses.
Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee: And they shall be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever. Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things. Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things: and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee. Deuteronomy 28:45-48
The curses heaped upon the disobedient Israelites were crowned with them having to serve their enemies and having a yoke of iron put upon their necks until they were destroyed. In many ways this is what the freedom that people think they have today is like. Even though they think they are free to do their own thing, they really are yoked to the enemy called Satan, and he is trying to steal, kill, and destroy God’s children. We see this in the west side of Louisville, KY everyday as we look at the consequences of alcoholism, drug addiction, and lives with no moral restraint that produce poverty, diseases, mental breakdowns, homelessness, incarcerations, and worse. This is Satan’s game. He seeks to make you think that you are free, but all the while he is yoking you to his will that is like a yoke of iron that will destroy you.
In the 27th chapter of the book of Jeremiah, God had the Prophet Jeremiah to strap a yoke around his neck. It was a demonstration of God’s prophetic Word that all nations were to submit to Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar and serve him. God told them to put their necks under Babylon’s yoke. God called the King of Babylon “my servant” and promised to punish any nation that refused to be his slave. Here is another clear picture for us of the yoke that comes from disobedience to God.
In the 28th chapter, God again centers the entire chapter around the analogy of the yoke. A false prophet took the yoke off of Jeremiah’s neck and broke it in pieces as he prophesied that God would bless Israel and would break the yoke of Babylon off of them within two years. This false prophet was just like many preachers who teach prosperity today, not realizing that many times Christians are yoked to painful situations because God is chastening them or teaching them a valuable lesson that would never be learned in pleasure. This false prophet decided on his own to prophesy blessings upon Israel before God was finished with the slavery in Babylon. The false prophet died two months later because of his rebellion.
It is a terrible thing for someone to be yoked to the devil while they are not even aware of the fact that there is a Satanic yoke around their neck. This is why people are so greedy, selfish, adulterous, idolatrous, angry, depressed, and all of the thousands of characteristics of the fallen sinful nature that we inherited from Adam the first. And this is why so many lost sinners who do not know how to cope with the pain of life turn to drinking, drugs, gambling, promiscuous sex, and worse as they try to deal with a life without Jesus.
The good news is that if we will seek God in fasting and prayer that He will loose the bands of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, set the oppressed free, and break every yoke that enslaves us.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6
Only God can break these Satanic yokes from off of the will of a human being. In fact, the Word of God tells us that it is God’s anointing that destroys the yokes.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing. Isaiah 10:27
When Jesus came out of the wilderness after being tempted by Satan, He went into the synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Luke 4:18-19
Messiah had come! And no longer would mankind have to live under the yoke of the world, the flesh, and the devil, for Jesus was here to set the captive free. He lived a perfect, sinless life as He fulfilled the law perfectly, every jot and tittle, and then He nailed the law to the cross as He became sin—He who knew no sin—so that we might become the righteousness of God. He nailed our sinful flesh to the cross in order to free us of its power and dominion over us. Then He gave each of us an invitation to come to Him, and He promised to give us rest.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
When a person repents of his sins, asking Jesus to forgive him of his sins and then asking Jesus to come into his heart, the yoke comes off. The day we get born again, we are no longer yoked to the world, the flesh, or the devil.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Corinthians 5:17
Now everything is changed! Our fallen sinful nature no longer has the power over us to control our life; the yoke has been broken. Jesus now lives in our heart, and the Holy Spirit abides in us. This means that God Himself now lives in my heart, and I no longer have to be a slave to sin as I can walk in the newness of the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. In order to fully experience God’s transforming power completely, the new Christian needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and water baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of experiencing these two experiences in addition to salvation, but for the sake of time and space, we will write on these at a later date.
Now that the new believer has been delivered, he needs to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. For as he learns how to reckon himself dead everyday at the cross of Jesus, then he can learn how to walk in the victory that Jesus promises us.
However, the devil will never stop trying to bind us or yoke us. Once we have become a believer, then Satan knows that he can’t get to us in the bars, clubs, casinos, or the places of worldly amusement. So he comes at you with one of his biggest tricks, and that is to try to get you to become religious. If a Christian becomes religious, then it becomes second nature for them to logically think that by keeping religious rules and regulations that they can add to their salvation. Once we abandon the thought that we are saved by grace through faith, then it is easy to think that we need to add to what Jesus did for us at the cross. This was the problem that the early church in Galatia experienced as Christian Jews introduced the idea to the new Christians that in order to be saved they needed not only faith in Jesus Christ, but they also needed to keep the Mosaic law and be circumcised. Paul warned them not to give up their freedom in Christ and not to submit to the yoke of religion.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1
The Apostle Paul emphasized over and over that man couldn’t possibly be justified by the law, but only through faith in Jesus Christ.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. Galatians 3:11
The matter arose also in Jerusalem, and the Apostles had a meeting to resolve this once and for all. And Peter spoke on this issue, saying that they shouldn’t take on this yoke of self-righteousness but to continue to trust in the grace of Jesus Christ for their salvation.
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. Acts 15:5-11
Later, Peter was in Antioch, and he didn’t want to eat with the Gentiles while the Jews were present. Paul realized that this was the same principle being violated as requiring circumcision. So he stood up to Peter and rebuked him publically. And remarkably Peter stood down, repented, and the matter was settled once and for all. Please read the story in Galatians 2:11-21.
Now we are free in Christ Jesus. The yoke of the world, the flesh, and the devil has been broken off of our wills, and we no longer are slaves to sin. This freedom is the greatest thing in all of time and eternity. This is true rest, as we stop trying to save ourselves and put our trust in what Jesus Christ did for us on a cross, over 2,000 years ago. Most Christians stop here, and this is very unfortunate for them. We were never supposed to get saved and then think that is the end of our Christian walk. But millions of Christians all over the world, in many different denominations and sects, do just this thing. They accept justification by faith; they realize that their sins are forgiven, and when they die they will go to heaven. But not many ever grow in God; not many will ever plow the ground, till the soil, water the soil, and pull up the weeds necessary, and the Seed of Christ just sits there in the heart of man. No farmer has ever been satisfied and rejoiced, thinking his job is over once the seed has been planted. No, of course not! Instead, his work has just begun. This is how it is in a new Christian’s heart. The incorruptible Seed of Christ has been planted, but now the work has just begun.
We read in Matthew 11:28 where Jesus is calling out to us to come to Him, and as we come, we find the rest for which our souls have been searching. But in the next verse, Jesus challenges the Christian to do something that many do not want to do as He asks us to give up our freedom once again to be yoked to Him. This is hard for anyone to grasp. Why would I want to be yoked again, after I have finally been set free from the yoke of the enemy? All of our lives we have been looking for this freedom, and we finally have it. And now Jesus is asking us to give it up?
Even though very few will ever do this, Jesus is actually giving us the secret of how to live a victorious, overcoming life. He is telling us how to become a true disciple of Christ and how to become the very Bride of Christ. Even though we have found freedom and rest, experienced salvation and justification, Jesus is asking something out of us. He is asking us to put His yoke upon our wills so that we can learn that He is meek and lowly in heart. And this is how our souls will find true Sabbath Rest. When we stop trying to live the good Christian life and simply get our wills hooked up or yoked to Jesus, then we will finally stop doing anything but resting in the grace of God and obeying the Holy Spirit all through each and every day.
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 11:29-30
Jesus tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His yoke is not like the yoke of Satan. It is the exact opposite because we are yoked to light instead of darkness. We are yoked to love instead of hate. We are yoked to joy instead of sadness. When we choose to obey Jesus and be willing to put on His yoke, then this is the first day of the greatest life we can live, a life yoked to Jesus Christ. The freedom we have always longed for is found in this yoke. Quite the paradox for the natural mind to try to comprehend, but for all who have put on the yoke, we can testify that this is everything we have ever looked for. I found it! I found it! I found it in Jesus. True happiness, joy, peace, and love come from the willingness to be yoked and stay yoked to Jesus Christ. Even though a yoke is an instrument that takes away our freedom, when we are yoked to Jesus, it takes away our freedom to destroy ourselves, and it takes away the enemy’s power to destroy us.
Being yoked to Jesus is the safest place in the world, and it is the happiest place in the world. Being yoked to Jesus means that I don’t have to decide what to do each day. I simply walk when He tells me to walk and where He tells me to walk. Being and staying yoked to Jesus is the way to become a true disciple of Jesus and the way to become the Bride of Jesus Christ. As we continue to reckon our old man dead everyday at the cross of Calvary, and continue to wear the yoke of Jesus Christ, then Satan no longer has power over us to control us or manipulate us. Wearing the yoke of Jesus is actually the greatest freedom a Christian can experience.
One more thought about the yoke.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the new church in Corinth that they were not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers.
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. II Corinthians 6:14-18
Unfortunately, this passage of Scripture has been misinterpreted by many Christians throughout the history of the church, which has caused many to not reach out to the lost and dying world. There are hundreds of Scriptures that instruct us to share the Gospel with the lost, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, and to love all people whether they can love us back or not. We are called to go out into the world and let our light shine. We are called to share Jesus with everyone. The above passage does not undo the great commission. Instead, Paul is saying, “Don’t be yoked with unbelievers.” He is not saying, “Don’t communicate with unbelievers.” And he certainly is not saying. “Don’t love unbelievers.” He is not telling the church to be separated from all unbelievers and become an exclusive club of only believers.
No, Paul not is telling a believer not to marry an unbeliever or telling a business owner not to become a partner with an unbeliever. He is simply saying, “Don’t yoke up or marry your will with an unbeliever, because if you do, you are certainly looking at trouble down the road.” Yes, we are to separate ourselves from the world internally, but at the same time we are supposed to go into the world and reach out to the lost and to love the poor and needy.
In conclusion, start praying and fasting and asking God to bring His anointing into your life and allow Him to break every yoke of the world, the flesh, and the devil off of your will. Then come to Jesus and find rest. But don’t stop there, as the multitudes do. No, go ahead and do as He commands. Take His yoke upon you. Get bound to Him. Get married to Him. Get yoked to Him. Now your human nature cannot possibly rule you because you are reckoning it dead at the cross each day and walking in His resurrection life. This actually happens, as you stay yoked to the Master and simply plow where He tells you to plow.