Ecclesiastes 4:1-5:9; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; Psalms 47:8-9; Proverbs 14:26-27
OT: “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up. Also, if two lie down together, they can keep warm; but how can one person alone keep warm? And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 CSB)
“No man is an island” is a famous line written by John Donne in 1623. Long before John Donne, Solomon shared the same sentiments in these verses from Ecclesiastes. After years of living as the smartest, wisest, richest and most powerful person he was aware of – Solomon came to the conclusion that individualism is meaningless and futile. If you do everything by yourself and on your own, in the end, you have no one to share your life with or celebrate your successes with… all that you do, accomplish or experience on your own is meaningless. No matter how smart or wise or strong or skilled you are, no one of us is as smart, wise, strong or skilled as all of us.
Long before Solomon came to his conclusions on individualism, God stated, “It is not good for the man to be alone (Genesis 2:18a)” Even though Adam had all of the animals in the garden to keep him company – and even had the privilege of walking in the garden with God – Adam needed companionship. Adam needed someone parallel to him – not just someone above him or beneath him – someone equal in status to partner with and walk life out with side-by-side. There are many in the body of Christ that say things like, “It’s just me and God… that’s all I need… Jesus is all I need to be happy and fulfilled.” Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that God has all you need, we need human partners in our lives – and often times, God gets what we need to us through our partners.
NT: “Do not be yoked together with those who do not believe. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? And what agreement does the temple of God have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God, as God said: I will dwell and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you… So then, dear friends, since we have these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from every impurity of the flesh and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17, 7:1 CSB)
The Greek word translated here as ‘yoked’ actually means unequally yoked. The Greek word is heterozygeo. It is a compound word formed from heteros (not the same nature) and zygos (yoke). The word partnership has to do with an intimate communion and sharing of life. Paul is not saying that we can not have unbelieving friends or acquaintances. For in fact, Jesus taught us to be neighborly to all people. Paul is talking about people that you intimately walk out life with, side-by-side. That would include a spouse, a business partner, or an intimate friend. As we have already seen, God has said that it is not good for people to be alone… they need to walk life out in intimate fellowship with someone who is parallel to them – who has the same nature, the same convictions, the same values, the same priorities. When we come to faith in Christ, we are given a new nature – the nature of Christ by His Spirit. It is impossible for us to be holy as Christ is holy, and still intimately fellowship with someone who is bound in a sinful, unredeemed nature.
A yoke is an inseparable bond that forces the two people in the yoke to walk in lockstep with each other. Christ called us as His followers to yoke up with Him in an inseparable bond – where we abide in Him and His words abide in us – where we become the temple of God, the spiritual dwelling place of the Lord here on earth. Then, in our need for true and intimate companionship, we are called to yoke-up with others who have the same Christ nature dwelling in them, so that we can all walk in lockstep together under the word, will and ways of the Father. Do we have relationships with unbelievers? Yes! We are called to minister and love unbelievers unconditionally – but we do that as we remain holy in Christ and are encouraged and stirred up by those we are yoked to in Christ.
Proverbs: “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence and his children have a refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning people away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:26-27 CSB)
The Apostle Paul wrote that we are to live our lives out – our relationships, our priorities, our activities – in holiness… and our holiness is brought to completion under the fear of the Lord. As we do all under the fear of the Lord – that means living in faith and completely submitted to the word, will and ways of the Lord – we will be filled with the fountain of life (the Holy Spirit) and will be led away from the snares that lead to death. Snares come in many forms – sometimes in the form of ungodly relationships and attachments. It is under the fear of the Lord that we are able to live in peace and confidence, and our children are protected by the ravages of the world.
Prayer: Lord, my natural inclinations, which are formed by my personality, lead me to prefer doing things on my own and trusting in my talents and intuition. However strong my personality may be, You have not created me to do things alone. You have called me to live, not according to my natural inclinations, but according to my new nature in Christ. You have called me to live my life in intimate partnership with other believers, remaining properly aligned in the Body of Christ, with leaders over me, partners beside me, and disciples under me. So I say no to my natural inclinations and say yes to yoking up with You, Your word, Your will, Your ways and Your people. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.