The Lion of Judah is Jesus. But it might surprise us that the lion is also a metaphor for the devil and the ungodly. It is a metaphor with which people living in the Middle East during Bible times were very familiar, for they lived among those wild beasts. With his bare hands, Samson killed a lion that roared at him in the way, giving rise to the riddle, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness” ( Judg. 14). The young shepherd David slew a thieving lion who had snatched a lamb from his flock, perhaps giving occasion for the proverb, “The righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). The Lord saved Daniel from a whole den of lions (Dan. 6:27). But the Lord also used lions to punish and correct. A disobedient prophet sent to rebuke idolatrous king Jeroboam was killed by a lion that then mysteriously guarded his carcass. And the Lord sent lions to plague the alien Samaritans who knew not the way of God (II Kings 17:26).
The lion comes by its title “the king of beasts” honestly, for the Lord created the lion with high honor among the animals. The lion is one of four creatures that hover continually around the throne of God on angelic wings praising God and saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8). Of those four creatures, the lion alone represents the wild animals of the field. Among the beasts, the lion is the preeminent symbol of strength, ferocity, tenacity, and courage, which is why statues of lions flanked Solomon’s ivory throne, and he wrote that the king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion (I Kings 10:19; Prov. 19:12). The lion’s heart is valiant (II Sam. 17:10). Strongest among beasts, he turns not away from any (Prov. 30:30). He does not lie down until he eat of the prey or drink the blood of the slain (Num. 23:24). And when he crouches or lies down, who shall rouse him up (Gen. 49:9)? This also explains Job’s distress when he thought that the Lord was hunting him as a fierce lion, and the comfort of the Lord’s response that, rather, He hunted prey for the lions to fill their ceaseless appetite (Job 10:16, 38:29).
What great peril are we in, therefore, when Scripture tells us our adversary the devil walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; and with what urgency we are exhorted to watch and be sober (I Pet. 5:8)! Only a fool would ignore the danger. The devil is the ultimate ambush predator. A man-eater. The most powerful, stealthy, persistent, and fearless of beasts, a master tactician, skilled in camouflage and deception, he has perfected the art of the kill. Exploiting any weakness, he preys upon the unsuspecting and presses every advantage. If you hear him roar, it’s already too late. And the only evidence of an attack is often just another missing person or a mangled bloody soul. For he kills to devour, to consume in the dark pit of hell in order to add to his own strength. And the wicked are the pride over which he rules, a collective killing machine that seeks to tear the soul of the godly, to rend it in pieces (Ps. 7:2). As a lion, they lie in wait secretly and crouch down low, waiting to catch the poor in their claws (Ps. 10:9-10). Greedy of prey, they stalk the righteous and lurk in secret places (Ps. 17:11-12).
The devil may be like a lion, but our Lord Jesus is the Lion. What a difference between usurper and reality! Not just king of beasts, lord of angels, or prince of this world, He is King of kings. Not an indiscriminate killer, who loves no one but seeks whomever he may devour, He is the King who rules in righteousness. The devil is not only under His control, but in His clutches, defeated wonderfully by Jesus’ death and resurrection. There at Calvary, the Lion of Judah was reduced to a worm, beset by that wicked one circling round with gaping jaw (Ps. 22:13). But He trod upon that lion and trampled him (Ps. 91:13; Gen. 3:15). Then, in the grave, He entered the den of the beast, overtook him, and rendered him impotent against His flock. His flock becomes the Lion’s whelp, who, rather than being prey, rises up and breaks the bones of its enemies (Gen. 49:9; Deut. 33:22). And soon, in the last day, this great Lion of Judah shall again roar, destroying the last vestige of our adversary (II Thess. 2:8; Rev. 13:2) and bringing peace to His kingdom. The only lions that will remain are of His own pride, or those whom He creates anew, who dwell together with the fatling and eat straw like the ox (Is. 11:6-7).