In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it. (Isaiah 30:15)
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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 your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Weary and burdened. It describes us all at various points in our lives. It may even be a picture of what we consider normal; there’s so much to be done, who wouldn’t be weary? The loads are so heavy and unrelenting, who wouldn’t feel burdened?
Yet Jesus gave every one of us this invitation: “Come to Me in your endless exhaustion, dragging your heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” He doesn’t say the depth of our weariness and the tonnage of our burdens will determine whether or not we’ve earned some rest. He will give us rest. Rest, like salvation, is a gift from God for those who will accept it.
What kind of rest is Jesus talking about? Is it a respite from the grit and grind of life – enough of a break to get a grip before re-entering the fray? Is it permission to withdraw whenever the going gets tough? Is it some kind of surreal experience for the super-spiritual?
Looking at Jesus’ next statement, the answer would be “None of the above.” Taking on a yoke doesn’t sound much like rest – quite the opposite. Yokes are put on for work. So why did Jesus say He’d give us rest, and then in the next breath talk about putting His yoke on us?
Jesus’ hearers would be familiar with the practise of yoking young, untrained animals with older, experienced ones who could guide them in the work that needed to be done. The experienced animal knew the ropes and was also stronger, so he not only made it easy for the young one to follow him, but also shouldered the greater part of the load.
Jesus is not inviting us to take on a yoke or our yoke, but His. What wearies and burdens us are the yokes others have put on us, or the ones we have put on ourselves. What gives us rest is accepting Jesus’ amazing invitation to be teamed with Him, to follow where He leads, to work without strain as He takes the greater part of the load. When we are yoked with Jesus, we walk in the confidence that He is teaching us every step of the way. His direction is never arrogant or harsh. Walking and working with Jesus gives us rest for our souls.
Putting on Jesus’ yoke means putting our dependence completely on Him. What a weight is removed when we’re not depending on ourselves or on others who are just as fallible as we are! What a relief it is to walk in the calm confidence that we’re being led by Christ, no longer striving and stressing to figure things out for ourselves. What a joy to discover that He is not a distant, disinterested observer but a Savior who longs for a personal relationship with us, who wants nothing more than for us to actively seek His presence.
We find rest and revitalization when Jesus is the hinge on which we swing open the door of each new day. The day may contain challenges and troubles, but these will not be more than we can carry when Jesus is beside us.
When we are restless – agitated, disturbed, toiling, in turmoil, wiped out, whipped – it’s a warning that we’ve taken on a yoke of our own making. We may be trying to earn favor with people and/or with God. What we’re not doing is letting Him lead, learning from Him, leaning on Him and only on Him. Instead, we’re trying to take things into our own well-meaning by wildly inadequate hands. We’re walking in the murky light of our own opinions instead of the clarity of God’s radiance. We’re relying on our own pitiful efforts instead of on the resources of the Almighty God who created and sustains us.
Some of us never really get hinged with Jesus in the way He has invited us, and thus miss the gift of the kind of rest only He can offer. Those of us who have put on His yoke still manage to get unhinged from time to time, for various reasons and durations. The wisest recognize that the restlessness of turbulence, pressure, impatience, irritation, striving, worry and weariness aren’t consistent with being yoked with Jesus, and do something about it. Abundant life here is part of the salvation Jesus died for; like the promise of eternal life, it’s always available to those who will accept it.
When we repent, we take off the yoke of sin and self and open the door to forgiveness. When we take on the yoke of Jesus, we rest in that forgiveness and in our complete dependence on God. We find calm in the midst of the storm, confidence when uncertainty surrounds us, refreshment in a dry landscape. We have an abundance of life in a spiritually impoverished world, because we know its Savior.
We can rest in that.
REST IS THE KEY THAT OPENS THE DOOR TO ABUNDANT LIFE.
Next: The Key of Quietness