Joel Osteen — The Yoke Destroyer
I want to talk to you today about the yoke destroyer. The word "Yoke" is used several times in the scripture. They were more familiar with this term because they used oxen all the time. A yoke was something they put around the neck of an ox to help control the animal. It limited its movement. If the ox started to get off course, the yoke could pull it back. It was a constant burden. Even though the ox was very powerful, incredibly strong but this small yoke could keep it from doing what it wanted to do.
Some people don't realize it but they're living with a yoke around their neck. They wonder why they can't get ahead. Why everything is a struggle. It's because of the yokes that are dragging them down. Negative words that were spoken over you can become a yoke. Every time you start to step out, you hear that parent, that coach saying, "You're not that talented, you don't have what it takes". It plays again and again. Eventually, you shrink back. That's a yoke. In a relationship, you want to love that person but your mother got hurt in the past. And the last person did you wrong and you just can't trust anybody. Another yoke. Some yokes have been passed down to us.
I know a young lady that grew up with a father that was unfaithful to her mother. She saw her dad run around on her mom and made her so upset. She got to the point where she hated her father. She couldn't stand the man. He'd brought so much heartache and pain into the home. She and her sisters were confused, bitter, and angry. She couldn't wait to get old enough to move out of the house. At eighteen, she left home, got married, and had several children. A few years later, she started running around on her husband. She did the same thing to her children that she hated so much about her father. That's a yoke being passed down.
All through life, these yokes are trying to come on us. A yoke of depression, a yoke of low self-esteem, a yoke of compromise. If we're not careful, we'll live burdened down. Everything's a struggle. We're working hard but we can't get ahead. What's the problem? We have all these yokes that are controlling us.
And this is what happened to the Israelites. They were facing the Assyrian army in Isaiah, chapter 10. And the Israelites had gone through all kinds of heartache. They had lived out in the wilderness, been mistreated, taken advantage of. Now, they think, "Here we go again. This is the way our life is always going to be. One struggle after another". They had been wearing this yoke for years. So much so that they had gotten comfortable with it. But verse 27 says, "It shall come to pass that the burden will be taken off of your shoulders, the yoke removed from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed".
God was saying to them, "This is a new day. You're not going to continually struggle. You're not going to live defeated. I'm not only going to remove the burden, I'm going to destroy the yoke". From that day forward, they stepped into a new level of their destiny. What they used to struggle with wasn't a struggle anymore. That constant pressure to overcome enemies was lifted off of them. God gave them favor to conquer opponents that were much bigger and more powerful. Instead of being looked down on and mistreated, they were respected and given what belonged to them.
What happened? The yoke destroyer showed up. God is saying the same thing to us that he said to them. "You've struggled long enough. You've dealt with that addiction long enough. You've been dogged by those family problems long enough. I am going to take away that burden. I'm not only going to remove the yoke, I'm going to destroy the yoke". In other words, it's not going to come back. That depression is not going to dog you your whole lifetime. That addiction that keeps getting passed from generation to generation, the buck stops with you. That sickness that looks like it's going to be the end; no, this is a new day. The yoke is being destroyed. The burden is being removed.
Now some of you have been living with a yoke your whole life. It's been passed down to you. Maybe you don't realize it. You can't seem to get ahead. You're struggling in your marriage. Your children won't do what's right. Low self-esteem. That's all you've known. But God said to the Israelites, "I have seen the affliction of my people and I am coming down to deliver them".
God sees every yoke, every unfair situation, everything that you struggle with. He doesn't just sit back and say, "Well, too bad". No, he says, "I'm coming down to do something about it". You don't have to worry, the yoke destroyer is on the way. God is saying, "I'm coming down to put an end to that struggle. I'm shifting things in your favor. I'm delivering you from addictions. I'm removing the burden and setting you free to walk into the fullness of your destiny".
Friends, the God we serve is a yoke-destroying, burden-removing God. And like the Israelites, you may have struggled in an area for a long time. But don't go through life thinking: "This is the way it's always going to be". "I'm always going to struggle in my marriage Joel". "I'm always going to have to fight this depression". "I'm always going to be lonely". No, it says in the book of Job that God has set an end to that trouble. God has already set an end to the difficulty, an end to the sickness, an end to the loneliness. Don't get comfortable with it. You're not going to wear that yoke your whole lifetime. Our God is in the yoke removing business.
Now, let me ask you: what could you accomplish without that yoke of compromise holding you back? What could you become without that yoke of small thinking? "I've reached my limits". "I never get any good breaks". Where could your family go without that yoke of addiction, bad habits, that keep getting passed down? You owe it to yourself to get free. You don't have time to go another year letting that yoke weigh you down. Your destiny is too great. Your assignment is too important. You've got to draw the line in the sand and say, "This is a new day. Every yoke that is holding me back is being destroyed".
That yoke of sickness that keeps getting passed down is being destroyed. Just because mother had it and grandmother had it, doesn't mean I'm going to have it. I know the secret. The yoke destroyer has come down. That yoke of debt and struggle is being destroyed. I am the head and not the tail. I will lend and not borrow. I am getting this yoke off of my neck and I'm going to live my life free.
There was a lady in the scripture named Rahab. She was a canaanite woman. The canaanites were descendants of Noah's son, Ham. Ham was the one who when he saw his father, Noah, drunk and naked, instead of covering him up and downplaying it, he went out and told everybody. He made it worse. When Noah found out, he cursed Ham and all of his descendants.
Years later, this lady, Rahab, is a prostitute living in Jericho. Her family is under this curse as a descendant of Ham. She could have thought: "Just my luck. It's been passed down to me. I'll always struggle. I'll always make poor choices". No, she did something to break that curse. She got that yoke off of her neck. One day,
Joshua and the Israelites were about to attack her city of Jericho. Joshua sent two men in to spy out the land. And somebody noticed who they were and told the authorities. Just as they were about to be captured, Rahab took the spies in and hid them in her home. They said, "Since you've helped us, when we come and attack the city, we're going to spare you and your family".
Even though Rahab had had all this negative baggage, even though she was living a dishonorable life, she made a decision to honor God. That one choice changed the course of her family line. That day, God removed the yoke that had been holding her back. That day, God broke the curse that had been in her family for generations. And here's how good God is.
Rahab went on to marry a Jewish man. They had a son named Boaz. Boaz had a son name Obed. Obed had a son name Jesse. Jesse had a son named David. This means Rahab, a former prostitute is in the family line of Jesus Christ.
This is what happens when you make decisions to honor God. The yoke is removed and you step in to the fullness of your destiny. Now some of you, like Rahab, are one decision away from getting that yoke off your neck. You're one decision away from breaking a curse that's been in your family for generations. Don't put it off. You've been wearing that yoke long enough. Today is your day. This is your time to come out of that yoke of compromise, making poor choices, giving in to temptation, you're better than that. You can set a new standard for your family.
This is the time to come out of that yoke of loneliness, those thoughts that keep telling you "You'll never meet the right person. You're too old. It's too late". No, this is a new day. Things have shifted. Get ready to meet someone new. Do your part. Honor God. Be friendly. And I declare that yoke of loneliness is being destroyed. God is removing that burden. This is your time to come out of that yoke of family problems.
You're struggling in your marriage, your children won't do what's right. No peace in the home, strife, division. I declare that yoke is being destroyed. God is doing a new thing. He is releasing healing, forgiveness, joy, peace, victory. This is your time to come out of that yoke of average. God never created you to be ordinary. He created you to leave your mark on this generation. God wants you to do something big. He wants you to go further than anyone in your family.
You have seeds of greatness on the inside. And I declare that yoke of average that's been around your neck is coming off. God is about to thrust you to a new level of destiny. It's going to be exceedingly, abundantly above and beyond. You're going to see the yoke destroying, burden removing power of our God like never before. This is a new day. Yokes of depression that have robbed you of your happiness are being destroyed. Yokes of sickness, chronic pain are being destroyed. Yokes of fear that's holding you back. Lack of confidence, intimidation are being destroyed.
That yoke of compromise that keeps getting passed down: "Like father, like son,". No, they're being destroyed. From now on, it's going to be "Like Heavenly Father, like son". If you will receive this into your spirit and not talk yourself out of it, it will ignite your faith and become a reality. Otherwise you'll think, "Aww, Joel, that was good. I enjoyed it". No, it's got to go beyond being encouraging to being "This is for me. This is my destiny. Something new is being birthed. Yokes are coming off of me. Chains are being broken. I am stepping in to the fullness of my destiny".
That's what happened to a young man in the scripture named Ishmael. He was the child that Abraham had out of wedlock with his maid, Hagar. Abraham was trying to help God out and bring about the child that God had promised them. In fact, it was Abraham's wife, Sarah, that told him to sleep with Hagar and they had this little son, named Ishmael. And we've heard the teachings on "Be patient, don't get in a hurry or you'll give birth to Ishmael and not the promised child, Isaac".
But think about this, Ishmael didn't get to choose who his mother would be. He didn't get to choose where to be born. He couldn't help the fact that he was the child of Abraham's mistake. And eventually, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, the promised child. And I'm sure that Ishmael played with his little brother Isaac. They were in the same family. They didn't know any better. But over time, Sarah became very angry and bitter toward Hagar and started mistreating her. Here, Abraham is in the middle of it trying to keep two women happy.
If he's... And you know that's hard. If he's nice to Hagar, Sarah gets upset. If he ignores her, then Hagar gets mad. He can't win. There's all kinds of dysfunction in this family. You think you've got some family baggage, it's nothing compared to this situation. It got so bad that Sarah gave Abraham an ultimatum. "Either Hagar and Ishmael goes or I'm leaving. But I am not staying here with that woman, your mistress, Hagar". Abraham says, "Come on, Sarah, you're the one that told me to sleep with her". She said, "It doesn't matter, you should have known better". That's a woman. "Don't do what I say; do what I mean".
Abraham, against his will, he sent Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert. I can imagine Ishmael is playing with Isaac out in the front yard having a good time like they'd done many times before. Hagar, his mom comes over and says, "Come on Ishmael, we've got to go somewhere". And they start walking out into the desert with a loaf of bread and a canteen of water. Ishmael is confused, wondering what in the world is going on.
A few days later, they're out of food, out of water, about to starve to death. The scripture says that "God heard the cry of Ishmael". Not "God heard the cry of his mother". Not "God heard the cry of Abraham". God heard the cry of this little boy born into dysfunction, with all kinds of negative baggage, but God had a plan for Ishmael's life. God said he would bring out of him a great nation.
And isn't it interesting even though he wasn't the promised child, even though he was seen by most as a mistake, God in his mercy said, "Ishmael, you may have gotten off to a rough start. You may have a lot of dysfunction, but I'm still your God. I still have a plan for you. I am going to remove that yoke that's holding you back. I'm going to lift those burdens that were put on you and I'm going to cause you to fulfill your destiny".
Now, like Ishmael, you may have a good reason to settle where you are and think, "Oh, Joel, I'm never going to do anything great. If you knew what I have to deal with. If you knew the struggles, the dysfunction in my family line". No, just like with Ishmael, God still has something amazing in front of you. No injustice can keep you from your destiny. No bad break. No person. The God we serve is a yoke destroying, burden removing God. And if you'll get your passion back and keep moving forward, making decisions that honor God, he will still make something great out of your life.
No burden is too heavy. No yoke has been there too long. God said to the Israelites, after years of abuse and slavery, this day, I am rolling away the reproach. God is saying to you, "This day I am destroying yokes. This day I am breaking strongholds. This day, I'm setting you free. I'm rolling away the reproach". That means God is removing the guilt, the shame, the fear, the intimidation. He's removing the burdens and he's releasing healing. He's releasing favor. He's releasing new beginnings.
In Genesis, chapter 34, there's this story of a young man named Levi. He was one of Jacob's sons. And one day, his sister went to the town of Shechem. And she was attacked and abused by these men. Word got back to Levi and his bother, Simeon. And they decided to take matters into their own hands. Their father, Jacob, wanted to handle it more diplomatically but these two boys were so enraged and so furious.
Levi went to the town of Shechem and tricked the people. He said that he had come in peace and he wanted to overlook the matter but that they would have to make a covenant with Jehovah. That meant all the men would have to be circumcised. The men of Shechem agreed. While they were recovering from their circumcision, Levi and Simeon went in there and wiped out the whole town. They killed everyone in retribution for what a couple of men did to their sister.
Their father, Jacob, was so angry at them, they almost started a war. At the end of Jacob's life, he's on his deathbed about to pass. He calls all of his sons in. Normally, this is when he would give them the blessing. This was extremely important, especially in those days. But Jacob looked at Levi and said, "I'm not going to bless you. You are stubborn, hot headed, angry, violent, you tricked those people. You're just a deceiver". Instead of blessing Levi's future, he cursed Levi's future.
Years later, Moses is on top of Mt. Sinai. God had just given him the Ten Commandments. He comes down from the mountainside, and the Israelites are worshipping a golden calf, having a big party, celebrating, dancing. Moses said to his brother, "Aaron, what in the world are you guys doing"? Aaron said, "Moses, we got bored waiting for you and we threw some gold into the fire and this golden calf came out".
Something rose up in Moses, he pulled his sword out, lifted it in the air, and shouted, "Who is on the Lord's side"? And of all the people there, thousands of them, the scripture says, "The sons of Levi raised their hands". The least likely people. Their father had made mistakes. Their grandfather had cursed their future. They had all this baggage. All this dysfunction. Yet, they rose up and said in effect, "This is a new day. We're getting this yoke off of our neck. We're breaking this curse. We are on the Lord's side".
Because of that decision, God was so pleased with them. From that day forward, all the priests would come through the tribe of Levi. They were cursed by their grandfather in the book of Genesis. A few books over in Leviticus, they are the most blessed, honored people.
What am I saying? What's been passed down to you doesn't have to keep you from your destiny. What your relatives did, they may have made poor choices, but when you rise up, like the sons of Levi and say, "Hey, wait a minute, I'm on the Lord's side. I'm not under this curse, I'm under the blessing. I'm not going to keep wearing this yoke that's been passed down. I know my God is a yoke destroying, burden removing God".
When you have that kind of attitude, God will bless you and your family line in spite of past mistakes. And you may have had relatives that really, they made it more difficult on you. Maybe you're the first one that's stepped up to honor God in your family. The good news is, the first generation that breaks the negative cycle is the generation that gets paid back for everything that should have been theirs. God is keeping the record.
Everything he has stored up for your family that they didn't tap into, that doesn't just go away. God doesn't say, "Too bad, they made poor choices. They missed out on my best". No, God has been accumulating everything that belongs to your family. If your parents and relatives would have honored God. If they would have lived a life of excellence and integrity, all the favor, the good breaks, the wisdom, the opportunity that they missed out on is still in your account. And if you will be the one to rise up and honor God and set a new standard, then God will pay you back for everything that should have been yours.
This is what happened with the Israelites. They had been in slavery for 430 years, 10 generations. And God raised Moses up as their deliverer. As they were leaving the country, some two million people, the scripture says "God caused them to have favor with their captors and they gave them their gold, silver, and livestock". They didn't leave there empty-handed. They left loaded down with God's blessings.
That was God paying them back for 430 years of working as a slave. God saw the injustice. He knew what they were owed. It was all accumulating. And when this one generation rose up and said, in effect, "We're on the Lord's side. We're not going to stay here in mediocrity. We're heading toward our Promised Land". They were the ones that got paid back not only what they were owed but everything their ancestors had missed out on. Our attitude should be, "God, I'm bold enough to believe that you will pay me back for everything that should have been mine". "God, every dream that our family missed out on, every opportunity that the enemy stole, every injustice. God I just want to thank you that it's payback time".
Now some of you have a whole lot in your account. It's been accumulating for generations but I believe today because you're on the Lord's side, it's about to be released into your account and you're going to see God's favor in a new way. Today, the yoke destroyer has showed up. Yokes of depression, sickness, fear, have been destroyed. God is removing the burdens that have held you back. No more one step forward and two steps back. That yoke has been destroyed. No more passing dysfunction from generation to generation. That yoke is destroyed. No more bad habits being held back by compromise year after year. The yoke destroyer has put an end to it. And no more wearing that yoke of average, mediocre, ordinary. That yoke has been removed from your neck.
Now you need to get ready. You're about to go where you've never gone before. You're going to see what you can become without that yoke. You're going to make better decisions. You're going to accomplish more. You're going to live happier, more fulfilled. Like the sons of Levi, because you're on the Lord's side, God is going to honor you and your family. Like Rahab, in spite of past mistakes, you're still going to do something great. And like the Israelites, God is going to pay you back for everything that should have been yours. I believe and declare that the yoke-destroying, burden-removing God is about to thrust you into a new freedom, a new level of your destiny and you will become everything he's created you to be.