It is an intimate moment we are privileged to share. In Genesis 49, Jacob’s sons are gathered about him on his deathbed. But this is a unique situation, for sacred scripture does place us in such a position with other patriarchs such as Adam, Noah, Job, Abraham, or Isaac. There is something Moses and the Holy Spirit would have us learn from Jacob’s final and finest words.
Jacob begins by addressing Reuben – his eldest. First, he highlights the potentiality of his firstborn. Reuben is one who should have been his might, the first sign of his strength, the one excelling in honor and power. Consequently, Reuben should receive the birthright and the blessing. However, this is not going to happen. Jacob publically refers to the heinous event recorded in Genesis 35 where Reuben had a sexual liaison with one of Jacob’s wives. Therefore, because of this sin, Rueben is being passed over. Because of his sin, Reuben’s children will miss blessings and suffer consequences for many generations.
Next comes Jacob’s words for Simeon and Levi, and it does not take long for them to realize they will not be receiving the blessing and the birthright either. Jacob’s publically comments on their murderous sins, and ends with, “Let not my glory be united with them.”
Then, it becomes Judah’s turn. What is in store for the most prolific sinner of the bunch. It might help us to remember that Judah is …
- The ring-leader who led the charge to sell Joseph into slavery.
- The wanderer who left the covenant community and the Promised Land of God.
- The man who married a non-believer.
- The father who encouraged his sons to marry non-believers.
- The abusive father-in-law who lied to his daughter-in-law and kept her unmarried.
- The fornicator who was guilty of sleeping with a harlot on a business trip.
- The hypocritical “priest” who condemned a woman while ignoring his own sin.
No, there is nothing chaste, holy, or virtuous about Judah. He is the lusty reprobate. He is the worst of the brothers, and by this time, Judah surely is lowering his expectations, lowering his head, and heading for the door. Can’t you imagine the glances from his brothers as they whispered to one another, “Ouch, this one is going to be bad?” Can’t you almost Judah saying, “Hey dad, can we just skip my ‘blessing’ today?”
However, for Judah, the worst of the clan, only glorious predictions, prophecies, and promises are made. Listen as he receives mercy and grace and not justice:
Genesis 49:8-12 Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. Binding his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine, he has washed his garments in wine and his vesture in the blood of grapes. His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.
The prophecy regarding Judah is the longest, most beautiful, and most blessed. Only that blessing given to Joseph is even close in magnificence, and Joseph’s blessing is primarily short-term. In the end, Joseph receives the birthright — the temporal benefits. However, Judah receives the blessing — the spiritual and eternal benefits that will transition from one generation to generation. Judah’s family tree will be characterized by …
- Praise — his brothers will bow down in honor
- Dominance — his hand will be on the neck of his enemies
- Meekness — he will be like a lion cub with ferocious power who is best not roused
- Kingly Shepherding — he will hold both the scepter and the staff
- Multi-ethnic Lordship — tribute and obedience will be given him by the nations
- Wealth and Beauty — he will possess the finest and look beautifully radiant
Did Jacob’s prophecy come to pass? Absolutely! Judah was the tribe that enjoyed the most leadership and preeminence. Upon arriving in the Promised Land, she received her allotment first. Throughout history, Israel’s greatest of kings came from her lineage. (David, Solomon) And in the sad history of the Israelite people when the Assyrians and Babylonians were being used of God to execute discipline, Judah was privileged to be the last tribe standing. In a temporal way, in comparison to all the other tribes of Israel, Judah stood supreme.
However, the full ramification of Jacob’s prophecy to Judah became apparent with a Hebrew carpenter adopted a son named Jesus of Nazareth. At first, it did not look so hopeful. Jesus endured an initial stage of humiliation that was planned before the beginning of time. He lived as a poor serf under the rule of Rome. And despite his righteousness, he was hated, plotted against, arrested, illegally tried, blasphemed, mocked, tortured, stripped, and crucified. After being speared in the side, his body was wrapped and buried in a tomb. Jesus of Nazareth was treated like a sacrificial lamb, and he was treated so for ruined sinners like you and me.
But then his never-ending stage of exaltation began. The Lamb of God proved to be the Lion of Judah. And ever since then, Jesus has been the one characterized by …
- Praise — his brothers continue to bow down to him in honor
- Dominance — his hand is be on the neck of his enemies; someday he will squeeze
- Meekness — he is like a lion cub with ferocious power who will one day be roused
- Royal Shepherd — he hold his kingly scepter and his staff of comfort
- Multi-ethnic Lordship — tribute and obedience is given him by the nations
- Wealth and Beauty — he is most radiant and his friends long to see his face
Oh friends, can’t you see the beauty of Scripture. Jacob made this prophecy almost 2000 years before the coming of Jesus. God had a plan, declared his plan, and perfectly brought it to completion. The Bible is divine. It is inspired. It is prophetic. My friends, trust God’s Word!
Can’t you see the identity of Jesus? He is the PROMISED OFFSPRING of Adam, the ARK of Noah, the SACRIFICIAL SON of Abraham, and the LION OF JUDAH pronounced by Jacob. How are you related to him? Is he your best friend or greatest enemy? Will you be found held in his arms, or will you be found experiencing his rod? Oh friends, he can’t be beat. He can’t be stopped. His kingdom is marching on. He is King of kings, Lord of lords, and he is calling you to bow the knee right now. Have you done so? Have you become a part of his multi-ethnic worshiping community who love to give him tribute and obedience. Come on friends; come join the Kingdom of Heaven and rejoice with us forevermore.
Finally, can’t you see the mercy and grace God gives his sordid followers? How did Judah end up with the greatest blessing? Friends, this is what God does. Consider how in the book of Genesis God has highlighted the heinous sins of his chosen people. These are printed for posterity:
- Forced Slavery
However, despite God’s hatred for sin, none of these transgressions caused him to forsake his covenantal plan to save the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, if you are his child, take a serious look at your sin and hate it with all your might, but then, take a look at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and the fellows and see God’s mercy and grace. God loved Israel, not because they were righteous, but merely because he sovereignly chose to do so. And that is the only reason God loves me and you. So look at your sin, talk to your Savior, and then get up and worship. God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Instead, he has an incredible habit of richly blessing those who deserve it most. Let this make us humble. Let this make us glad. Let this cause us to worship him today like never before.