Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2. For each one shall bear his own burden. Gal. 6:5.
The word translated burdens in verse 2 is used in Acts chapter 15 to describe the burden placed on the Jews of a covenant by the Law of Moses. First Peter speaks:
Now therefore why tempt God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? Acts 15:10.
James then summarizes the discussion and dictates a letter to the gentiles in which he concludes:
For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things. Acts 15:28.
The expression “to shoulder a burden” is a very prominent one in the bible, even though “a yoke upon the neck” used in Acts 15:10 is more accurate to the word meaning. The place-name and word Shechem is said to mean shoulder, but a discussion of the word in the references reveals that it actually refers to the upper back from shoulder to shoulder, where one would carry a burden.
The city of Shechem is a place where many important events took place in Israel, one of which is significant to this discussion. It is located mid-way between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim along a ridge, or “shoulder-blade” of land above the valley. Joshua gathered all of Israel here to perform the commandment given by Moses in Deuteronomy.
Now it shall be when the Lord your God has brought you into the land which you go to possess that you shall put the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Deut. 11:29.
In Joshua chapter 8, an altar is built before Mount Ebal, “the mount of the cursing” upon which Joshua offers sacrifices of peace offerings. He then writes out the covenant upon the very stones of the altar, a copy of the Law of Moses which is Deuteronomy 27.
And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the Law of Moses which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. Joshua 8:32.
He then placed half the people over against mount Gerizim and half of them over against mount Ebal, again as commanded by Moses, in Deuteronomy 27:12, 13. Joshua 8:33.
And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and cursing according to all that is written in the book of the Law. Joshua 8:34.
After Joshua completes the conquest of the land, he again calls all the nation of Israel to Shechem and insists that they now make a final decision as to whom they intend to serve. He first reminds them of all that the Lord had done for them in driving out their enemies and then warns them of the task they will take on to be a people unto God.
And Joshua said unto the people, you cannot serve the Lord, for He is a Holy God, a passionate God, and He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve strange gods then he will turn and do you harm and consume you after that he has done you good. And the people answered Joshua, Nay, but we will serve the Lord. And Joshua said unto the people you are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord to serve Him. And they said, we are witnesses. Joshua 24:19-22.
And so the nation of Israel of their own free will took on the burden of the Law, by which no one could attain to true righteousness. We should understand the significance of this and be ever grateful for grace.
Now on the other hand, In Galatians 6:5 (top of page) the word translated burden or load is the same found in Matthew chapter 11 when Jesus said:
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Mt. 11:30.
An even deeper revelation can now be obtained from the root word for Shechem, for it is the word meaning early. What is the connection between rising early and shouldering a burden? The idea is that each day would begin by first preparing everything that would be needed, either to travel or just spend the day out working in the fields, as your burden for the day. For example:
And Abraham arose early (shakam) in the morning and took bread and a bottle of water and gave unto Hagar, putting on her shoulder(shekem), with the child, and sent her away; and she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. Genesis 21:14.
We are often reminded to arise early to pray, so that we can find strength from the Lord to prepare for our burdens of the day. When Jesus said “seek first the kingdom of God”, He then added:
Take therefore no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matthew 6:34.
We can never obtain strength from the Lord for tomorrow’s burdens, no matter how early we got up today. And if you find yourself today under a great burden, know that someone in Christ is already assigned to share that with you, to fulfill the Law of Christ.
Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7.