Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 17: Notes on Scriptural Messages (1), by Watchman Nee


Now I will speak concerning another rest to those who have believed. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matt. 11:29). Christians ought to have this rest. Sinners ought to have the first rest. A sinner will have no rest until he is accepted by God. A believer has rest because his sins have been forgiven. He can now rest because the question of salvation is solved, and the questions of justification and eternal life are also solved. He is resting in the Lamb; he has obtained the rest in the precious blood. However, a Christian will still at times have no rest. He may feel that there is no rest in worldly affairs and in his living. His heart may run like boiling water. He may have the "rest" of Matthew 11:28, but not the "rest" of verse 29.

This "rest" in verse 29 is a special "rest." In the original language, the word soul is the same as the psuche in psychology. Therefore, it is talking about the psychological rest. The Bible says the same thing in Psalm 42:5, which says, "Why are you bowed down, O my soul? / And why do you groan within me?" The soul can make one feel cast down and disquieted. The rest that the Lord gives us is the rest for the soul; it saves us from anxieties and disquietness in our living on the earth.

Following this, the Lord tells us the reason for His having rest in His own soul. Verse 29 says, "I am meek and lowly in heart." The first reason is meekness, and the second reason is lowliness. What is to be "meek"? To be meek is to be gentle, to be without hardness; it is to have nothing irritating and to be absolutely tender, yielding, unresisting, and unobstructing; it is to not protect oneself, to not reject others, and to be soft as water, and to remain so even when one is beaten. This is the life the Lord expressed on earth.

Many people are very gentle to others, but they are not lowly in heart. Outwardly they may be lowly, but in their heart, they are neither lowly nor yielding. To be "lowly" implies being mean and humble. The Lord was humble in His motive; He considered the kind of treatment He received to be what He deserved. He did not expect anything better; He only expected this kind of treatment. When the Lord was preaching in the big cities, people were opposing Him. Yet He "departed from their midst" in a good way. We may think that this is good enough. But He did more than this; within Him he did not expect any better treatment. He was not only meek but was also lowly. The Lord knew that the kind of life He lived on earth was the portion for Him; He did not expect anything higher. The meaning of the word pride is not merely something outward but something inward. If we want something better than what others have, if we crave something that God has not given us, and if we long for and plan anything for ourselves, it is pride.

The Lord’s attitude on earth was meek and lowly. If we desire to have rest, there are two things that we have to do. First, we have to "take My yoke," and second, we have to "learn from Me." To take the yoke and to learn from Him are two things. A "yoke" is a piece of wood placed on the back of an ox to keep it from going free and to force it to work hard. The Jews always put two oxen to one yoke; they never put one ox to a yoke alone. The yoke is given by the master; the ox does not know how to bear the yoke by itself. This is why the Lord said to us, "Take My yoke." This means that the yoke is apportioned to you by God; it does not come from any person nor from the devil. It is God who has put it on you. However, it is up to us to learn from Him.

1. "Take My Yoke"

When I take up whatever God has apportioned to me, I will be happy. If I am satisfied and contented with these things, I will have peace and will not be sad because I have not escaped God’s yoke. I have a schoolmate who grew up in an orphanage. He was very intelligent and studied very well. He was a churchgoer but not a Christian. His hope was to have a high education, an outstanding name, and to make a great deal of money. The year of his graduation, a missionary offered to help him to go to the United States to study. He asked him to go first to St. John University in Shanghai to finish his remaining two years of study. The school had prepared a scholarship to take care of him. However, he had been saved a few months before that and heard God’s calling to serve Him wholeheartedly. At that time God’s yoke was upon him. He thought of how much suffering he would have to bear as a preacher and of the preaching he would have to do among the villages where food, clothing, and lodging would not be comfortable, and he would not have much income. All his hopes fell through! His mother’s and uncle’s only hope had been on him; such hopes would also fall through! He was reluctant to bear God’s yoke and wanted to escape. He promised the principal that he would accept the offer for further education. One day I purposely looked for him and asked him, "Have you settled your future?" He said, "I have already decided to go to the university to study." Because I knew that God had called him, I spoke to him straightforwardly: "You have chosen the wrong path. Do you think you can have rest this way?" He said, "My mother and my uncle have put all their hopes on me. I will study theology as well as literature. I can do some work to gain people on the campus. Will this not satisfy both sides?" I said, "Obedience is better than sacrifice. The Lord is not pleased with the cattle of a thousand hills and the sheep of ten thousand mountains. He is not pleased with oil and burnt offering. He wants man to obey Him." He said, "I have already made my decision." I said, "You have taken the wrong path. If you go to St. John University, you will be poisoned by modern theology, and I am afraid it will overturn even your basic faith. You and I cannot walk on the same path anymore. So long!" After I left, he took a walk around the ballfield and felt very sad; he did not have any peace. Afterwards he went to the school chapel and knelt down to pray. On the one hand, he thought of his deceased father and his widowed mother, and on the other hand, he thought of his future. He could not help but weep. He thought of forsaking God’s yoke, yet his heart felt unpeaceful. However he also felt it difficult to obey. Finally, he realized that he had to obey God’s will, and he promised before God to give up the opportunity of further study and to preach His word instead. After he obeyed in this way, he rose up from prayer; his heart was very peaceful, and he was full of joy. Immediately he went to see the principal to explain to him the reason for his change and declined the scholarship as well as the tuition assistance from the Westerner for his study abroad. Right away he packed and left the school. He said that night was the happiest night in his whole life. (Please note that my intention is not to discourage you from your study. However if God has called you to preach His word, you should obey. If God has not called you, it is all right even if you study for ten or twenty years.)

I know that a number of Christians here have this kind of experience. When you bargain with God and want God to give in, while you would not give in, how restless an experience that is. Your conscience is there telling you that you are wrong. How sad you are! However, when you say to God, "I am willing to bear the yoke," you will have rest. Today what God is leading us into is not only to bear God’s yoke in the big matters of our life, but also to bear His yoke in the small matters in our daily life. There are some preachers who feel that it is difficult to work with other co-workers. Some sisters feel that it is very difficult to have peace with their aunts and in-laws in their homes. Some feel that it is difficult to be at peace with colleagues; students feel that it is difficult to deal with other students and their teachers. This is your yoke. You may feel that they are bothersome, and that you would much rather leave them alone or that they would leave you alone. You feel irritated, and you have no peace. But, brothers and sisters, this is the yoke God apportions to you. This is what God wants you to bear. This is the portion God assigns to you. God wants you to humble yourself under this kind of environment so that His life can be expressed. You should not ask for any change in your environment; you should know that for God to put you in this environment means that this environment is the best for you.

What does it mean to bear the cross? It does not mean that you should spend a few thousand dollars to go to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem to buy a wooden cross and to bear it. Rather, it means that everyone should bear his yoke where he is. This is the portion God has allotted to you. You think that your environment is not good, that it is best to exchange it with somebody. However, this is not bearing the yoke. Sometimes God puts a careful person together with a careless one, a strong one with a weak one, a healthy one with a sick one, a smart one with an ignorant one, a quick one with a slow one, a tidy one with a not-so-tidy one, in order that they might become the yoke of each other, in order that everyone will have the opportunity to manifest the grace they receive from the Lord and express Christ’s nature. If you struggle against this arrangement, you will never have rest. If you say to God, "I will bear your yoke; I am willing to be placed in the position you have given me," and if you are willing to obey absolutely, you will have rest and joy.

The reason Christians cannot bear a good testimony today is that they reject God’s yoke. They want to change the environment. Yet the Christian character can only be manifested under that kind of environment. The highest living is one which welcomes everything which one dislikes—things that contradict one’s own heart. If you are willing to receive and bear the yoke God gives you, you will be filled with a deep rest within. However, this is not the rest of salvation, which is secured by the redemption of Christ, by what He has accomplished, and by His bearing the cross. This rest is obtained by your own obedience, by your own attitude of denying the self, and by your own bearing of the cross. I hope that after everyone returns home, he will have a new rest. You do not have to brush off your environment as you brush off snow from your clothes on a snowy day. You do not have to strive and struggle in your environment. You only have to say to God, "I thank You, because this is Your yoke." "Yes, Father, for thus it has been well-pleasing in Your sight." If you do this, you will have joy. Although the environment the Lord Jesus had would justify the worst complaint, He did not complain or murmur and was not anxious to scheme for any change. He only obeyed; therefore, He could rejoice. We should not obey God on the basis of happiness; rather, we have happiness because we obey God. There are countless numbers of people whom you cannot love or work together with. But I hope that from this day on, you will receive God’s yoke from His hand, that is, the yoke of meekness and lowliness.

(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 17: Notes on Scriptural Messages (1), Chapter 11, by Watchman Nee)