Advent 8: Three Strikes And You’re In
“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.”
It’s Good to Be King
Every year at this time, we read over this passage and rejoice in the fact that Jesus is born as, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.” He is the promised king from Judah’s line who will have an everlasting kingdom. And if you have studied the Old Testament, you know that the kings were always supposed to come from the line of Judah. The above passage is the first place where we get to see this. This is where Jacob basically lines up all of his children and speaks blessings over them.
Fourth Time’s the Charm
Here’s an honest question: did you know that Judah wasn’t the firstborn son of Jacob? If you are anything like me, you just assumed Judah had to be the firstborn because he was in the line of the kings. I thought that for a long time. It just makes sense. However, he is actually the fourth-born son of Jacob. So then, what happened to the other three? The short answer is that they disqualified themselves. And what’s crazy is that even in this “blessing” passage in chapter forty-nine, Jacob tells us the reasons.
First is Reuben. He is the firstborn and should rightfully be the heir, but because he had an inappropriate relationship with one of his father’s wives, he got crossed off the list.
Then we see Simeon and Levi, the next two in line. Their story is crazy. They slaughtered a whole nation of men because of how they had treated their sister.
So then we are left with Judah.
Grace upon Grace
Let’s look even closer into this. God had made promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would bless the whole world through them. As we look over this episode in Old Testament history, we can see the way that God both narrows and expands his promises according to his own will.
It is not because of any good that anyone is doing; it is only by God’s grace. Judah did not do anything to be chosen by God to be the tribe of the kings; he is just the next in line.
In the next section, we will get to see that he wasn’t even doing anything to try and preserve his own line. This should get us to focus on the real main character in all of this, which is God. When we are looking at human history, we can see that God is the one who is working out his perfect will through sinful human beings.
What do we need to learn from this in our preparation to celebrate Christ’s birth? We need to realize that we cannot put God in a box. God does not work the way that we think he should. Isn’t it always supposed to be the firstborn son that inherits? In our human reasoning, that makes sense, but that’s just not the way that God works, and we can’t try to impose what we think should happen onto him. We probably would have just picked Ishmael, Esau, or Reuben to be the ones set to inherit, but God had other plans.
This becomes even more clear when we look to Jesus. Who would have ever predicted that the sovereign king of the universe would choose to be born as a little baby? And even then, if you figured out the baby part, there’s no way you would have predicted that this baby would be born to a young, poor, unmarried girl in a stable. How crazy is that?!
This should help us to realize that, above all things, the birth of Jesus is 100% a God thing. Natural man would not have put this together in this way. It is in light of this that we can stand back and marvel that the Creator of the world would humble himself to be born way back then in a stable in Bethlehem, and we should praise him and worship him for this unbelievable kindness that he is extending to us.
Let’s talk about it:
- Had you ever made the connection that Judah wasn’t the firstborn son of Jacob but was still the father of the kingly line? Do you think God was caught off guard by this?
- If God can use all of these Old Testament heroes, who fail and falter all the time, how can God use us?
- When we see that both Mary and Joseph were both from the kingly line of Judah, it should overwhelm us with a sense of God’s sovereignty. If He can plan all of that out in advance, what does that mean for how we should trust Him today?
Free Advent Bible Study (2023)
Let’s stand back and marvel at God’s grace and sovereignty, and focus on God this Christmas. May we join with the angels singing, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14).
Join this 25-day Advent journey as we worship Christ and celebrate his coming.
Zach Mabry is the worship pastor and one of the main teachers at Snowbird. He also directs our year-round Snowbird Institute program. He has a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as an adjunct professor for Liberty University. Zach is a teaching pastor at Red Oak Church, a local church within the Andrews area.
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