Advent Devotional Day 3: Genesis 49.8-11
Joy to the Earth, the Savior Reigns
Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down to you. Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He couches, he lies down as a lion, and as a lion, who dares rouse him up? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes His garments in wine, and His robes in the blood of grapes. (Genesis 49.8-11)
There are passages in Scripture that (if we are willing to admit it to ourselves) are almost universally skimmed over in our daily Bible reading. You know the ones I am talking about. The ones with a lot of names, and a lot of “so and so begat so and so.” Even if we are diligent to read these passages, the significance of them can be somewhat lost on us. If we are willing to pay close attention to the story line of redemptive history recorded in Scripture, however, we will see that there is a reason that Matthew grabs his bull horn and immediately announces a long lineage, culminating in the birth of Jesus Himself. Matthew opens his Gospel record with an announcement of the “genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matthew 1.1) “Son of David, son of Abraham.” Apparently, that is significant to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah, or Matthew would not have included it. If you look in Matthew 1, just a couple names after Abraham’s, nestled between Abraham and David, we find Judah. Judah is no small player in the history of redemption, and our text above shows us why.
In the previous installments of this series, we saw the promise to Adam and Eve (and all humanity in them) that God would crush the Serpent through the woman’s Ultimate Seed. (Genesis 3.15) Next, we saw that this Serpent-crushing Seed would also be the nation-blessing Son of Abraham’s line. One nation, bringing about one Man, to bless all the nations in Abraham. (Genesis 12.3) Condensing many long stories; Abraham fathers Isaac, Isaac fathers Jacob, and Jacob fathers 12 sons. This is the line of promise, the line of blessing. The blessing on this line is further emphasized when Jacob (called Israel) comes to the end of his life and brings his sons to him and utters prophetic blessing over all of them. This is a rich passage of Scripture worthy of much attention, but for our purposes we must focus on the promises and blessings as they narrow and become more specific in Judah.
What does Jacob have to say about the future of his son Judah, what will his legacy be? First, in verse 8, we see that Judah will be supreme among his brothers as well as his enemies. His brothers will “bow” to him, his hand will be “on the neck” of his enemies. As the storyline of Scripture advances we see this promise play out in the conquest of Canaan, as the tribe of Judah goes up to fight against Canaan first, appointed by the Lord Himself, defeating 10,000 enemies. (Judges 1.1-4) The text above compares Judah (and his tribe in Him) to a lion, threatening, dangerous, terrifying, and majestic; a symbol of reigning and royalty. Judah’s right to reign over his brothers (and over his enemies) is seen magnificently in the life of David (Judah’s descendant, according to Matthew’s genealogy): the king of Israel chosen by God Himself, to whom God promised that he would not lack a descendent to sit on the throne of Israel. 2 Samuel 7.16 says “your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” This promise to Judah’s descendent, David, echoes the sentiment in our text above: “the scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between His feet.” In these texts, Yahweh, the God of Israel, establishes the perpetual royal line and promises that One from this royal line will rule not only the tribes of Israel (Judah’s brothers) but also the entire world: “Until Shiloh comes, to Him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (or nations)
That last phrase sends shivers up my spine. There would be a line of Judahite kings “until Shiloh comes.” There is One coming, the ultimate King from Judah’s line, just as there would be an Ultimate Seed of the woman, and an Ultimate Descendent of Abraham. The perpetual, universal, and eternal obedience of the nations will belong to Him. Not just the other tribes of Israel, but the nations.
Shiloh is a very particular Hebrew word used here that has a wide range of meaning. What is astounding about God’s providence is that this Name can mean “peace-maker,” “Savior,” “Seed,” “her Son” and last, but not least: “Messiah.” Do you see how jaw-droppingly brilliant God displays His glory in the history of redemption? He keeps telling the same story! Genesis 3, Genesis 12, and Genesis 49 are not just a series of unconnected stories about miracles and blessings and providence. God is telling one singular story in all of these various accounts, each account displaying peculiar glory in all of its details. The Seed to crush the Serpent, and the Blessing of Abraham would be the culmination and fulfillment of Judahite rule, as He reigns over the entire universe. This is the “seed, Messiah, Savior, peace-maker,” the Lord Jesus Christ: son of Adam, son of Abraham, son of Judah. (Matthew 1) The One born of a virgin in Bethlehem is the Lion from the tribe of Judah. (Revelation 5.5) The baby that lay in a manger in Bethlehem crushes Satan by His perfect life, death, and resurrection, blesses the nations with redemption, and rules over them with supreme authority because He is the One that was promised. Perhaps this is what the song “Joy to the World” means when we belt that famous line: “He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.” He has the right to rule over all things.
The entire Old Testament is a shadow cast by His resplendent glory, it is His footprint, and it tells His story. Let us never forget the glory of God that shines in the face of the Incarnate One, the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4.6) His people are the ones who “worship in the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3.3) Your King has come, He has conquered, glory in Him.