find rest for your souls
This is essentially my notes for a devotional I am giving this week.
The ways of God have always had the effect of lightening the load. Jeremiah 6:16 conveys this in one of many invitations to escape judgement in which introduces an important phrase for us today (for this devotional).
16 Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
But people have always had the tendency to make God’s ways a burden; or to just go the way that seems right to them. Jesus described the religious practices of those ruling in his day in this way:
[Matthew 23:1-4 ESV]
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, [hard to bear,] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
Or as the NIV puts it, “they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
I believe, you and I need someone willing to lift our burden with us.
Q: Take a moment and think about what your burden is today, what are you suffering under, what is the weight, if anything, you carry? [Ironically, I suspect many of those things are because you are a Christian.]
Andrew Murray notes two occurrences of rest in the passage Matthew 11:25-30. He sees 1)the giving of rest (v.28), and the receiving or the 2) finding of rest for ours souls (v.30) as two distinct moments. Maybe this is true.
11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things [kingdom/gospel?] from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. [Or so it pleased you well.]
Next we note: this profound statement of how people come to know the Father. (In v.27) via Jesus alone, not through wisdom, understanding, etc.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
[This is a claim to highest religious authority you can ever have. Look what he offers next.]
28 Come to me, all who labor [or have worked too hard] and are heavy laden [or in a state of having been thoroughly wearied], and I will give you rest. [Cause to you rest; or refresh you]
Notice I see and if…then statement implicit here.
[IF] 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and [THEN] you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Remarkable!]
The word translated ‘easy’ here can mean any of fit (for use), useful, virtuous, good, mild, pleasant, comfortable, [of people:] kind, or benevolent.
I have always pictured the yoke in this passage as for an animal (Jesus just using an aggie illustration), but there is also something called a yoke, which is worn by people, that just makes carrying something easier. I have always pictured Jesus as the one really pulling and we are coming alongside; He is teaching us how to pull the right way, as a new ox is broken in with an older one. But, Jesus may just be comparing the weight of following Him with the weight of going it alone under the weight of sin.
Either way Christ’s yoke is ‘easy’ because we enter discipleship / learn from him (Jesus) whose character is gentle and lowly. It is light, not because he has cheapened or weakened the demands of following God [See the Sermon on the Mount i.e. you have heard it said, but I say to you]. Also note Matthew 12:1-14 to see how his approach is different than the religious of his day. [He is the Lord of the Sabbath and is reasonable and gracious and he brings healing and freedom instead of more weight.]
It is certainly not because the demands of being a Christian are few. We often have so many moral and relational demands that we can hardly sift them from each other. As well we have so many callings, causes, passions, desires, hopes or plans for life and ultimately results in the spiritual realm that we hope for are all anything but weightless!
I truly love the picture of the Lord pulling the weight and me coming along and learning from him how to pull. The application of this from my perspective is that the real weight is something I never, ever carry alone. A FREEING THOUGHT: I am not responsible for the results. This is to me the most freeing thought I have had in years. I am responsible to pull in the direction I believe Christ is teaching me or asking me to go in his gentle and lowly manner. [If I think he is asking me to go read Scripture to someone with cancer – which he did twice in this last year – I need to go. Or as I deal with students, and need to say hard things to them – I need to speak the truth in]. Jesus is responsible for the heavy lifting here; I cannot change hearts.
But, the passage is not crystal clear to me, I admit it. However, I am confident of this, either Christ is saying he does not tie up heavy burdens and put them on us, or he is saying he will help us lift them if he does. THE BOTTOM LINE: Christ does have a yoke for us, and it is obedience, no matter how we feel about that.
The promise is this: the sure way to rest for your soul is to take his yoke upon you and to learn from the gentle Christ. It seems very likely that if you are under a weight that you cannot bear today then Murray was right. Once when you came to Christ he gave you rest (and you have experienced that) and in a real sense you still have that rest; and will have that rest fully in the eschatological sense of God’s rest – forever. But, now you are in another occasion where you need to again find rest for your soul, practically, personally. The solution is not different. There is no escaping the yoke; and there is no substitute for coming to Jesus. Refresh your soul by the truth that the yoke is useful; the yoke is good, mild, and pleasant; the yoke is kind, and benevolent. It is immeasurably lighter than carrying this weight alone.
Come! That is an invitation.
Take his yoke, and learn from him! That is a response.
You will find rest for your soul! That is a promise.