“It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth.” Lamentations 3:27.
Our text tells us of something which, though not very comfortable, is good. The illustration is drawn from cattle. The bullocks have to bear the yoke. They go in pairs, and the yoke is borne upon their shoulders. The yoke is somewhat burdensome. If the bullock is not broken when it is young, it will never make a good plowing ox; it will be fretted and troubled with the labor it will have to do; it will be very hard work to drive it and the farmer will accomplish but little plowing. It is good for the bullock to be brought into subjection while it is young, and so it is with all sorts of animals—the horse must be broken while he is a colt, and if a certain period of that horse’s life is allowed to pass over without its being under the trainer’s hand, it will never make a thoroughly useful horse. If you want to train a dog you must take him while he is young, and teach him his work. That is the metaphor. It is just so with men. It is good for us that we are broken-in while we are yet young, and learn to bear the yoke in our youth.
If you take the text naturally as uttering a truth of ordinary life, it is still worth considering. Even apart from the grace of God, and apart from religion, it is a great blessing for a man to bear the yoke in his youth! That is to say, first, it is good for us when we are young to learn obedience. It is half the making of a man to be placed under rule, and taught to bear restraint. When young people grow older they will have to be very much a law unto themselves, there may be no father living to warn them lovingly, and no mother to gently guide them; young people will be older people, and govern themselves, and no one is fit to do that till he has learned to be obedient. The proverb is, “Boys will be boys,” but I do not think so, for they will be men if we let them have time, and unless they learn self-restraint and habits of obedience while they are boys, they are not likely to make good men. He who cannot obey is not fit to rule—he who never learned to submit will make a tyrant when he obtains power. It is good that every child should be broken-in, delivered from his foolish self-will, and made to feel that he has superiors, masters, and governors, and, then, when it shall come his turn to be a leader and a master, he will have the more kindly empathy to those who are under him. You can be sure of this, that if he does not learn the drill of obedience he will never be a good soldier in the battle of life.
It is good for young people to bear the yoke, too, in the sense of acquiring knowledge in their early days. If we do not learn when we are young, when shall we learn? Some, who have begun to study late in life, have yet achieved a good deal, but it has been with much difficulty. If you do not use the machinery of the mind in youth, it gets rusty, but if it is used from the very first, and kept continually in action and well oiled, it will go on easily throughout the whole of life. Our early days are favorable to the acquirement of knowledge, and every lad that is an apprentice should make the best of his apprenticeship—he will never make much of a journeyman if he does not.
C H Spurgeon