This is how it went down:
As I watched the oxen trudge by, wearing their wooden burden and dragging their respective logs, my mind rested on our relationship with God. I thought of the endless circle these oxen were chasing, trying to reach an end that did not exist. How futile that would feel. Indeed, how futile it does feel. Anyone seeking a goal other than Christ is on that same road, wearing that same yoke.
During my observations, I focused on the animal. I tried to put myself into its shoes, and I thought of the promise Christ had given us in his Word of replacing our burden with his own, of freeing us from our present state. In my mind, I became the ox.
It was in that moment said vet said something I will not forget.
“You know, these men have been sleeping beside their oxen this past week,” stated our new friend. Jaw open and with a look of incredulity and confusion, I listened on as the event was explained. 17 pairs of animals and 17 men worked together, ate together, and slept beside each other. These young men each spent time talking to their own oxen, so their specific pair would know their voice. For the past week, these men had basically been living with the animals.
As odd as that sounded, the reason made complete sense. Simply put, these animals must learn to trust their masters. It was imperative that each pair of oxen learn to trust and obey their specific owner. Each set had one owner, and that man was the one who worked them, fed them, trained them, and took care of them. They did not switch animals during the week. These animals were not simply being trained to work for anybody. They were being conditioned to obey one master.
My focus, once fixed on the animals, shifted to the men behind them. These 17 boys were not simply young men with whips. They were becoming masters.
To be a master was a responsibility. The master does not simply work his oxen. He is their owner. He is their provider. He is their protector. They know his voice and trust his voice and work for his voice.
Let us revisit Christ’s words in Matthew 11:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus speaks to us about the task in front of us. He speaks of the yoke that we wear. But these words also tell us what kind of master we can serve. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Not to stretch this word picture farther than Christ meant for it to go, but we too serve a master who spent some nights sleeping in a stable.
What great encouragement it is to know the kind of master we serve! He is a caring master. Sure, he will work us, and we will labor for his sake. But when the work is done, we will be able to look back at the harvest in joy with our master as he tells us, “Well done.”