The Lion of Judah
In preparing to write the devotion this week, I looked up all the references to “lions” in the Bible. To be honest, Scripture does not depict this majestic creature like The Lion King does! Whereas the movie extols the lion’s tribal nature, majesty, and authority, the Bible talks about lions as vicious predators with great strength. A lion’s power is more frequently compared to God’s destructive power than his mercy. So, can Scripture and our opening hymn for this week teach us anything comforting about God as a lion?
The first and last books of the Bible are an excellent place to start. When Jacob, the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, blesses his sons before his death, he singles out Judah. Judah will be the son from whom Jesus descends. In Genesis 49, the Bible records Jacob’s promise to Judah and refers to Judah as a lion! “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.” We know that this is a prophecy of Jesus: in one of the last references to lions in the New Testament, Revelation 5:5, John sees a vision of the “Lion of Judah” in heaven.
There are a few other places in the Bible that reference God’s miraculous provision and strength in terms of lions. In the book of Job, one of Job’s friends argues that the destruction of lions is a sign that God holds sway over nature. Along the same lines, Psalm 34 states that even if the lions suffer want and hunger, those who seek the Lord will lack no good thing. In the book of Isaiah, the prophet foretells the peaceful end of the world where the lion will dwell beside peaceful animals and children. And, minor prophets like Hosea and Micah call the remnant of Israel a lion in the midst of this world.
The hymn with which we open Sunday, July 7th’s worship particularly takes up the imagery of the Lion of Judah in Revelation, but it also reminds us that God always fights for us. I pray that as we start a series on movies this July, we always remember to turn to the Bible, where God tells us exactly who he is and what he does for us!
Each week Dr. Katie Moss, Messiah’s Organist and Director of Handbells, provides us with a short devotion and closer look at a hymn we’ll sing at the Traditions Worship at 8:45 am.
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