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 49:10)
It’s not difficult to look at the first part of this blessing that Jacob gives to his son Judah and recognize that it begins to take shape during the time of David. He is from the tribe of Judah and God not only makes this man after His own heart king—He establishes a monarchy through him so that his descendants after him will reign (2 Samuel 7:8ff; Psalm 89). Even when David’s descendants are unfaithful to God and removed from the throne—the right to rule belongs to David’s descendants as opposed to any of the other tribes.
But Jacob’s promise is like a grand piano whose purpose and glory cannot be fulfilled by playing Chopsticks on it. It is meant for something much more magnificent and beautiful. We see this in the thought that the monarchy will continue “until He to whom it belongs shall come.” Here the layer of rulers from David onward are peeled away because they only foreshadow the One to whom all power, honor and authority belongs.
These things are given to David and company—they belong to Jesus. They belong to Him because He is worthy and deserving of them. They belong to Him because He is everything we dream of being: kind, gentle, noble, pure, and undefeated in goodness and trustworthiness. He is man’s idea of God, but more important He is God’s idea of man. God gives Him power and He refuses to use it for self-aggrandizement, to further a personal agenda, or to lord it over anyone—He uses it to serve! That is why He is the One “to Whom it belongs.” And that is also why “the obedience of the nations shall be His.” He is worthy not simply because He is God the Son, but because of how He lived as a man. That’s the grand thrust of texts like Philippians 2:6-11 and Revelation 5. His worthiness stands in stark contrast to our failures.
Oscar Wilde wrote a story for children called The Selfish Giant. It’s about a giant who returns from a visit with an ogre to find his garden (yard) overrun with children from the neighborhood who play there every day after school. Being the selfish giant that he is, he angrily chase them out and builds a wall around the garden. He hangs a sign upon it which says, “Trespassers will be prosecuted.
Then two interesting things happen.
The first is that winter turns to spring, it remains winter in the giant’s garden. Outside of it, icicles and snow are melting, trees are budding, flowers are blooming and birds are singing. But inside the garden is another matter. The giant’s cold and loveless heart has created a perpetual winter there.
The second thing that happens is that one day some children sneak back into the garden through a breech in the wall and begin climbing the trees there. As they do so, it begins to turn to spring! The giant sees them playing and even his cold heart begins to thaw. He runs out of his house to welcome the children but when they see him (not knowing he has changed), they run away. The garden is vacant except for one little boy who is standing in a far corner trying (unsuccessfully) to reach the lowest branches of a tree. His repeated failures have brought tears to his eyes and blinded him to the presence of the giant.
The giant sees the child and goes over and lifts him up into the tree. The child responds by hugging the giant and giving him a kiss. Upon seeing this, the other children return to the garden and begin playing again. Now a reborn man, the giant knocks down the wall and the children come back every day to play–all except the small boy. The giant never sees him again.
Years passed and the giant grows old and feeble. Although he can no longer play outside with the children, he watches them through his window and this brings joy to his heart. Then one morning he looks out the window and there stands the little boy! He hurries out of his house but as he gets closer to the child, his joy turns to rage. The boy’s hands have been pierced through and so have his feet. The boy sees the giant’s anger and says, “Don’t be angry, for these are the wounds of love. You let me play in your garden once, today you shall come with Me to My garden, which is Paradise.” And with that the giant’s life comes to an end.
Wilde’s story helps us to see Jesus in all of His tender innocence. It reminds us of the wounds He has bore for us, the paradise He has for us and just how incredibly worthy He is of all glory, honor and praise. Our full hearts should be prompted to do some serious thinking about what we are doing in response to all that He has done for us. That is the kind of question grateful people ponder.
The obedience of the nations begins with us!