For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterwards have spoken of another day. So, there remains a full and complete Sabbath rest for the people of God!
The Lord of the Sabbath is an expression that appears in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5), describing Jesus. In this dispensation, we see that Jesus restores us to how God intended for man to live in the garden of Eden.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.
The law was pointing us to this new position of resting in God. Through Jesus and the finished work of the cross, we can let go of the toil of this life. Jesus is calling us to put down our yokes, the toils of this life, and take up His yoke that is easy to bear and His burden that is light to carry.
God is not asking us to rest only one day every week!
We begin to look at life from a broader, spiritual perspective. God is not asking us to take one day off every week, or the seventh or fifty-first year. God is telling us that we should work to enter His rest. He is requesting that we live a life of rest every day, every minute because, in Him, we cease from our works and labour to do His. Taking His yoke means walking alongside Him on a minute-by-minute basis. So, whether it’s the seventh day or not, we rest when He says so. We stop trying to make life work for us and instead rely solely on Him and His guidance.
I fell deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole about a year after joining the missions organization. Carrying out God’s assignment on my terms became my new normal. With my previous business experience, I persuaded my husband, who was also my boss at the time, that we needed to hire professionals. (In the past, my husband and his boss had always asked God to bring the right people with the right hearts to fill the various roles to move the organization’s mandate forward.)
So, we conducted professional recruitment, interviewed, and chose the people who appeared to be the most qualified and best fit for the various positions. This turned out to be the most costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining lesson we learned in that decade. Carrying my yoke was too difficult because I had relied on my understanding when He had expressly forbidden us to do so.
Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].
The workers arrived and attempted to complete the work in the most professional manner possible. For a year, however, everyone struggled to make ends meet. We eventually realized that God was not with us. When we cried out to Him, He answered us and showed us where we had gone wrong. God promised to take my husband and me through a Gideon experience. We relieved people of their positions one by one. It was a difficult time because we were also strapped for cash, and letting people go was an expensive affair.
When the last person left, we were down to five people: my husband, myself, two staff members, and a volunteer/intern. God was pleased that we had accepted His yoke, which was easy, and His burden, which was light. We were able to implement our three-year strategic plan in about three months. This was the very plan we had hired professionals to help us in the first place and had been impossible for one and a half years.
We completed the work of twelve people with a team of four employees and one intern. In the new dispensation of grace and truth, this is what I call the Sabbath. My husband and I entered God’s rest because we were only doing what He told us to do. Things began to move quickly, and we began to experience God miraculously. We saw Him push the yoke and carry us with Him week after week. The best way to understand why Jesus is asking us to take up His yoke is to consider how Israelites used to plough the land during the period mentioned in this Scripture.
We are yoked together with Jesus
A yoke connects two animals for them to work together. When cattle interact, one will establish dominance over the others, establishing one animal as the leader. A ploughman may have several yokes of animals, but only one leader.
In 1 Kings 19, when Elijah called Elisha to succeed him as a prophet, the younger man was ploughing with twelve yokes of oxen. Even if one animal is dominant, it should not be obvious when they are working because each animal must pull its own weight.
Previously, I thought of a yoke as bondage, servitude, or arduous work that would drive me to the ground. This influenced how I perceived and understood Jesus’ invitation to take up His yoke – I did not want to suffer. In reality, a yoke is nothing more than a tool for performing a task. God has called us to be His sons, and as Jesus demonstrated, mature sons are eager to do the Father’s will (Romans 8:14-19, Galatians 4:5-7).
A well-designed yoke allows the animals to work at their maximum capacity and efficiency. There is no better yoke than Jesus and His taking the lead in pulling most of the weight to help us have less pulling to do. Jesus is collaborating with each of us. We must imagine ourselves as oxen sharing the same yoke as Jesus. We should also include God the Father as the ploughman and the Holy Spirit as the helper in this scene.
Jesus is right beside us in the yoke, working hard to guide us and pull His share of the load so that we can complete the task God has given us on this earth. This is why taking up Jesus’ yoke is much easier than pulling the load on our own. I dare to say that we are having a good time because our role is simply to follow the dominant load-puller, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
It is important to note that the discipline required to be a Christ-follower is demanding.
Anyone who believes that the Christian life does not require work is mistaken. God, contrary to popular belief, never said we wouldn’t have to work. He never said we wouldn’t have to put up with it. He never claimed that the Christian life would be free of pain or fatigue. However, God has stated that He will always provide for our needs and that He will complete what He has begun in us.
When we take up Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden, our reward, as shown in verse twenty-eight, is that He will give us rest for our souls. This is the same rest that God promises us in Hebrews 3-4: God’s rest in His Kingdom! Jesus has already paved the way, so all we have to do is follow Him and we will be free of our burdens.
Sabbath shift from a day to a person
With the above scriptures, we see God calling us to shift our understanding of the Sabbath from a specific day of the week to the person of Jesus Christ. This person requires us to commit to a daily walk with Him. We will never be free of the yoke. We come to a halt when the lead load-puller comes to a halt. We move forward when He does. When He moves sideways, we move sideways. This is how we learn to rest (even physically).
Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Right Direction, has had such an impact on my life, even though I have strayed from God’s will far too often. God wants to walk with us all the days of our lives not just for a short time. One act of obedience today, another tomorrow, and so on.
The two years that followed were fantastic. We hadn’t had a complete financial breakthrough yet, but we had enough testimonies and miracles to fill a book month after month. I don’t know how to explain in human terms how we managed to pay the bills and pay the employees month after month. All I know is that God provided when we needed it and when we needed it.
My husband travelled to eight countries, all expenses paid, during those two years of not having much money. The same year, our firstborn daughter was able to travel to the United States for a school convention, which cost us an arm and a leg. It was the same year that we were able to do a book launch for her, spending money that we did not have at the time.
I remember asking my husband if we should organize a fund drive for our daughter, and he said God had promised to provide.
I wasn’t about to try pulling the yoke by myself again. We stayed in the Lord’s yoke, and things got sorted out – albeit at a painfully slower pace than I would have preferred, but sorted nonetheless. We did not take out a loan, but God did use a handful of friends who wanted to help our daughter. He also gave us successful business ideas for our daughter and ourselves. I also recall God reminding some people who owed us, some for years, to pay us during that season. His yoke is lighter.
True Sabbath; entering God’s rest
So, there remains a [full and complete] Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has once entered His rest has also rested from [the weariness and pain of] his [human] labours, just as God rested from [those labours uniquely] His own. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest [of God, to know and experience it for ourselves], so that no one will fall by following the same example of disobedience [as those who died in the wilderness].
This Scripture teaches us that we will enter God’s rest if we obey. However, we must abandon our own human labours – attempting to make things work and adhering to the world’s standards for making things work. Our effort should be directed toward seeking to follow God’s instructions for us.
We know that when we were saved, our spirits were immediately translated from the fallen nature and the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of light. We know we instantly became God’s sons, co-heirs with Jesus Christ in God’s inheritance to His children. Our souls and bodies, on the other hand, did not. To be in obedience to God, we must constantly suppress the soul, and our fallen bodies will only be transformed when we die or when Jesus returns, whichever comes first.
Even after we have learned the truth and made progress in our walk with God, another temptation arises, and we find ourselves lacking in faith once more. We hope that God will not send us any temptation that we cannot bear. In other words, He will not permit a yoke that we cannot bear.
God asked us to relocate the organization to a private location about a year after things started to improve. The instruction was clear, and we knew it was God’s voice. After consulting with the mother organization, we began looking for a new place to live. We spent a significant amount of time moving from one premise to another and from one location to another. We couldn’t find a place that made us feel at ease. We even had several people assisting us in the search. This meant that we continued to delay obeying.
When we were unable to find a new location before our lease expired. As a result, we decided to relocate to the private location that God had previously spoken to us about. The location appeared to make it impossible for any business to thrive. We weren’t sure how things were going to turn out physically.
This arrangement required several sacrifices; however, we were still in God’s perfect will, and that move was exactly what God wanted us to make at the time. About a month after moving, we began to reap the benefits of obedience. We were walking in great peace, the mission became clear, and God provided for everything (literally everything) we needed to make things work.
I recall laughing aloud (I do that a lot when I sense the Holy Spirit is laughing at and with me). I couldn’t recall my life before moving to this new location. Remember how Jesus promised a reward for those who accepted His yoke? Rest for our souls is exactly what we got. In addition to this rest, God has promised to support His children with miracles, signs, and wonders as they go about doing His work, and this is exactly what we have received.
We began to receive partnership offers from all directions, the majority of which we were not looking for. However, God spoke to people on our behalf in mysterious ways. We were able to get out of significant debt in about six months thanks to God’s grace and mercy, and He gave us a fresh start to do His work.
It felt like the end of a day’s work, and the ploughman took the oxen, fed it, watered it, washed it, and gave it a clean stack of hay to lie on for the night. When the oxen awoke the next morning, probably before all the other oxen, it was eager to get back into the field and onto that yoke. It understood the hearts of the ploughman and the hearts of the lead oxen. It felt privileged to be a part of ploughing the Master’s field. This is the Sabbath rest that God is calling us to.
Find all the Episodes in this Series
A journey of recovery from toiling (modern day workaholism) to working (as God intended)
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