The 5th Day of Advent
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.
9Judah 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.
11Binding 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.
12His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.
Promises of the advent of the Messiah are scattered throughout the Old Testament like glittering diamonds along a sandy trail. This passage in Genesis 49 is yet another. And once again, the context is unexpected. It’s a deathbed scene. Jacob, the last of the patriarchal trio of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is about to die and he has called his twelve sons to his side to hear his final prophetic words of blessing—and in a few cases—curses. In verse eight, Jacob’s attention is fixed on Judah.
Decades earlier Judah’s younger brother, Joseph, dreamed of a day when his brothers would bow down before him, a dream fulfilled many years later after Joseph became the viceroy of Egypt. Now Jacob foretells a time when the descendants of his twelve sons would bow before a different brother—Judah. It would be Judah—not firstborn Reuben and not the mighty Joseph—who would one day rise to preeminence over the other tribes of Israel. With lion-like power and prestige, Judah would rule his brothers and humble his enemies.
At the incredible age of 147, Jacob’s health had long been fragile. His watery eyes perceived little of his surroundings. But in the waning moments before his death, God granted him a different kind of vision. With the second sight of a prophet, he gazed far into the remote future. He beheld David on the throne, the first of Judah’s sons to reign over Israel over 600 years after the patriarch’s death. But that was just the beginning. David’s reign was the start of a dynasty that would rule, unbroken, for almost five centuries. Then would come invasion, captivity, and exile. Many usurpers attempted to rule God’s people.
But unlike the false claims of kings to come, the Davidic Dynasty was the only one in history that could truly claim a divine right to rule. In time another of the sons of David would establish his claim to rule a kingdom, “not of this world.” Jacob predicted that in the distant future, Judah’s reign would bring about a time of extraordinary prosperity and blessing. With extravagant hyperbole he described a time when the people would enjoy such astonishing abundance. A time where wine—an Old Testament symbol of plenty—was so common that people would wash their clothes in it! A time of robust health, marked by bright eyes and glowing smiles. One wonders if the guests at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) may have recalled Jacob’s words as they beheld a carpenter’s son turn water into wine.
In this sweeping vision of the future, Jacob looked past King David, past the First Advent of the Messiah, past his Second Advent, until he beheld the blessing and abundance of the Messianic reign of Christ. Yet again we see the events of Advent I and Advent II intermingled in prophecy, a pattern that is repeated again and again in books such as Isaiah.
Questions to Ponder
- We are living in the “already but not yet” – Christ has already come and redeemed us from our sins, but we are not experiencing the full restoration of all things. How does Christ’s first Advent prepare us to wait for the second Advent?