Can you find Christ in the Old Testament? Have you tuned your eye to see him in these old stories that are so precious to Jews and Christians alike?
The blessing of Judah is interesting for a couple of reasons. The first is the way in which Jacob elevates Judah above his three older brothers – Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. It would be Judah’s family who would rule the entire nation. The “scepter” would not depart from the hand of Judah’s descendants.
Jacob seems to like doing this – to blessing the younger over the older. He bargained for his own older brother’s birthright, and then he outright stole his brother’s blessing. Jacob then blessed Joseph’s sons, but not in the right order. The old prophecy that the older shall serve the younger stuck with Jacob and never left him (Genesis 25:23).
How does this play out in the Christian life? Can you see Christ here, too?
Another reason the blessing of Judah is interesting is the language Jacob uses. “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 are whiter than milk” (Genesis 49:11-12).
Can you see Jesus here?
Jacob’s blessing of Judah binds the entirety of Scripture together, from beginning to middle to end. Check out the following passages.
“Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? ‘It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.’ Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel’” (Isaiah 63:1-3).
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).
“Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord needs them,” and he will send them at once’” (Matthew 21:1-3).
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11-15).
All of those texts are about Jesus Christ. Now listen again to the blessing Jacob gave Judah, who who was an ancestor of Jesus.
“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. 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 49:10-12).
At the end of this story of the patriarchs – of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – we have a pointer to the coming of the Messiah. This would be the King of all kings. Nations would come to him with gifts. Every knee would bow. And he would serve as a judge for the people of the earth. He would demand obedience.
This is but one facet of Jesus Christ. He also is a sacrificial lamb. But we can think pause in this chapter and think of Jesus as our king.
Are we obedient to King Jesus?
As Americans, we don’t understand the concept of kingship like many other peoples do. We haven’t grown up viewing anyone as supremely authoritative and powerful – a person who demands our respect and obedience.
In our country, presidents and governors and mayors come and go, and none of them carry that kind of authority. We have “checks and balances” in our country. There is no one person who issues laws, administers justice, and declares war – all on his or her own.
And so we might not fully understand the concept of Jesus as King. But we should spend some time thinking about it.
And, returning to the question that started this post, do we see Jesus in the Old Testament? We need to tune our ear to the story of Jesus as we read the Old Testament. If we can’t see him and hear him there, will we be able to see him and hear him in our own lives?
The Old Testament is not just an old, antiquated, irrelevant book. It is a book, ultimately, about Jesus Christ. I’m glad you are reading it!