Oxen are fairly dumb animals, but no other draft animal compares with the brute strength and stamina of the ox. The question is this: How do you harness the strength of a dumb young ox for a profitable endeavour?
“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 11:29-30
It wasn’t until a few years back that the Spirit of God taught me a few secrets about what being yoked to Jesus was like. It was 39 C in the shade that day. I had just had my usual mid-afternoon shower after siesta (my only reprieve from the blistering African heat). I took my customary spot on a shaded stoop outside my house with a glass of water and enjoyed the cooling effect of the breeze evaporating what moisture was left from my shower. Harvest was long past and we were well into the sweltering 6 months of dry season. We had not seen rain for at least 3 months. Looking up the village path that runs by my house, I observed something I had never seen before. A young oxen twisted and lurched, kicking and grunting. Occasionally it would dig in and refuse to move. His reason for rebellion was clear. A new yoke rested on his shoulders and the dumb young ox was bewildered. A local farmer and his boys ran along behind with a whip and some ropes trying maintain some semblance of control. They would have never had a hope if it weren’t for the a mature old ox patiently yoked to this crazy youngster. The yoke sloped awkwardly down from the tall shoulders of the older ox to his young companion. A smile crept across my face as I took another sip of water and observed the comical scene unfold. The farmer had hitched a log to the two oxen as a dead weight for them to practice pulling together.
So on this disciples journey what did I learn about being yoked with Christ on this road less traveled? Well here’s a few things:
1. Jesus is the gentle teacher. “I am gentle and humble of heart…” There’s no reason why Jesus has to put up with our shinanagins. He’s big enough and strong enough to give us the school of hard-knocks if he wishes. Watching that older experienced ox steadily and patiently working with the young foolish ox reminds me of how great a teacher Jesus is. Jesus is steady and consistent. In His strength he patiently and gently works with us. He does not consider it to low of a thing to be yoked with even the most unlikely disciple.
2. Jesus’ yoke is easy- The older ox is bigger and much more powerful. As I watched that yoke slope down from the experience shoulder to the inexperienced…I realized something. The older ox was bearing the majority of the load. Its a simple matter of physics really. Ever lifted a heavy object with 3 or 4 friends? Occasionally you will find yourself barely contributing anything to lifting the object even though you want to. Why is that? Well one or two of your friends are holding that object a little higher than you and as such they are bearing the weight. Why is Jesus yoke easy? Because by virtue of the learners yoke, he bears up the weight.
3. The key is walking parallel. That yoke can seem heavy when you begin to pull ahead of Jesus. The young ox didn’t like the strain of bearing the weight itself. I’ve been there, you have too. You feel the strain of pushing ahead of God, propping up programs and ministries and juggling things because you deemed them necessary. You pulled things you were never asked to pull!
Then there’s what happens when we don’t keep up. Sometimes we don’t like where Jesus is going. Other times we’ve run ahead, gotten tired then blamed Jesus for over working us and dig in our heels and rebel. Whenever that young ox dug in, the yoke would twist and pull as the older ox lumbered on. I’ve been there too. Wondering what I had gotten myself into. I hated every moment and plead with God to release us from “the trial” I was being dragged through. We don’t often consider embracing by faith the road He has chosen with all its fears and unknowns.
What a bunch of dumb oxen we can be!! Oh, that we would settle down and yield ourselves to His yoke.