Growing up without God’s yoke on your life
In 1 Samuel 2:12 we read that Eli’s two sons did not know the Lord. The word ‘know’ also means ‘recognise’ or ‘acknowledge’. These men did not have a relationship with God and lived as if He did not exist. The Bible calls them sons of Belial (corrupt or useless).
The Hebrew word ‘Belial’ means literally ‘without a yoke’ or in other words ‘without something above you’, in the sense of authority. It is an expression that is used to describe something that is completely useless, worthless and bad. ‘Son of’ is a Hebrew way of saying that you carry the character of someone or something. ‘Sons of Belial’ can also be translated as ‘sons of lawlessness’. It refers to their father – Eli, who had raised his sons without the yoke of Gods law.
A ‘son of Belial’ is the opposite of the son of a king.
Characteristics of ‘sons of Belial’
In 2 Corinthians 6:1 we read that Christ has nothing whatsoever in common with Belial. In fact the Bible teaches that we should not listen to or watch any of the things of Belial, and that we should even hate these things. In Psalm 101:3 the things of Belial are translated as ‘worthless’: I will set before my eyes nothing worthless; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
The Bible also calls someone who is deceptive or who stirs up arguments or digs up scandal, a man of Belial.
Proverbs 6:12 A worthless person (man of Belial), a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth
Proverbs 16:27 An ungodly man (man of Belial) digs up evil, it is on his lips like a burning fire.
We need to keep away from people like this.
2 Thessalonians 3:6 But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.
The yoke of service
A yoke in the Bible is a metaphor for service. Service or servitude can be negative, for instance when someone has to work as a slave. In the positive sense it means to work together through helping and serving.
In Lamentations 3:27 it is written: It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. A child needs to be taught to serve and help others. In the same way, they will learn what it means to serve God. Learning this young is a big advantage. In Proverbs 22:6 is written: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Eli’s sons had apparently not learnt these things. They thought only of themselves and stole the meat that people came to offer to God, stealing not only from their own people but also from God (1 Samuel 2:13-15). They also slept with the women at the entrance of the tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:22). These were women who had dedicated themselves for a period of time to intercession and prayer and ministry to God (Comparer Luke 2:37. These ruthless men took advantage of them for their own selfish needs. They were sons without a yoke, in other words, ‘sons of Belial’.
The yoke of the Torah
Jews regard, the ‘Torah’, the Word of God, as a yoke. It is in no way negative. In the same way two oxen are linked together by a yoke in order to draw a plough, the Torah links us to God, so that we will function together with Him. It was common to yoke a young, untrained ox with an older, more experienced and more powerful animal, so that the younger would be calmed and trained by the older and develop in strength and experience.
In Jesus time it was a common occurrence for a Rabbi to call students to follow him for a time. He did this by asking them: “will you take up my yoke?” It was a great honour to be invited by a Rabbi to follow him and study under him. Taking up his yoke, meant that you went with him wherever he went and did whatever he did; copying him in everything. So it was a huge honour for the disciples to be asked by Rabbi Yeshua to learn from Him and to take up His yoke. Jesus promised that His yoke would be easy and His burden would be light (Matthew 11:28-30). Many Rabbis laid a heavy yoke on their followers, with lots of extra laws and rules (Matthew 23:4). Something similar nearly happened in the Galatian church (Galatians 5:1).
Tasting the goodness of God
The Bible teaches us that children must learn to love Gods Word. This is not always easy for young people. We have to understand that wearing a yoke means that you do something together with someone else; someone who is willing to take you with them and teach you. This is, according to the Bible, the role of the father. The father is the parent who should introduce his children to and teach his children about the things of God. This process establishes a deep connection between father and child. Children tend to have a naturally close relationship with their mother from birth. They have spent nine months in her body, and a strong spiritual connection exists between mother and child. This close relationship does not exist automatically between father and child.
Both the Bible and Jewish tradition place great importance on the father as role model. He is the one who needs to take the children with him and teach them the difference between right and wrong. Most of all, he needs to let them taste goodness.
The Hebrew word for instruction is ‘chinuch’. ‘Chinuch’ comes from a verb that means dedicate, anoint, initiate but also means to taste something. When Jewish children are given their own Bible, honey is smeared on the cover. The children are encouraged to taste it and to discover that Gods word is like honey on our lips – just as it is written in Psalm 19:7-11 (NIV):
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple;
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart; the commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes;
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold: they are sweeter than honey than honey from the comb.
By them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
In Proverbs 24:13 My son, eat honey because it is good, and the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste;
This is not dietary advice, but an exhortation to learn Gods wisdom (see verse 14).
Children are made aware of the goodness of Gods word by teaching them to associate it with the delicious, sweet taste of honey.
Jewish children are taught to recite Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (the ‘Shema’).
4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5 “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7 “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
8 “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
9 “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates
Reciting this scripture daily, aloud, is a continuous reminder of Gods calling. The text requires them to talk their children diligently about serving God. Talking about the things of God when they go to bed and when they get up and while they are on the way somewhere is a great way to train them and form them.
An interesting point is that this scripture doesn’t use the normal Hebrew word for ‘children’ (yeladim), but instead uses the Hebrew word for ‘son’ (ben). The Hebrew words for son and daughter come from a verb (banah) that means ‘to build’. Your son is someone who is built out of you. Biblically speaking, a son does not have to be a biological offspring. The instructions in Deuteronomy are not only for your biological children, but also for everyone you instruct or who follows you, or works for you or copies you. That means this instruction is just as valid for single people, and childless couples as it is for those who have children of their own or adopted or fostered children.
We versus I
It is important to understand that the Bible sees people, not only as individuals but also as part of a group, a family, a tribe or a nation. In many third world countries this is still true. Someone’s children include, their biological children and also the children of their brothers and sisters and other relatives. Children often refer to their uncles and aunts as fathers and mothers.
In Europe and America this way of thinking has almost completely disappeared. Individualism is seen as normal and even desirable, to the extent that people no longer realise that they are also part of something. This way of thinking has unfortunately also entered the church. As adults, we are, Biblically speaking, responsible for all the children in our family and in our church. That includes responsibility for making sure that they taste the goodness of Gods word and the His commandments.
When we, as a church, introduce children to Gods goodness and grace, and teach them to keep His commandments and to serve, then they will have much less chance of becoming good-for-nothing sons of Belial. Don’t forget, He promised that His yoke was easy and His burden is light and He gives rest to the soul.