Take My Yoke Upon You

Two large water buffaloes yoked together towed our trailer, with seven of us on board with the greatest of ease through some of the countrysides of Cambodia. The pace was slow but steady. The location was close to Kampot in the deep south of the country. The track we were travelling on was often wet and muddy, exactly what water buffalo like!
The buffaloes loved being cooled by water in the hot and humid conditions. In fact, our driver stopped every 15 minutes or so and sprayed water over the backs and heads of the buffaloes using a small electric pressure pump carried on board the trailer next to the driver’s seat, thus helping cool the animals. Next, we slowly moved to our destination through lush tropical vegetation and farming land to the “Secret Lake”. On arrival, the buffaloes were very happy to continue their journey into the shallow water of the lake. We then spent 15 minutes or so stopped in the lake, waiting for the beasts to cool off.

Then we completed a 180-degree turn and returned to the base. After the passengers disembarked, the driver unyoked the buffaloes by removing the specially shaped wooden beam (the yoke) connecting the two beasts, and the two water buffaloes wandered off separately to feed at their leisure.

Speaking of the yoking and unyoking of buffaloes, I am reminded of these words Jesus said to His disciples, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest.

Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. The “yoke” illustration would have been very familiar to Jesus’ audience for in Biblical times.

A young ox was commonly yoked to an older, more experienced ox so that the older ox might train the younger to perform correctly. By bearing the same yoke, the untrained ox would soon learn the proper pace and how to heed the direction of the master. Also, two animals yoked together could accomplish much more than one animal by itself. Jesus is saying that His followers need to be “yoked” to Him by trusting, obeying, and growing in our relationship with Him.
Florence Nightingale is a good example of this “yoking” principle. In her early life, Florence began rising well before dawn to study nursing, and she wrote in her diary in 1850, “God, I place myself in Your hands”. She surrendered to Jesus and thus became “yoked” to Him. She acknowledged she needed His help, forgiveness, guidance, wisdom and strength in the journey of life.

Florence began excelling as a nurse, statistician and social reformer and laid the foundation of modern nursing. Her efforts to formalise nursing education led her to establish the first scientifically based nursing school—the Nightingale School of Nursing in London, (1860). Within two years, she became England’s leading authority on hospitals. She arranged for medical supplies and introduced new sanitary standards and better procedures. As a result, the death rate in the hospital she served in during the Crimean war dropped by 70%.
A news reporter observed Florence tending to the wounded and wrote, “When … silence and darkness have settled upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making the solitary rounds.” Not long afterwards, she was immortalised as “The Lady with the Lamp”. Upon her return to England, Florence was a national heroine; she also became a public health advisor to other nations. When soldiers tried to give honour to her, she would say, “Give praise to God”, the one she was yoked to!
Florence said, “To be a fellow worker with God is the highest aspiration of which we can conceive man capable”. Florence once told an assembly of nurses, “Christ is the author of our profession”.
The Bible says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”, Colossians 3:17. This is a good motivation for us too, whether in the workforce or community or home we can live in a way which honours our Creator. There is no better way to live.

  • Written by Rev Bruce Stewart, for New Life Aus, 15 July 2022
  • Image by Rev Bruce Stewart.