Introduction: As we reflect upon the Christmas season just past, what a great prophecy we find in Genesis 49:8-12! Our Savior rules as the ‘Lion of Judah’, with all the awesome power necessary to fully redeem us from sin and Satan! How did CS Lewis describe the power of this lion in The Lion, the With and the Wardrobe, with Mr Beaver describing the power of Lewis’ Christ-figure Aslan?
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Monday: read Genesis 49:7-9 and 49:18. Jacob describes his sons using pictures drawn from the power of nature and the violence of the beasts of the field. For example, Reuben’s lust is compared to turbulent water in Gen. 49:4; Simeon and Levi are as violent as wild beasts in Gen. 49:7; Benjamin is a ravenous wolf in Gen. 49:27; Gad nips at the heels of his foe like a dog in Gen. 49:19 and Dan is likened to a serpent by the roadside in Gen. 49:17. To be sure, there are other more promising and peaceful pictures from nature, such as the donkey in verse 14 (Issachar) and the doe in verse 21 (Naphtali). But overall, the sin natures of Jacob’s sons, or at least the violence and danger of the world in which they live, is the theme. No wonder in the middle of his words of blessing, Jacob cries out: “I look for your deliverance, O Lord” (Gen. 49:18). Jacob knew that only the Lord Himself could redeem his family from the violent and deadly heritage of sin.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” in Gen. 49:8 who alone could make these restive brothers bow under God’s rule! Just as God made these brothers bow when they were young and rebellious before Joseph the dreamer in Gen. 42:6-9, so they will bow again before someone even more mighty than the prince of Egypt: Christ Himself, of the tribe of Judah. Ask God to give you a submissive spirit which eagerly bows the knee before Christ’s lordship with the help of Ray Palmer’s hymn # 491 from our hymn books:
Take me, O my Father, take me;
Take me, save me, through Thy Son;
That which Thou wouldst have me, make me,
Let Thy will in me be done.
Long from Thee my footsteps straying,
Thorny proved the way I trod;
Weary come I now, and praying,
Take me to Thy love, my God.
Fruitless years with grief recalling,
Humbly I confess my sin;
At Thy feet, O Father, falling,
To Thy household take me in.
Freely now to Thee I proffer
This relenting heart of mine;
Freely life and love I offer,
Gift unworthy love like Thine.
Tuesday: read Genesis 49:8-9 and Revelation 5:1-9. Jacob prophesies of the supremacy of the tribe of Judah. Other tribes may be likened to serpents, does, donkeys or even wolves, but there is only one Lion in the Bible. Traditionally it is the Gospel of Matthew which is symbolized in ancient church writings by the ‘Lion’ because Matthew wrote about the kingship of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. John takes up this imagery as he describes in Rev. 5:5 the heavenly vision in which the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” is victorious over all His enemies. John is told not to weep, since the Lion, by virtue of His victory, has earned the right of opening the ‘scroll’ of the destiny of all mankind. And who is that ‘Lion’? He is none other than the ‘Lamb’ whose death in Rev. 5:6-9 brings the ‘deliverance’ for which Jacob longed when he first spoke about the ‘Lion’ of Judah in Gen. 49! What joy for Jacob in heaven when he, along with John, saw the Lamb of Calvary declared to be the Lion of Judah!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the hope which we share with Jacob and John of one day seeing this same ‘Lion’ of Judah revealed for us and our salvation as our Lamb in heaven, with the words of hymn # 546, verses 3 & 4:
O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!
The streams on earth I’ve tasted more deep I’ll drink above:
There to an ocean fullness His mercy doth expand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.
The Bride eyes not her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.
Wednesday: read Genesis 49:8-12. Lion-like though He is, Genesis 49:10’s description of Christ’s rule brings out the fact that this Kingdom is actually one characterized by rest and peace. Consider these translations of Gen. 49:10:
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (New American Standard)
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people. (NKJV)
The key word is ‘Shiloh,’ a name traditionally understood in the ancient Jewish targums and commentaries as “The Man of Rest,” or “The One Who Brings Safety or Peace, or Secure Rest.” Following on this description of the ‘King of Rest,’ Jacob speaks about the absolute prosperity and security of His Kingdom in Gen. 49:11-12. This Kingdom will be full of the blessings of God, from luxuriant vines and royal donkeys to a King of winsome appearance (dark eyes and white teeth). His country will literally flow with the blessings of the ‘wine of the Lord.’ You’ll be able even to wash your clothes in wine, there will be so much of it – a sign of God’s abundant blessing resting on His people and their land!
Meditate and Pray: Does the Bible’s picture of abounding blessing in the Kingdom of Christ sound too good to be true? Does your life appear to be less than this picture of welfare and abundance? Well, take heart. This is spiritual language describing the coming of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace – Isaiah 9:6-7. In His coming to earth with His Gospel in His first coming, Christ does indeed make “the wolf to lie down with the lamb”, (Isaiah 11:6 & 65:25) – if you have eyes of faith to see it. Ask the Lord to increase your faith in the real tangibility of Christ’s spiritual blessings, with the words of hymn # 311 by James Montgomery, verses 1 & 3:
Hail to the Lord’s anointed, great David’s greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression, to set the captive free;
To take away transgression and rule in equity.
He shall come down like showers upon the fruitful earth;
Love, joy, and hope, like flowers, spring in His path to birth.
Before Him, on the mountains, shall peace, the herald, go,
And righteousness, in fountains, from hill to valley flow.
Thursday: read Genesis 49:10-12 and Psalm 110:2-3. We could think that the dominion described in Genesis 49:8-10 is mainly one of power, that is, men must bow the knee to Christ, the King of Judah, simply because He is so lion-like. But as the name ‘Shiloh’ indicates, peace and rest are actually the great boons of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the ‘Prince of Peace.’ They are also His greatest tools by which He lovingly conquers us and subdues us to Himself. Psalm 110:2-3, for example, promises that the servants of Christ will show the power of His rule over them by being “willing” in the day of battle! Christ’s love compels us! Christ’s rest and peace by which we stand unafraid in this evil world secure us in our determination: we will fight and lay down our lives for such a Prince of Peace!
Meditate and Pray: Ask the Lord to give you courage to stand for Him with this prayer: “Lord, help us to stand firm in this conviction: If Christ has purchased peace for me in Heaven by His blood, then surely there is no foe on earth that can rob me of my position of rest in Christ Jesus. Help me, therefore, to face all the trials which you send into my life willingly – secure in the possession of such peace with God. Amen.”
Friday: read Genesis 49:10-12 and Isaiah 5:1-10. As the nations of today’s world threaten, and political enemies cause gridlock in Washington, we may wonder what is the actual state of our union in this country. In the face of all that, we ought to remind ourselves as we prepare to worship our Mighty King of Judah this Sunday that true prosperity and security resides only with Him. Take, for example God’s chosen ‘vine’ Israel, whom God describes in loving allegory as ‘His vineyard’ in Isaiah 5:1-7. Despite all His efforts to establish His people as a flourishing vineyard, tended by His loving husbandry, Israel ends up as a wasteland in Isaiah 5:5-6, with broken down walls – all because of their unfaithfulness to the very God who had so lovingly planted them! Surely no prosperity will be theirs now: they will only yield a pittance of wine according to Isaiah 5:10! Such is Israel’s end in the Old Testament: abandoned and exiled, with the beautiful Promised Land a wilderness. Having real prosperity, i.e., ‘vines to tend,’ as common as trees to which you can tie your donkey, comes only from the blessing of the Lord. Let us pray for our nation to return to God as the Source of all such blessing. But on a far deeper level of praise, let us turn to Christ as our royal King and pray as follows:
Meditate and Pray: How amazing, given the unfruitfulness of His people, that Jesus Christ, the King of Judah, is willing in Gen. 49:11 to ‘tie’ His donkey (a symbol of prosperity and royal rule – see 2 Samuel 13:29), to this scraggly ‘vine’ called the people of God! Christ is committed to us as He was to Israel… even though we are often like Israel of old, so unfruitful! Christ “lives to intercede for us,” and will not abandon us despite how many times we fail Him.
As John Murray wrote in ‘The Heavenly Priestly Work of Christ’, “… the fact that from the seat of exalted and undimmed glory… Christ interposes to the Father on behalf of every one of His own… should cause us to be filled with… adoring amazement at the condescension of Trinitarian love and grace. And the effect will then be that we shall be humbled to the point of being speechless, in a true sense exasperated, at the thought of the intercession which is interjected to save us from the doom which our continuing sinfulness and unfaithfulness deserve and saved to a glory which consists in glorification with Christ.”
May God give us such speechless joy in our worship of Jesus Christ, King of Judah. Amen.
Sat/Sun: Here are some words from another Puritan, as a further reflection upon where our “Lion of Judah” is now ruling for us at the right hand of God:
“Christ’s being seated at God’s right hand strongly argues that God is satisfied; for if God had not been infinitely well pleased with Christ, He would never have let Him come so near Him, much less have advanced Him so high as His right hand. And therefore, in the NT, Christ’s being seated is cited as proof that Christ has forever taken our sins away! This setting of Christ at God’s right hand, then, is a token of special and highest favor. So kings, whom they were most pleased with, they did set at their right hands, as Solomon his mother (1 Ki 2:19), and so Christ with the church as His queen (Ps 45:9) – a favor which God never gave to any other after Christ’s enthronement there – Hebrews 1:13. (Goodwin, Xst Set Forth pg 125)
Think of this! The Father allows the Son the right to bring His ‘favorites’ (the church… to sit as His right hand as well – (pg. 136 Goodwin, Xst Set Forth’).
“Christ does not just sit alone at God’s right hand of favor as our Head who has finished His work of providing us cleansing and forgiveness (Heb. 1:3) – but we are also said ‘to sit together with Him’. That is the upshot of Ephesians 2:6. So that, as we died with Him to our sins; as we rose with Him to newness of life, so God considers us to have ascended with Him to ‘sit together with Him in the highest heavens’. He is our Head who invites us into the communion of His absolute victory and security – see Rev. 3:21.”