Choosing to be Yoked

Journal Entry // April 24, 2022

So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.

Numbers 25:3 ESV

As I was reading this passage, I became interested in this notion that Israel had yoked himself. He was not forced into this, but freely chose to be yoked with Baal. There are some interesting definitions surround this word yoked:

  • Servitude and bondage
  • An oppressive agency
  • Wooden frame by which two animals are joined for working together
  • Device placed on the neck of a defeated person

All of these definitions draw out the image of a person that has lost their freedom. A person with a yoke is under the control of another. In this case, Israel had yoked himself to a different master and had chosen to give up their freedom in the Lord for servitude under a yoke.

When I (or anyone probably) reads this passage, my first response is to question why. Why would the people of Israel forsake the Lord and choose to be yoked to a false god and idol? Having seen all the miracles of the Lord in their exodus from Egypt and their wandering through the desert, why would they leave the path of faithful obedience and choose servitude? These are good questions and they need to be asked and studied and thought about, but they need to be applied to my own heart first.

Just like the Israelites, I too yoke myself to an idol of my own choosing at times. I may not realize it at the time, but I definitely choose to be yoked to “my sin”. Pride, self-righteousness, control. These are just some examples of what I choose to be yoked to. Yes, I hate it but I can feel trapped in this yoke. I have worn this yoke for so long, that it has become comfortable and even preferable at times. It’s how I deal with life. It’s what brings me comfort in my time of stress. This yoke of oppression becomes so familiar, that I lose sight of my servitude and begin to see myself as a victim. I see this yoke as something that was done to me or placed on me but never as something I freely choose to wear and even be proud of at times.

I often struggle with tossing away this yoke. I want to cast it away on the bonfire of other sins being dealt with, but there is some strong hold this yoke has on me. Calling out to me with words of comfort. Words that seem comforting, but are lies and deceptions meant to keep me trapped in this prison of my own making. Meant to keep me in the dark. Meant to keep me blind.

But God… Christ has set me free from this bondage. The yoke is just lying there on the ground. It has no control over me. It has no ability to coax me into its bidding. I am under no obligation to perform as it desires. No, I have been set free. Jesus has removed this yoke and burden from my neck and has truly set me free. He has provided my exodus from Egypt, just like the Israelites. Yet just like them, I continue to pick up that yoke at times. I want to feel the old familiar comfort of the yoke. I forget that this yoke is a harsh master. There is no, “just this one time.” The yoke is harsh and determined to regain mastery of me.

I need Jesus to give me strength to continually say no to this yoke. I need to continually pray for Jesus to bring a hatred of that yoke into my heart. I want to hate the yoke of oppression as He does. I want to destroy that yoke once and for all. I want to fight this deep, dark, hateful sin that still lingers in my heart. It still calls out to me. It still wants my loyalty. Praise the Lord that its calling out to me is becoming weaker and weaker every day. As I learn to reject that harsh master and his painful yoke and take up the yoke and burden of Christ. This is my calling to freedom! It’s not life without a yoke. On the contrary, it is life in the yoke of Christ for he tells me that his burden is easy and his yoke is light.

This is the path to freedom. Obedience and faithfulness following Christ as he leads. Humility and obedience. Repentance and faith. These are marks of his perfect yoke.

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