When Jacob was near the end of his life, he gathered his sons around him and spoke to them words of blessing. God also used those words to speak prophecies of the future. It may have been surprising to hear what Jacob said to Judah. Judah was not the favored son, yet to him, Jacob gave a great honor. Perhaps it is because Judah was a son of Leah, and God had a special place in His heart for this unwanted girl. Or perhaps it was because Judah had a child through the widow, Tamar, and God has a special place in his heart for widows.
Whatever the reason, to Judah, Jacob spoke the greatest prophecy.
“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” –Genesis 49:8-10
From the line of Judah would come the royal line. A lion king- bold, strong, noble, and righteous.
Who will this king be? That answer is complicated. Though we get caught up in chronology, God is outside of time, and so He does not. With this prophecy, God seems to be speaking of multiple kings, at multiple points in history.
If we had been an Israelite born before the time of Christ, we would see how this prophecy refers to David, Israel’s greatest king. David was from the line of Judah. He was a king who defeated many enemies. And, he was a king whom the nation of Israel, as well as the surrounding peoples (remember Goliath?), saw as bold and powerful.
But it cannot refer to David alone. The scepter did depart from King David. And the obedience of the nations was not his.
So, at the same time as pointing to David, this prophecy points to an even greater King. A King whose rightful place it is to rule for all time: a King to whom, one day, all nations will bow in obedience.
To Judah’s line belongs the honor of the Messiah.
One part of this Messiah prophecy has already been fulfilled: Jesus was born from the line of Judah. He is worthy of our praise. He is the rightful King. But, another part has not yet been fulfilled- Christ has not yet taken his role as the King that will call all nations into obedience.
One day He will- those times are what is talked about in the book of Revelation. Early on, in Revelation 5, there is mourning. No one is worthy to open the scroll that will begin the end times. No one is worthy to complete the final destruction of evil and the beginning of a perfect kingdom. Until an elder cried out
“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
Jesus is the Lion of Judah. He is strong, bold, and righteous. He will be a worthy King over the nations when the time comes. Just as those born before Christ had to wait for His first Advent, we wait for His second. But even now, Christ is a worthy King.
He is the rightful King of us.
The Lion of Judah came. He is bold, strong, noble, and righteous. Jesus is worthy to take the throne of authority in our lives. He is bold enough to pounce on sin and drive it out. He is strong enough to help us do things we did not think possible. He is noble enough to rule with grace. And He is righteous enough to guide our days.
The Lion of Judah is the rightful King. To Him be the glory.