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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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The Savior’s Invitation

The majority of men labor under the yoke of Satan and they are heavy laden with the burdens of sin. Jesus, however, offers a yoke that is easy. John A. Broadus (1827-1895) writes:

Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

This familiar passage of Scripture contains one of the most precious among the many precious invitations of our compassionate Redeemer. Many a feeble and fainting believer has been led by it to take fresh courage and “press toward the mark,” many a burdened sinner has found in it that the gospel of Jesus is indeed “good news,” “a word in season to him that is weary.” And since the passage is so important and so precious, we may find our profit in attending a little to its phraseology, in endeavoring to make ourselves acquainted with its precise terms.

The Savior invites to him all “that labor and are heavy laden.” In this he doubtless referred partly to the burden of ceremonies and observances which the scribes and Pharisees imposed upon their followers, as required by the traditions of the fathers, and as essential and sufficient for their finding favor with God. The law itself, St. Paul tells us, was, if looked upon as a means of salvation, too grievous a burden for any to bear; and these superstitious observances made it yet more grievous. Such persons, then, tolling and borne down beneath the burden of the ceremonial law, are here invited to the Savior. . . .

Wearing the yoke of another is an expression very often employed in Scripture (as all will remember) to denote subjection to him. The figure is taken, of course, from beasts of burden, as oxen; being applied thence to all who are the laboring servants of a master. Jesus is then bidding those who have been the “servants of sin,” to obey him from the heart and be his servants; those who have been subject to Satan, to take him instead as their King. . . .

And when he says, “For I am meek and lowly in heart,” the Savior means to show that he is fitted to be a Teacher, that so all may come and learn of him. In order that a Teacher may win the hearts of his pupils, and thereby the better make them love to learn and love what they do learn, he must unite to other qualities a certain mildness, and gentleness, and kindliness . . . He would not be rough and overbearing and haughty as were the Doctors, the teachers of the law, he is not imperious and domineering and severe like many who have since professed to teach his doctrines: he is humble and affectionate, condescending and kind.

We may learn from these words the character of the lessons, as well as of the Teacher. It is the knowledge of himself that he will give; and as he is meek and lowly, i.e., gentle and humble, so those that come to learn of him will be taught lessons of gentleness, lessons of humility. Still the chief intent of this clause would seem to be what was mentioned first, namely to recommend himself as disposed to be kind and affectionate to all who might come to learn of him . . . He promises to free them from their grievous tolls, to relieve them of their heavy burdens, to give them rest. To appreciate fully the expressiveness of this figure, one must imagine himself bearing a heavy burden, a weight such as he can hardly sustain, and that after bearing it till he is almost crushed to the ground, he throws it off, and rests . . . And then suppose the burden is clinging to you, bound with cords you cannot sever, though you are bowed down under the load and vainly striving to throw it off, and that as you labor thus and are heavy laden, one offers if you come to him to loose the bonds and take away the burden, and let you rest – how sweet would be the thought! How quickly, how joyfully, how thankfully, you would run to him! (“Come Unto Me”)

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