Yesterday we saw how God chose Abram / Abraham to be the first generation of his own people, the father of a great nation, through whom all families of the earth will be blessed. As we continue to look at the promises made, we now stop on the next milestone on the way to the Lord Jesus.
Abraham was called to go to a land he did not know, where he would have a family and know the blessing of the Lord. By the time we reach Genesis 49, we're seeing the start of the fulfillments of the promise - Isaac has been born, and his son Jacob too has begun his family, gaining more descendants for Abraham. Jacob is near death, with his twelve sons gathered round him, having arrived in Egypt through God's forward planning.
Jacob is blessing his family, and says some prophetic words about each of his sons. the blessing of Judah is of particular interest to us:
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 sceptre 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.
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.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk. (Genesis 49:8-13)
Jacob the patriarch, foresees that the king of Israel will come from Judah's line, from Judah's son. The sceptre, the sign of authority will be in the tribe of Judah, 'until tribute comes to him' (or as the footnote suggests an alternative reading, 'until he comes to whom it belongs.') This king from the tribe of Judah will have the obedience of the peoples, so that all will bow down before him.
As Israel's history is played out, we can trace the line to the shepherd king, David, of the tribe of Judah. And yet it's clear that David, powerful though his kingdom was, David was just another milestone on the way to the true fulfillment. Jacob, also known as Israel, prophesies this true king of Israel, the one who is coming, the one to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father.