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Equally Yoked

by Julia Glattfelt

We had an interesting discussion at our fellowship this past Sabbath.  One of our members made this statement: “Yeshua said his yoke was easy, not that he didn’t have one.”

equally-yoked

What is a yoke anyhow?  What does it mean to be ‘unequally yoked?’

Yokes are an agricultural reference (as are many themes in the Bible) that refers to a device that harnesses two work animals together in order to pull something like a plow or wagon.  It is important that the two animals are suited to work in tandem.  If one is stronger than another, or smaller, taller, etc., the likelihood for injury or failure is certain.

The Torah tells us that we should never use an ox and a donkey together in a yoke.  It is dangerous and inefficient.  The weaker animal is unable to assist or carry his weight!  It is almost impossible to plow a straight furrow with this kind of disparity between the work animals.  It is out of balance.

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Deu 22:10 Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.

“Two different species cannot associate comfortably together, nor pull pleasantly either in cart or plough; and the ass being lower than the ox, when yoked, he must bear the principal part of the weight.” http://biblehub.com/deuteronomy/22-10.htm

The image of an ox and a donkey might also conjure up a scenario of a docile ox and a stubborn donkey.  That hardly seems a good choice to try and accomplish the plowing when one animal is steady and the other is wayward!  Another way to insure a crooked or insufficient furrow for planting!

When Yeshua asked us to take on His Yoke, what picture does that bring to mind?

To be sure, there are single-yoke harnesses, where only one animal is used instead of a pair.  But, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to apply that to our relationship with Yeshua, does it?

Shouldn’t we seek to work with Him, not independent of Him?  A single yoke, whether on the neck of Yeshua or ourselves, doesn’t fit the heart of what He was trying to teach us.

So, what is this Yoke, anyhow?

Yeshua said: Mat_11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Apparently, what he taught them constituted his ‘yoke.’  He said so!  Take my yoke and learn from me.  And that fits with our understanding of this Hebrew idiom.  It is understood that those who followed a particular Rabbi or teacher were said to have taken on his yoke.

So, when we are told to take on Yeshua’s yoke, what is he really saying?

Some think that this is the answer to the question:

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

And that makes sense as far as it goes.  Maybe another aspect of this directive could compare and contrast the clean and unclean, believers and unbelievers.  But, for this study let’s keep to the equally yoked paradigm.

Most of Christendom embraces the ‘Footsteps in the Sand’ analogy.  It places all of the effort upon Yeshua to get us to where we need to be.  I admit that I love the comforting thought that when things are hard He is there to take care of us whether we know it or not.    But, is this really looking at our relationship with Him from a Biblical perspective?  Or is it incomplete?

Like most of the things I learned while growing up, letting all responsibility fall upon our Savior is too one-sided.  If he didn’t care how we behave, why did he invent ‘sin’ in the first place?

It is too easy to opt out of our half of the yoke.  It’s easy.  It is comforting.  It’s great to ride in the wagon, but it ignores the rest of the story.

The Footsteps paradigm ignores his request to take his yoke upon ourselves.  It ignores verses that tell us to stop being a slave of the world and to become bondservants of our King!  That very pointedly says that we are to DO something other than take His promises for granted.

The following cartoon takes the parable even further!

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I admit it is pretty funny!  It’s funny because it is so true.  But, are we missing the point?

This all fits hand in glove with the ‘Jesus paid it all’ mind-set.  And that Is true, but it depends on what debt you think he paid.  If we believe that he paid our deserved penalty of death for our transgression of YHVH’s commandments, then we understand.  If we think that ‘he paid it all’ so we could escape the instructions of YHVH and we don’t have to do anything in response, we are sadly mistaken.

What else do the scriptures tell us about being yoked?

A good way to study the scripture is to go back to the first mention of a term.  What did yoke mean at the beginnning? The first mention of Yoke is here:

Gen_27:40 And by thy sword shalt thou live, and thou shalt serve thy brother. And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt break loose, That thou shalt shake his yoke from off thy neck.

So, that seems pretty clear.  The Yoke is what keeps you in service or bondage to other men.  The key, then, is this: are we in service to man or God?

Lev_26:13  I am Jehovah your God, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bars of your yoke, and made you go upright.

First Kings and Second Chronicles gets into the nitty-gritty of how the Israelites felt about yokes.

The discussion about heavy yokes centers on the split that occurred following the death of Solomon.  This is what precipitated the Twelve Tribes of Israel to split between the Ten Northern Tribes (Jeroboam) and the southern kingdom of Judah (Rehoboam).

1Ki_12:4 Thy father (Solomon) made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

Everyone hangs their hat on the fact that Solomon is called ‘wise.’  But, the fact of the matter is that the wise king was disobedient.  He married wives out of the nations, and slipped into idolatry and child sacrifice to satisfy their pagan beliefs.  It was this breaking of the covenant with the father that caused the Twelve Tribes to split up!  (1 Kings 11:11-13)

It seems to me that if we are to take on His Yoke that means we are to walk in tandem with him.  We are to be guided and kept on the narrow path by the same yoke, and we both have to pull our part of the burden.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

Do you remember when Yeshua washed the feet of the disciples?  Peter was horrified!  Yet, Yeshua rebuked him and said if he would not allow his feet to be washed by the Messiah he was not one of his!  Why?

To me it is a perfect picture that Yeshua wanted to make clear that Peter and He were brothers.  There was no attempt to be unequally yoked here.  Our Messiah became a man, and a servant to the Most High GOD, just as he was instructing his disciples to become!

We are instructed to come out of Babylon!  That means to leave behind the bondage and instruction of men.  Instead we are to take on His Yoke:  His Torah.  Then we will be in tandem with Him.  Equally yoked!  Walking even as He walked!

The picture of that blows my mind.  But, I believe it to be true.  When we learn to walk as he walked, we walk with him at our side. How awesome is that?

Mat_11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

An addendum!  Warren Marcus posted an interesting picture on FB.  It is the Hebrew Letter Zayin…usually associated with a Plow!  Just look!  How awesome is our Father!
zayin yoke marcus

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5 thoughts on “Equally Yoked

  1. I have question. I am seeking counsel from a Torah observant perspective, as I only know 3 women who are seeking to walk as Yahshua walked and Fathers Holy Commandments, none of their husbands are walking in Torah, but in the spirit they claim being guided no longer required to keep Torah. This is how my husband believes. He is a professing Christian that believes that His belief in Jesus and His ability to keep the Law perfectly no longer requires obedience from Law. He does try to keep any Commands that are suggested keeping in the Apostles writings, but considers the Torah a curse and bondage and has required that I no longer teach our 3 children (ages 16,15,12) from YHWH’s Torah and obedience to His Word. As he believes he is the priest and does not wanting them “poisoned” by what he believes to be a false doctrine. As I said, I hope to find counsel from someone who understands and walks in the Whole Counsel of YAH, and most of my friends side with my husband and believe I am out of order and not walking in the way my husband teaches and thereby rebelling against him. I would love a dialog with you concerning this matter, as I have very little counsel outside of His Spirit and His Word. I love my husband and believe I heard a Word from Him warning that “I would be placed in a well, falsely accused, and forgotten for a time, but that He would reestablish me again in due time”. I hold on to that, and although my husband is a Saul to me now, I believe that He will be a Paul that all will be amazed at the change, and cant believe he is the same person. And when that happens, when He desires to Know Father thru His Word and His Commands and not reject His Counsel as our Bread of Life, then we will be a force that will turn the world upside down! I’m trying to walk patiently, trying to be humble (though soooo hard), quietly (also hard), letting my walk be an example as I believe Paul suggests in his letter regarding women who are obedient to the Word but are married to those that are Not obedient to His Word. This greatly offends my husband to say we are unequally yoked, because he feels confident in his salvation. So Im trying to understand what it looks like to be One with my husband when we are not of the same mind, same Spirit, same accord. Please help!

  2. “…sword of the Sprit?” Do you mean Spirit in that drawing of the Zayin yoked with the Vav? Perhaps you could explain all the symbolism even further???
    Thank you~

  3. Very insightful and succinct article concerning this “unequally yoked” issue, and certainly timely and applicable in my life. May YHVH continue to guide you into understanding and the ability to share it efficiently. Shalom!