“I saw him in the furnace; he doubted not, nor feared,
And in the flames beside him, the Son of God appeared;
Though seven times ’twas heated, with all the tempter’s might,
He cried, ‘The yoke is easy, the burden, it is light.’ “
In case you do not recognize these lyrics, this is the third verse to “Bloodwashed Pilgrim” written by John Matthias in 1836. The other day, on my way home from work, I listened to this hymn and considered the saint, trapped in a blazing inferno, lifting his voice and crying, “The yoke is easy, the burden, it is light.”
The biblical reference for this verse is found in Daniel 3:19 when King Nebuccadnezar, in a wicked fit of rage, ordered that the furnace be heated seven times more than normal for the destruction of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Their crime? They were faithful to God. They refused to bow down and worship a false image.
As the king, consumed with wrath, looked on to see their demise, something beautiful and unexpected happened. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25).
The fourth man in the fire with them was Jesus. Matthew Henry tells us, “Those who suffer for Christ, have his presence in their sufferings, even in the fiery furnace, and in the valley of the shadow of death.”
The fellowship of Christ in our sufferings is the secret to the believers security. He is better to us than any good thing this world has to offer. His presence is more valuable than anything we are asked to go without.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Ps 27:1).
With this in view, I’m a little closer to understanding how the author of the hymn could write, “The yoke is easy, the burden, it is light!”