Bible Study Blog


by Brian G. Bettes

In a recent blog, I talked about “tugging against the leash.” In a comment to that blog, a reader responded with this:

“The more we trust in God, the more we understand that His yoke (leash) really is pretty light.” The comparison of God’s “leash” to His yoke being referenced here is in Matthew 11:29-30 which states:

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 (KJV).

The Greek word used for “yoke” in this verse, zugos, means to join or couple together, specifically by a yoke. It also has a literal meaning of being the beam of the balance that connects the scales, or “a pair of balances.” 

I found this rather insightful. A yoke of oxen was used in times past to pull a large plow or a heavy load. Two oxen can pull more than one, thereby making the plow or the load easier to move. But also, when they are yoked together, they will pull together. The yoke keeps them in sync with each other so that one does not pull faster than the other. If they do not pull at the same pace, the load will become off balance and it will not be able to be effectively moved. So the yoke serves the purpose of providing balance, as mentioned in the definition of the word.

Further, Deuteronomy 22:10 states that an ox and an “ass” (mule/donkey) are not to plow together. Why is that? It is commonly known that an ox and a mule are two different species. As a result, they are built differently and as such they have different strengths.

The mule is taller than the ox. Since the ox is built lower to the ground, it will have a shorter stride. The ox also is much stronger than the mule. This all adds up to the two animals pulling against each other instead of pulling with each other. As a result, this combination will, at best, torture the mule, and at worst, it will injure the mule. They just don’t make good pulling partners. Again, the idea behind coupling, or yoking, two animals together is to be able to pull a heavier load, and to do so more efficiently.

So then the question arises: If we are joined together “in the yoke of life” with a pulling partner, who is it that we are yoked together with? Who is our pulling partner? Well, there is actually more than one answer to that question.

First, let’s look at a very important principle that is laid out for us in 2 Corinthians 6:14. Here we are instructed not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. This dovetails perfectly with the concept of not having an ox and a mule pull together in a yoke, because they actually won’t pull together? The spiritually minded person and the carnally (fleshly) minded person, do not have the same values, perspectives, and goals. Therefore, they do not think about the same things (Romans 8:7-9). 

So Paul asks some critical questions to think about with regard to this in 2 Corinthians 6:14-15. There he queries, “For what fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion does light have with darkness? And what agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?” 

If we are working to pull together “in the yoke of life” with someone who does not have the same spiritual values, perspectives, and goals that we do, there is going to be a struggle. They will be pulling in a direction that is based on worldly thinking, which is inspired by the prince of the power of the air, while we will be pulling in a direction based on God’s thinking as inspired by His Word and His Holy Spirit. This automatically sets up a relationship whereby the two will be pulling against each other instead of with each other. 

Tragically, there is a chance that the Christian will get pulled back into the world based on what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:33. In scenarios where Christians do bind themselves “unequally” into relationships, they find that, in order to “make the relationship work,” they have to compromise some of their Godly values. Even if the Christian does not get pulled back into the world, there often will be some level of spiritual injury due to the compromises involved. Realistically, it is almost impossible to avoid since the Christian will be trying to pull toward God, while the unbeliever, even if unknowingly, inevitably will be pulling in a direction that leads away from God. The dynamics of the relationship simply do not work well, which is why God says not to do it. This principle applies to marriage, business relationships, close personal friendships, and any other type of alliance that we might involve ourselves in.  

So, back to our question: Who is our pulling partner? Well, as outlined above, physically speaking, it is anyone with whom we bind ourselves into an intimate personal, marital, or working relationship. The people we spend time sharing our lives with should be chosen very carefully so as to ensure they share the same Godly values as ours. We will then be helping and reinforcing each other as we move in the same direction, pulling together in the yoke of life.

Now, spiritually speaking, the more important answer to this question should be…Jesus Christ. When we were baptized, we put to death the old man, and were resurrected up out of a watery grave (Romans 6:4-6). At that time, we were bound together with Jesus by the Holy Spirit so that He could start living in us (Galatians 2:20). The Holy Spirit is the “yoke” that binds us into a deep, intimate relationship with Him, and He becomes our pulling partner (Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 7:25; 12:2). It is at that point that Jesus becomes our Intercessor, our Advocate, and the Author and Finisher of our faith. 

You see, Christ in us will be pulling in a positive spiritual direction rather than a negative worldly direction. In other words, Christ living in us as our partner, is Him being “in the yoke” with us, pulling with us, toward the Father and His Kingdom. It is then that we can realize the beauty of the verse quoted at the beginning. If we are in sync with Him by being bound together with Him, pulling in the yoke together with Him, we will find rest, our burden will become easier, and our load lighter.

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 KJV).