Jeremiah 27:1-22 – A Heavy Yoke

Read Jeremiah 27:1-22

old fashioned wooden yoke

Why do you think God had Jeremiah put on a heavy yoke before he sent these messages out? Again, it was a teachable moment for Jeremiah. God used a real-world example to help Jeremiah understand the weight of the people’s rebellion. The yoke served as a sign to the ambassadors (v.3), King Zedekiah (v.12), the priests and the people (v.16). The message was to submit to the yoke of Babylon.

A yoke in the literal sense is an apparatus that is put on working animals attaching them to a plow or cart to be pulled. The Bible uses the reference of a “yoke” as a metaphor for bondage or servitude. In this case, the heavy yoke was likely to signify the oppression of Babylonian captivity about to become reality. That was certainly going to be something uncomfortable to bear.

God’s message to these people was to “submit to Babylon’s king and serve him; put your neck under Babylon’s yoke!” God was putting the Babylonians in charge. There were consequences for the people who didn’t submit. God said he would “send war, famine, and disease upon that nation until Babylon has conquered it.” How would you respond to such a demand from God to submit to an authority you were afraid of or in opposition with?

The people were in denial thinking God would never hurt them or cause them to live in captivity. There were plenty of “false” prophets telling an entirely different story. Jeremiah was given words to say about them, too. “They are all liars, and their lies will lead to your being driven out of your land. I will drive you out and send you far away to die.”  Those other prophets weren’t sent by God. They told lies to the people because they knew that’s what the people wanted to hear, and they preferred favor of the people over favor from God.

God’s reminder was a bit sobering. “I can give these things of mine to anyone I choose.” After all, God is in control of everything, right? In the case of Judah, God used an unlikely source, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, to be his servant, the one charged with controlling his rebellious children. Do you think God still uses unlikely characters for his work in this world?

The heavy yoke of Jeremiah’s prophecy brought to my mind the contrasting yoke spoken about years later by Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30: “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.”

Jeremiah spoke of the bondage to come for his community. Jesus knew we would feel overwhelmed and exhausted from life’s challenges. We may still be in bondage today to powers that try to control us. But Jesus invites us to come to him and he will take care of these burdens.

What are you letting weigh you down? Is it time to turn to Jesus and accept his yoke?

praying hands looking up

Let’s pray … Lord, thank you for your comfort in times of struggle. Walking through such difficult times is easier with you by my side. You are trustworthy and ever present. I am amazed by your love for me. There are no burdens in this life too big for you, God. Remind me to let them go for you to handle. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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