The Harness of Love

The Harness of Love

The Harness Of Love

By, James L. Thornton

Hosea 11:4. “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.”

This scripture refers to the custom of raising the yoke from the necks and cheeks of the oxen so they could eat easier. The yoke not only included the piece of wood on the neck by which the oxen were fastened to the pole, but also the whole harness about the head which was connected with it.

The yokes used in the east are extremely heavy. They press down so much upon the neck of the animals that they are unable to bend or raise their heads.

I once saw two of these beasts at labor in Philippi. These magnificent beasts were pulling a huge load with their heads bowed almost to the ground.

They were trained at a young age. Someone took authority over them, almost tyrannical. Through force, usually severe, with an ox goad, which brought fear of their master until they were intimidated.

Their wills broken, these magnificent beasts became sub-servants to their masters.

The heavy yoke was placed upon their necks just in front of their shoulders and it bore down on them until someone lifted it off. Many times these yokes were roughly hewed and made huge sores on the animals where it scraped their necks.

It was such a difficult task to remove the yoke and put it back on that, without feeling for the animal, they were left on for long periods of time. Can you imagine the animal trying to eat or drink with such a heavy load on their necks?

God says, in our reading, “I will take the yoke off and feed them, and draw them with bands of love.”


Matthew 11:28. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: (the only self-description that Jesus gives of himself) and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

I believe that Jesus had compassion on the dumb brute beasts. I believe that every yoke that he fashioned as a carpenter was made with compassion for the beast, with much care and fitting, and smoothing of the wood.

With how much more care does he fit the yoke to his children.

Have you ever been galled by the yoke of Christ?

Has it ever made a sore? Honestly, has it ever been heavy?

Hosea 11:1-4. God said he had been a father to Israel…

“Taught him how to walk.” “Took him in my arms…” “I Led him with bands of love…”

“I did not put bands of iron and yokes of wood on him…  I did not break his spirit.”

Israel was not forced to serve and worship Jehovah. God drew him with a harness of love.

Many times Israel did not respond to the pull of love.

Hosea 11:7. “Heeding not my care for them, they broke away from me, so they are appointed to the yoke and none shall remove it. (Moffatt)

When we break away from the pull of the love of God we are placed under a very heavy yoke, which is put on us by the world.

The harness of love is the only control parents have when that childhood passes into maturity. It seems fragile and precarious. Yet it is God’s method too.

The harness of love is the only thing that holds you.

You are not held in the grip of authoritarian or tyrannical power, and through force, or fear, or intimidation, directed to your eternal destiny, whether it is heaven or hell.

Listen to the words of Jesus.

Matthew 11:28. “come unto me, …”

Matthew 19:21. “Jesus said unto him,… Come and follow me.”

There were no threats added.

Matthew 16:24. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

And if men would not obey, he would not compel them. The hold of Jesus on men is not that of a vice, with great external pressure, but like that of a magnet by which men are drawn and held to him.

John 12:32. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

If God wants men to do right, why does he not compel them? Why did he not fence us in that we could not go astray?

If he wants us to obey and serve him, why did he not use something stronger than a harness of love?

Why is the mark of God’s control a cross, the symbol of love, rather than a sword, a symbol of fear?

The answer to these questions lies in this, the harness of love safeguards human freedom. It gives men the right to choose. Christianity is based on the relationship between the human soul and God. This bond must express itself freely or it will lack the genuineness and sincerity, without which, religion means little or nothing.

Moreover, if a man were not free he could not be held responsible for his actions. The cords of love are strong enough to hold us if we yield to the gentle pressure, but not strong enough to hold us against our will.

On the other hand, no attachment is as strong as a harness of love. So easily broken, but when we submit to their hold upon us, they are stronger than steel.

From one view, love is frail, from another, it is the strongest force on earth.

Think of the cross.

The cross testifies to the nature of God’s control. It shows that man is free to reject the love of God.

It shows that sin in men’s hearts can lead him to reject all honor, and persuasion, and decency.

For the cross is man’s attempt to defeat the will of God.

The man put the cross on love’s shoulder to bear to Calvary.

The cross was man’s attempt to break away, once and for all time, from the cords of love.

When night fell on Calvary’s hill everyone was certain he was watching the end of Jesus and his mission.

But love could not be held by the bonds of death.

Love came forth as the strongest force in the universe.

Love keeps us in its arms.

By, James L. Thornton

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