Reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a child, I became captivated by Lucy, Edmund, Susan and Peter and their many adventures in the magical land of Narnia. As an adult, I re-read the books to my kids and reveled in them again. C.S. Lewis portrays the central character, Aslan, as a Christ figure. His choice to use a lion for this role is no coincidence; he knew the deep biblical symbolism associated with this majestic animal.
If you’ve been following along with this series of posts based on Women of the Word: The Family Tree of Jesus, then you know the next two characters in the family tree are Leah and Tamar. Both women were closely connected to Judah, Jacob’s fourth born son. Near the end of Jacob’s life, he pronounced a blessing on each of his sons. His words for Judah relate directly to the symbolism C.S. Lewis borrowed to create the character of Aslan:
“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.” (Genesis 49:8-10, NIV)
Despite being Jacob’s fourth son, Judah received the distinct honor of being the one through whom God’s blessing would continue. Jacob prophesied that the mantle of lordship and power, symbolized by the scepter, would remain in Judah’s family line until “he to whom it belongs” came (The Messiah). And ultimately, He would command the obedience of the nations.
The promise of the Messiah began in Genesis, first with Adam and Eve when God said that Eve’s offspring would one day crush the head of the serpent, Satan (see Genesis 3:14). The promise continued with Abraham, whose offspring would bless all people on earth (see Genesis 12:3). With Abraham’s great-grandson, Judah, we see the Messiah symbolized as a strong lion that would one day command the obedience of the nations. (We are still waiting for this part of the promise to be fulfilled).
The next time we see this term used is in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. In this yet-to-be fulfilled prophesy, the writer, John, describes the Messiah as both a lion and a lamb. The scene he describes is a vision of the heavenly throne room. In it, John sees that there is a scroll in the “right hand of him who was seated on the throne.” He begins to despair because there is no one found worthy to approach the hand of God to take and open the scroll. But John’s fears are unfounded:
“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… He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.’” (Revelation 5:5, 7-9, NIV)
This connection between the first and last book of the Bible amazes me. John describes how Jesus, the Messiah, fulfills the prophetic statements made thousands of years earlier. As the sacrificial lamb, He washes away the stain of sin through His death on the cross, making it possible for all who follow Him to share in His ultimate victory over death. As the lion, He represents the conquering King who will return to slay the enemies of God.
Remember the last sentence of Jacob’s blessing to Judah? He talked about Judah’s family line ruling until One came who would command the obedience of the nations. Now, read this verse from Revelation:
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13, NIV)
John’s prophesy mirrors Jacob’s—both show that one day the whole earth will have no choice but to bow down and worship at the feet of the Lion of Judah who the New Testament reveals as Jesus.
The seamlessness of the Bible leaves me in awe. Jesus is woven throughout the pages, from Genesis to Revelation. Taking a step back to view the bigger picture every now and then gives me an even deeper understanding of God’s greatness and the way His perfect plan unfolds in His perfect timing.
I’ve attached a song that ties together the tremendous symbolism of the Lion and the Lamb. Although this is an audio version with no lyrics written out, you can clearly understand the words of Doug Eltzroth’s song “Judah’s Great Lion Now Lamb.” So click on the link, close your eyes and take a moment to worship Jesus, Judah’s great Lion who became a lamb so that we could know God and enjoy eternity with Him. And if you haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia, go find a copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and get started!