“It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young” (Lam. 3:27). The child that doesn’t learn to listen and obey isn’t likely to become a leader when an adult, unless soemthing unusual happens along the way.
Though he argued that he wasn’t qualified, Jeremiah was a young man when God put the yoke on him, and the Lord used him mightily. Pampered children rarely grow up to become strong leaders. What life does to us largely depends on what life finds in us, and self-discipline is one of the keys to success.
If Joseph had remained at home with his father, Jacob would have pampered him and perhaps ruined his character; but the Lord put Joseph in Egypt and in jail and made a ruler out of him. As a young child, Samuel was put into Eli’s househould to train for God’s service, and neither Eli nor his sons were good examples for Samuel to imitate. But Samuel wore the yoke and became a godly judge and prophet who faithfully served Israel.
David was the “baby of the family,” but he wasn’t pampered by his father or his brothers. He knew how to work as he cared for his father’s sheep, and he even risked his life for the flock by killing a lion and a bear. When drafted to play the harp for King Saul, David didn’t get proud or lazy. He went back and forth between the flock and the king’s court and did both jobs well. When he became a soldier and then an officer in the army, his success didn’t go to his head because he gave the glory to the Lord. One day he traded in the yoke for a scepter and a throne.
The Jewish nation didn’t always want to wear the yoke. “Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh; so I will put a yoke on her fair neck. I will drive Ephraim, Judah must plow, and Jacob must break up the ground” (Hos. 10:11). While they were threshing, the animals were allowed to eat the grain (Deut. 25:4; 1 Cor. 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18), which made the work easier. But because of this God’s people weren’t agreeable to do any other work, like pulling plows. But that would change! Assyria would capture the southern kingdom and Babylon the norther kingdom, and their days of self-centered ease would come to an end. They rejected the easy yoke of the Lord and ended up wearing the heavy yoke of captivity.
Even our Lord Jesus Christ knew the importance of the yoke. As a child, He submitted to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51f), and as He grew older He no doubt worked in Joseph’s carpentry shop, for the people called Him “the carpenter” (Mark 6:3). He may even have made yokes! When we joyfully wear the yoke, we can say with Jesus, “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me” (John 5:30).
Too much too soon usually means too bad, and the mistake is usually discovered too late.
To “break off the yoke” is a metaphor describing deliverance and freedom. In Leviticus 26:13, the Lord uses it to picture Israel’s exodus from Egypt: “I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.” But it can also picture sinful rebellion against authority. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam became king, he rejected the experienced counsel of the older men and told the people he would make their yoke heavier, sot he people decided to break the yoke completely. The result was the division of the nation, with Judah and Benjamin following Rehoboam and the remaining tribes following Jeroboam. (See 1 Kings 12, and note how often the word “yoke” appears.) But as time went on, both kingdoms even broke the yoke God had given them and began to worship the false gods of the nations around them (Jer. 2:20; 5:5). The leaders thought they were enjoying freedom, but it led to terrible bondage as both kingdoms went into captivity.
The yoke we receive from Jesus isn’t difficult to wear because it’s designed especially for us and the blessings we receive far outweigh the burdens He asks us to carry. What could be better than being yoked to Jesus Christ and enjoying His fellowship, experiencing His power, sharing His wisdom and bringing glory to His name?
Jeremiah had more trouble with the false prophets of his day than with the government leaders, because their messages were giving people false confidence. In order to receive gifts from the people, the false prophets preached just what the people wanted to hear. They said, “Peace! Peace!” but there was no peace (Jer. 4:10; 6:14; 8:11). Jeremiah preached the truth and told the people that if they submitted to the Babylonian yoke, God would spare their lives as well as their city and temple; but they would not obey.
Since the poeple were not listening to the Word, the Lord told Jeremiah to make a yoke and wear it in public so he would get their attention (See Jer. 27-28). Can you imagine Jeremiah walking the streets of Jerusalem and bumping into people, or going to the temple and getting in the way? “Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon!” he told Zedekiah the king, who paid no attention. Hananiah, one of the false prophets, removed the yoke from Jeremiah’s neck and broke it, saying that the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar would be broekn by the Lord in two years. Shortly after that, the Lord told Jeremiah to make a new yoke, but this time out of iron and n ot wood, and once again wear it publicly.
The message is clear: if God’s people reject the easy yoke and break it, they will be given a heavier and stronger yoke that cannot be broken. They cannot reject God’s Word and get away with it. Two months later, the false prophet Hananiah was dead.
Jeremiah was reminding his people that Jehovah God was the sovereign God, and that His people must hear and obey His Word. By submitting to God’s yoke they woudl escape the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and deportation to Babylon. Even at this late date, they could escape judgment if they would take the Lord’s yoke upon them and obey His will.
Why submit to God? Jesus tells us: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
(Copyright Warren Wiersbe, All Rights Reserved, May not be copied or duplicated without permission of the author.)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).