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Sunday, December 15, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "Long Expected Lion"

“Long Expected Lion”
December 15, 2013 :: Genesis 49:8-12

I’m trying to start a new preaching tradition this year that on the Sunday before our normal Christmas service (which this year is next Sunday, the 22nd  that I’m going preach a message on an Old Testament prediction of the Messiah.

Some of those passages are more obscure than others, and this one is fairly obscure. In fact, many people don’t even know that it’s there. And there are a lot of little details in that are debate-able. But believers have seen a prediction of the Messiah in this little passage tucked into the middle of Genesis 49 for a long long time.

In fact, I’m going to call today’s message, “Long Expected Lion.”

Today, we’re not talking about the Nittany Lions, but the Lion of Judah.

Have you ever heard of Jesus Christ being referred to as the Lion of Judah?  This is where it all starts.
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, O 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 comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is 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.
Did that sound like Jesus to you?

Did it sound like Christmas to you?

It’s a pretty strange passage of Scripture tucked into the middle of a blessing at the end of the book of Genesis.

But it’s about Jesus!

The Lion of Judah.

The long expected, the long looked for lion of Judah.

Let me explain the context. Genesis 49 recounts the prophetic blessing of the patriarch Jacob (right before he died) on his 12 sons whose families will become the 12 tribes of Judah.

Jacob has a lot to say, and back in 2003 and we studied this passage. Some of his words of blessing are very and some are very difficult to interpret.

His words are very prophetic, many of them point forward to what that tribe was going to be like.

And nestled in that blessing on all the tribes is this particular blessing on the tribe of Judah. Judah the man was not the firstborn of Israel.  He was, in fact, the fourth born of Jacob’s wife Leah.

And Judah the man had not been a stellar example of faithfulness, righteousness, and wisdom.  If we had time, we could go back over his life and notes some of the low-points!

But we could also note how Judah had changed. In the middle of the Joseph story, there is a Judah story. Chapter 38. We studied it back in 2003 under the title, “The Humbling of Judah.” I think Cody went over it a few months ago with our youth Sunday School class.

God worked in Judah’s life to humble him and give him grace.

But who would have expected this?

Judah is told that his other brothers would eventually praise him. V.1

“Judah, your brothers will praise you...”

(By the way, that’s probably a play on words with his name, Judah, which sounds like a word that means praise. But it’s going to happen anyway.)

That’s unexpected. Especially because at this point in the story of Genesis, it really looks like Joseph and his two sons are going to lead the people of Israel. The one who was sold into slavery and the rose to become Pharoah’s righthand man and save his family! Joseph will probably be first.

But that’s not what God says through Jacob.

“Judah, your brothers will praise you;”

In fact, you will become the top lion. V.1 again.

“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.”

Judah is going to triumph over his enemies and his brothers will recognize him as the leader.

#1. LION SUPREME.

In fact, he says, v.9, “You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness–who dares to rouse him?”

That’s what Judah will become. The supreme lion.

The tribe that goes out at fights and comes back victorious.

The lion and the lioness are pictures of power. Pictures of untamed power.

“Who dares to rouse him?”

The king of the beasts! Right?

He’s the top of the food chain.

That’s what Judah will become.

Now, when did that start to happen?

Did it happen that day?  Did Jacob just make Judah the head of the family?

No, it didn’t happen that day.

Did it happen the day when God wanted to take the people of Israel out of Egypt? Was it someone from the tribe of Judah who said, “Let my people go?”

No, it didn’t happen that day.  Moses wasn’t from the tribe of Judah.

How about Joshua?

No.

Was it Tall King Saul?

No.

We’re talking at least 400 years from this prophecy to the King...David.

We just learned that he was from the little town of Bethlehem and that his father, Jesse was from the tribe of Judah.

King David was the first lion.

But even David wasn’t the Lion Supreme.

Great David’s greatest Son will be the Lion Supreme. Look at verse 10.

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”

David only partially began to fulfill this prophecy.

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”

#2. RULER OF THE NATIONS.

The scepter or the ruler’s staff was that large stick that marked the office of the King.

It will not move. It will stay between the feet of this king.

“Until he comes to whom it belongs...”

And we know who that is.

Or we do we?

This phrase is notoriously hard to translate.

Your version might say, “until Shiloh comes” or “until tribute comes to him.”

Those are all possible translations of the Hebrew.

Many people (Jews and Christians) think that Shiloh is a name for the Messiah.  And that’s possible, though it’s not clear what that name would signify.

It’s possible that Shiloh means the place Shiloh that we’ve recently read about in 1 Samuel. That’s where the tabernacle was and Eli was the priest.

The ESV Study Bible says, “it could be an allusion to the departure of the ark of the covenant from Shiloh in the time of Samuel, when the tribe of Judah, in the person of David, replace the time of Ephraim as Israel’s leading tribe” (pg. 134).

And that’s interesting based on what we’ve been learning recently.

But I think the NIV is the most probable translation:

“...until he comes to whom it [the ruler’s staff] belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”

It predicts the coming of a Judahite par excellence.  A Judah of Judahs.  A king of kings.  A David of Davids.

“...and the obedience of the nations is his.”

He is not just supreme over Israel. He is supreme over the nations.

All that nations of the world will be gathered to Him and be subject to Him.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love (Isaac Watts)

Did that happen yet?

The long expected lion has come in the baby, King Jesus.

And the rulers of the world began to come and pay homage to Him. Like those royal emissaries with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But the all of the nations have not yet bowed down.

The long expected lion has to come again.

And in the meantime, we are to tell the nations about the King.

That’s why we have missions.  Because the King has come and the world needs to know about it.

Beautiful Savior, Lord of all nations
Son of God and Son of Man
Glory and honor, praise, adoration
Now and forever more be Thine (Fairest Lord Jesus)

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.”

His kingdom has come (that’s Christmas!) and His Kingdom is taking over the hearts of people all over the world.  One day, His kingdom will no longer be challenged or opposed.  Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.

What a day that will be!

And that’s the point of verse 11.

“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.”

Here’s what I think that means.

#3. THE BLESSINGS OF THE KINGDOM.

Do you normally tether your donkey to a vine?

No. Vines are edible. You don’t tie your donkey to an edible hitching post.

But what if there are so many vines that you can tie your donkey up to one and even if he eats it, there are plenty more?

Wine will be so abundant that you can do your laundry in it!

It’s not saying that he likes his garments red. It’s saying that there will be so much joy-giving wine in the world that you could use your detergent and use it as the washing-up water.

It’s the same kind of thing as the streets of gold in the book of Revelation.

The point is that there is so much wealth, they walk on the gold there.

Nobody is going to say, “I need to dig up this road. It’s gold!

No, they say, “Oh, gold. Yeah, we walk on that stuff. That’s nothing.”

It’s picture of unimaginable blessing.

A kingdom of unimaginable blessing.

When the Long Expected Lion comes, then the citizens of His kingdom will enjoy unimaginable blessing.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

The point of Christmas is that Jesus has come to give us eternal and abundance life.

“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.”

And all who belong to Christ will experience the richest of blessings forever!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,

And we will know the most glorious Savior forever.

That’s the point, I think of verse 12.

“His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.”

I don’t think that’s supposed to be taken literally. This what Jesus looked like: dark red eyes, really white teeth.

Dark eyes and white teeth were considered to be very beautiful physical qualities in the Ancient Middle East.  This prophecy, therefore, predicts a gloriously beautiful Messiah. One who is attractive and appealing in every way.

Now, when Jesus first came, that first Christmas, He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him (Isaiah 53).

But when Jesus comes a second time, His glory will no longer be veiled and will be seen to be the most beautiful thing in the universe.

#4. THE BEAUTY OF HIS GLORY.

Jesus is glorious and worthy of all of our worship.

I think that’s what Jacob was getting it.

It’s hard to know. Jacob, though inspired by God Himself, saw this from very far off.

In fact, even though we stand on this side of the Cross, a lot of what Jacob predicted here is still far off!

But we know that the Bible takes this idea of the Messiah being a Son of Judah and a Lion of Judah and applies it to Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John does that in Revelation chapter 5.

The Bible not only starts with this reference to a Lion from Judah.

It also ends with a reference to the Lion of Judah.

Revelation 5 is a dramatic vision of a holy God on His holy throne holding the scroll of human destiny in his right hand.

And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was worthy to break the seals and to open the scrolls and to fulfill God’s plan for humanity–both judgment and blessing.

When the Apostle John saw that noone was found worthy, he began to weep uncontrollably.

John despaired because all of a sudden it looked like all of God’s promises would not be fulfilled.  It looked like justice would never be done.  All of those chosen by God would be lost.  Heaven would be empty of humans, and Hell would be full to overflowing.  All meaning in the universe would be lost.

Because no one was worthy.

But then something glorious happens in this heavenly drama.  One of the 24 elders makes an announcement that changes everything!   Listen to Revelation chapter 5, verse 5.

“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.’”

There IS SOMEONE WORTHY!  There IS Someone able to open the scroll and its seven seals.

It’s “The Lion of the tribe of Judah!”

The baby who was once laid in a manger.

Jesus Christ.

He is the Supreme Lion of Judah, worthy of praise.
He is the Ruler of the Nations, calling them to obedience.
His Kingdom will be unparalleled in blessing and abundance.
His Glory will be seen to be the most beautiful thing in the universe.

And Revelation 5 says, “He has triumphed!”

It’s a strong word in the Greek. It means that He has conquered.  He has gone through a bloody war and won!  He has prevailed.

He is a conquering, royal Lion!

The lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered.

And we know that He did that through His Cross.

On the Cross, Jesus Christ (who came at Christmas) conquered sin and death.  He paid the penalty for the sins of His people and set them free.

The long expected lion has come and has triumphed!

And here’s what we are supposed to do about it:

#1.  Put Your Trust in the Triumph of the Lion of Judah.

His triumph means nothing to you unless you have received Him and put your faith in His conquering victory on the Cross.

Turn away from whatever you have been trusting in for your life and your eternal well-being and put your trust in the triumph of the Lion of Judah.

He invites you today to receive Him as Savior and Lord.

If you put your trust in His triumph, then you will have the power of the unchallenged Lion of Judah working on your behalf.  You will triumph, too.

If you put your trust in His triumph, then you will experience the abundant blessing of the Kingdom that He brings.

But the Ruler of the Nations must be your Ruler first.

You must put your trust in the triumph of the Lion of Judah.

#2. Center Your Life Around the Lion of Judah.

Worship Him alone!

He is worthy because of His Cross to break open the scroll.

He is worthy of your worship every day as well.

Center Your Life Around the Lion of Judah.

So many things compete for our attention and our worship in this world.

But only One Person has “eyes darker than wine, teeth whiter than milk” that is worthy to have our lives centered around.

He was born on Christmas, and He’s coming back soon.  Worship Christ!

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,

Center your life around the Lion of Judah because He has triumphed!

And #3. Long for the Lion to Return.

He is still the Long Expected Lion!

We are still waiting for the full fulfillment of Genesis 49.

And we work while we wait.  We tell people about Him.

But we eagerly wait for His return.

Let’s sing Joy to the World.

We sing it at Christmas time because the Lord has come, bringing joy with Him.

But it’s really a song about Jesus’ second coming when He fulfills this ancient prophecy in its fullness.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,

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