Friday, August 8, 2014

The Gospel According to Joseph: Jesus, the Greater Judah

As has been the case in almost every sermon passage so far in this series, there is so much in Ge. 48:1-20; 49:1, 8-12 that we cannot possibly cover it all in this Sunday's sermon post. In fact, the sermon will only highlight one major aspect of this passage. So, in this devotional, we will talk briefly about Judah's blessing, which is really a prophecy of Jesus Himself.

In Ge. 49:8-12, Israel blesses Judah with nothing less than a prediction that the Messiah Himself will come from Judah's line, which is an amazing grace to Judah (the grace aspect of this blessing will be brought out in Sunday's sermon post). Take a look at Israel's words to Judah:
8 "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.
9 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?
10 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.
11 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.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
    and his teeth whiter than milk."
There are four aspects of the coming Messiah--Jesus Christ Himself--that are brought out in this blessing and prophecy given to Judah: His praise, His preeminence, His power, and His prosperity. Let's take a brief look at each of those.

First, praise: Israel says, "Judah, your brothers shall praise you..." From a language standpoint, this is a literary play on Judah's name which means "to praise" in Hebrew, yet its meaning goes much deeper. This prophecy may have had a minor fulfillment in Judah's personal relationship with his brothers, and it did have a proximate fulfillment in the kings of Judah, of whom king David was the greatest. Yet, it finds its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Himself. When Christ was raised from the dead, He was given the name that is above every name (Php. 2:9), so that at His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess His lordship (Php. 2:10-11). Presently, this prophecy is fulfilled in the true children of Abraham (i.e. Christians, cf. Ga. 3:7) giving praise to the Greater Judah who comes from the line of Judah. It also will be fulfilled in an ultimate sense when every knee bows to Jesus at the final judgment, whether they want to or not (Php. 2:10-11, explained in more detail in this sermon here).

Second, preeminence: Israel tells Judah that he will be greater than all his enemies, that his brothers will bow to him, and that the scepter will not leave his house. Now, while this may have had some minor fulfillment in Judah's lifetime, this too is ultimately about what would come from his line. Israel does nothing less than predict that the right kingship of God's people will come from Judah's line, and in v. 10, Israel makes it clear that the kingship of Judah's line will have no end. This kingship began to be true with king David but has its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Himself. Out of the line of Judah has emerged the Messiah who is king (e.g. Ps. 2; 89; Is. 11:1-16; Je. 33:15; Am. 9:1-14), and this messiah is Jesus (Lk. 1:32-33; Ro. 1:3; Re. 22:16). He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Re. 17:14; 19:16), who rules over everything (Col. 1:15-17). Presently, His rule may not be recognized by all, but one day, it will be (Php. 2:10-11, cf. Re. 20:11ff).

Third, power: Israel likens Judah to a lion in this prophecy, and, of course, the lion is a picture of power and might. The lion is the most enduring image of Judah in the themes of redemptive history. This theme is carried through to the time of the judges, then to the reign of king David, and ultimately is fulfilled in the victorious reign of the Lion of the tribe of Judah: Jesus Christ Himself (cf. Re. 5:5, 9-10). This enduring image of the Lion of Judah is often set with the image of the Lamb of God to serve as the quintessential image of Christ (i.e. power and sacrifice). Here, though, there is no hint of the lamb; there is only the power of the lion. Jesus is the powerful lion who protects, defends, and fights for His people, both now and forever more.

Fourth, prosperity: Finally, Israel tells Judah vv. 11-12 that his prosperity will be unimaginable. Now, the language of these images may seem a little odd to our culture today, but to Judah they were a picture of great prosperity. The binding of the foal and the donkey to the choice vine shows this because a foal and a donkey would eat the vine to which they were tied, which means Judah has such a successful vine harvest that it doesn't matter whether a choice vine is eaten, for there are so many more. In modern terms, it might be like us saying that someone can park their Lamborghini in the worst part of town with the keys in the ignition because they have so much wealth that one car, as expensive as it is, doesn't really matter. The washing of his garments and vesture (i.e. cloak/robe) in wine is a similar picture: so much that it does not matter how you use it. Wine is an expensive liquid (imagine your water bill calculated at the price wine is sold), so to use it to wash clothes like one would use water shows that the wine harvest is as abundant as water to them. Finally, the color of his eyes and teeth are along a similar line: Judah has so much wine that his eyes are becoming colored like the wine and his teeth are white when seen against the foreground of his red, wine-stained lips. All these images show the immense prosperity of Judah. And, like with the previous predictions, such a prosperity may have had some fulfillment in Judah and the later kings from his line (e.g. king Solomon's prosperity), but it is ultimately fulfilled in Christ and what He has secured in the new heavens and the new earth. The description of the new Jerusalem in Re. 21:9ff shows us this kind of lavish wealth in different terms but the end result is the same: unimaginable prosperity. And that, Christian, is the inheritance that those adopted into the family of God through Christ will have one day. That is our hope in Christ, not anything in this world.

Judah's blessing is really a prophecy about Jesus Himself. So, when you look at Judah's blessing, remember that he is just a picture of who Christ is as the exalted King of kings, Lord of lords, and head of the Church. And, He is your Savior.

By His Grace,

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