“But the nation which will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let remain on its land,” declares the Lord, “and they will till it and dwell in it.” (Jeremiah 27:11 NASB)
Once again, Jeremiah makes use of an “action sermon” to get the attention of King Zedekiah and neighboring emissaries. The king and his allies were planning a strategy to stop Nebuchadnezzar and his army. God was planning to destroy Jerusalem unless they surrendered.
What was Jeremiah trying to convey with his action sermon of wearing the yoke? What did the people think when they saw him walking around with the yoke across his shoulders? What is the Biblical meaning behind the use of a yoke?
Two different kinds of yokes were used as a means of pulling or carrying heavy burdens. A single yoke laid across the shoulders enabled laborers to balance and carry heavy loads more easily. While down in Peru I saw numerous people use this method to carry buckets of produce, water, and rocks up and down mountain trails. Another type of yoke is a double yoke. This is used as a collar on oxen to force them to pull heavy loads together on carts and wagons.
A yoke speaks of submission and that was the message that Jeremiah was trying to get across to Judah and the surrounding nations. God was planning to use Nebuchadnezzar and his army to punish Judah and the nations for their wickedness and worship of idols. His message was clear: submit and live; resist and die.
Jesus used the symbol of a yoke in his call to believers in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yours souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
What is involved when we accept Jesus’ yoke? Two things are required: (1) willing submission to his authority, and (2) actions in harmony with the work he did, and the way he lived. As a carpenter, Jesus knew how to fashion a yoke so that it would maximize the work with the least amount of effort.
The Lord promises to make our load easy and burden light. Are you willing to submit to his authority and take on the yoke of obedience and service?