Often, when we think of Jesus one of the images that come to mind is the lamb. After all, when John the Baptist was about to baptize Jesus, he declared him the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. When you think of a lamb you think of tenderness, gentleness, and I would add even submissiveness.
While Jesus was all these things, there is another description of Jesus in Scripture that is the complete opposite of him as a lamb. That description is the Lion of Judah. I think we understand the importance of knowing Jesus as the lamb. I want to give you four reasons to know Jesus as the Lion of Judah.
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What Does Lion of Judah Mean?
To get an understanding of this phrase, there are two places in Scripture where the lion and Judah are tied together. One of them is in Revelation.
“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘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’” (Revelation 5:5).
Let’s consider the significance of the tribe of Judah. Judah was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. To make is simple, the descendants of these sons formed the twelve tribes of Israel. A reference to the tribe of Judah is a reference to the human or natural lineage of Christ. You can read the genealogy in Matthew 1.
Jesus was a descendant of Judah which also included David, Solomon, eventually making its way all the way down to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father (actually stepfather if you want to be technical).
The other mention of the lion happens in Genesis 49. In this occasion, Jacob calls his sons together and tells them what will happen to each of them in the days to come. Clearly Jacob is speaking with prophetic language. When he gets to his son Judah here is what he proclaims:
“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. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:8-12).
When you consider these verses, then a reference to the Lion of the tribe of Judah points to the conquering, victorious king that would descend from Judah’s lineage. We know that this lion was pointing to only one person, Jesus himself, God in human form, who is the lion of the tribe of Judah. This truth is important because it fulfills the promise and prophecy of God’s word. It also gives us hope and confidence in this one who will ultimately be our deliverer.
4 Reasons to Know Jesus as the Lion of Judah
As we look closely at this proclamation made by Jacob in Genesis 49, some prophetic truths come to light. These are truths that, when considered, point directly to Jesus. From these verses, you can uncover four reasons to know God as the Lion of Judah. Let’s take a closer look:
1. Your Brothers Will Praise You – You Will Acknowledge the Lion of Judah's Lordship
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Regardless of what people think or feel about Jesus, one thing we know for sure: He is Lord. Because he is Lord, everyone will eventually praise him as Lord. It doesn’t matter if a person believes that now, but at some point, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess this to be true. When you recognize this now you can willingly bow and acknowledge him as Lord of all, and most importantly Lord of your life.
2. Your Hand Will Be on the Neck of Your Enemies – You Acknowledge the Lion of Judah's Victory
“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet’” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).
Ultimately Jesus will destroy all his enemies, even Satan who knows he is on borrowed time because his defeat is imminent. However, the greatest enemy we face as humans is the reality of sin and death. Our sin interrupted our relationship with God and our death meant eternal separation and punishment for our sin. Jesus conquered both of these enemies on our behalf. Our lion has given us victory over sin and has removed the penalty of death and replaced it with the promise and hope of eternal life. You can celebrate, because you are victorious today. You are no longer under the penalty of sin.
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3. The Scepter Will not Depart from Judah – You Acknowledge the Lion's Eternal Rule
“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever’” (Revelation 11:15).
Another wonderful reason to know God as the Lion of Judah is that his kingdom will reign forever. The good part about being on his side is that you will win in the end, regardless of how challenging life gets and regardless of the struggles or persecutions you may experience in this life. It is so important to recognize that as long as you are on Jesus’ side, you will win at the end. Because he will rule for all eternity, and you are part of his kingdom, then you get to experience the benefits of his kingdom for all eternity. So, don’t be discouraged, no matter how bad it may feel or get, it is only for a little while. Your lion is coming soon and he will reign forever.
4. He Will Wash His Garments in Wine, His Robes in the Blood of Grapes – You Acknowledge His Shed Blood for the Forgiveness of Your Sins
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
As important as it is to know God as the lion, that wouldn’t have mattered much unless he became the lamb. He would still be God. He would still reign forever. He would still ultimately triumph over his enemies. However, we would still be lost. What makes Jesus all the more impressive is that his road to conquering – his road to being the lion – came through suffering. He didn’t redeem us by keeping his status as a lion. He redeemed us by becoming humble as a lamb. That precious blood he spilled purchased our salvation, forgave our sins, and allowed us to triumph. I am thankful that he is the lion who fights for us and will come to our rescue. I am also thankful that he became like a lamb to win back our salvation. In fact, it was his suffering as a lamb that paved the way for him to be the true Lion of the tribe of Judah. Remember Philippians:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:5-9).
The great lion of the tribe of Judah conquered by becoming a lamb.
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Jesus - The Lion and the Lamb
Earlier I mentioned the verse in Revelation mentioning Jesus as the lion. The verse after that immediately shifts from him being lion to him being the lamb. Here is that verse again:
“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘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.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain…” (Revelation 5:5-6).
I guess when you consider all the reasons to know God as the Lion of Judah, there is one connection that cannot be dismissed. You will never truly understand his position as the lion of Judah, until you understand him as the lamb who had to be slain. If you misunderstand his purpose in being the lamb, then you will misunderstand his position in being the lion. It’s the suffering Jesus that paves the way for the conquering Jesus. It was his lamb-like surrender, which goes against the norms, that positioned him to become the true Lion of the tribe of Judah.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.