THE LION TRIBES
Henry Law, 1858
"Of Gad he said, Blessed be he, that enlarges Gad—he dwells, as a lion." "And of Dan he said, Dan is a lion's whelp." Deut. 33:20, 22.
Moses said this about the tribe of Gad: "Blessed is the one who enlarges Gad's territory! Gad is poised there like a lion to tear off an arm or a head.
Moses said this about the tribe of Dan: "Dan is a lion's cub, leaping out from Bashan." Deut. 33:20, 22
Our God omits no mode to impress holy lessons on His children's hearts. At one time simple precepts manifest His will—and plain injunctions guide to duty's path. Now, nature's volume lends similitudes. We learn to avoid evil—to seek ornaments of grace—from objects open to our sense.
There is much wisdom in this figurative teaching. It speaks a language known in every climate. It introduces thoughts alike familiar in the scholar's hall, and in the poor man's cottage. It strikes a note, which every class, and state, and grade have ears to hear.
Examples throng the Bible-page. Thus lambs, which innocently sport, are chosen, as fit emblems of meek humility and gentle patience. The serpent's subtlety supplies the pattern of intelligence—"Be wise, as serpents." The dove adjoins the model of sweet inoffensiveness—"And harmless, as doves." The eagle's lofty flight teaches, how faith should soar on high—"Those who wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength—they shall mount up with wings, as eagles." Is. 40:31. To inculcate courage, and a noble front, the Lion shows its form. And that the lesson should take deeper root, two Tribes illustrate it. Gad "dwells, as a Lion." "Dan is a Lion's cub."
Believer, this picture has a voice—at all times needed—and not least so in our compromising day. Hear it. And may the mighty Spirit help you, while you listen, to put on strength, as a belt, and courage, as a heroic panoply! The Lion is the forest's KING. He moves pre-eminent above all beasts. He is as monarch among lower tribes. Superiority is his conceded right.
Such is the Christian's stand among earth's sons. It is a mighty word—"He has made us kings and priests unto God and His Father." Rev. 1:6. It is a glorious title—"You are a chosen generation—a royal priesthood." 1 Pet. 2:9.
The mass of human race reach not this rank. They raise not this elevated brow. They show not this princely demeanor. Their tastes are groveling and vile. They only care to sip the vulgar cup of time and sense. Their sin-soiled garments and polluted feet prove, that they wallow in defiling mire. Even liberty is unknown. The clash of heavy chains attests their bondage. Satan drags them—and they must obey. The world gives laws—they tremblingly submit. They crouch the slaves of many an insulting tyrant.
Believer, you only are the freedman of the Lord. You have found liberty in Christ. "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36. You serve a Prince, who calls His subjects to be kings. You are a royal citizen of heaven. Then live as heir of glory. Walk Lion-like in holy majesty of grace.
We thus are led to mark the glory of this kingly animal. It is his strength and courage.
1. Strength. His sinews are as iron. His limbs are braced with might. All, who resist him, fall an easy prey. To him to fight is victory. Assailed, he vanquishes. Assailing, he subdues. Throughout the plain—the forest—and the hill, there is no power, which can match with his.
Here, again, is the believer's image. He is endued with inward prowess. But this is not poor nature's gift. All enter life alike—feeble in heart, in spirit, in resolve. All are the victims of an enervating sickness—sin. This plague weakens, as a palsy. It undermines the total fabric. The inner man, under its touch, is worthless, as a tottering reed—a broken bow—a quivering leaf—the empty chaff—the bubble's froth.
What has sin done? Ruin follows in its rear. Through it, the vessel, once so noble, crumbles as a wreck—the tree, once so stately, lies low—the fortress, once so strong, is robbed of gates—spoilers may enter—none drives them back.
Believer, I appeal to you. You alone are able to reply. Are these dark colors darker than the truth? Look back. Let unregenerate days tell their sad tale. What was your unconverted state? Had you ability to vanquish evil? Did you present indomitable front against the enemy's attacks? Did you stand firm, as adamantine rock, against the lashing surges of iniquity? Conscious memory and downcast shame confess, no strength was in you.
This is the common case throughout our race, until help comes from heaven. How easy is the proof! How sad! Take any worldling. A temptation meets him. A gilded bait allures. A sweet indulgence opens its inviting arms. What follows? The silly moth is caught. Pleasure whispers, 'Come and partake'. Desire acquiesces. Nature surrenders. No godly principle forbids. Conscience is mute. Thus yielding frailty proves, how frail is man. Thus Satan leads his crowds down misery's downward slope. Quickly—easily—they glide along. The rolling pebble has no power to stop. The sinking vessel has no buoyancy to rise. The downhill torrent is incapable of turning.
Here is the one reply to the inquiry—'Why is this world such a wide sea of evil? Why do earth's multitudes roll so easily to hell?' Satan assails and wins. The weak heart weakly yields. The mind—the passions—lack firmness to resist. Thus the strong foe takes strengthless man a captive at his will.
Believer, I look again to you. Is such your present case? I mark the grateful adoration of your soul. I hear your praises swelling to the skies. I see your eye sparkling with thanksgiving love. You testify, "Once I was feeble, as feebleness can be. Weakness is a weak description of my nothingness of power. But now I am made strong, and all my strength is in my Savior's arms, and by my Savior's side, and through my Savior's help, and from my Savior's Spirit. He now works with me—in me—for me. And so I work and prosper. He is my battle-axe—my bow—my spear—my sword. He nerves my muscles. He fortifies my breast. He frames my armor, and He girds me with it. He bids me to go forward, and He Himself precedes. Thus my poor worm-like heart becomes in Christ a Lion. If I sink not—if I prevail—if I subdue—the power is His—the grace is His—to Him I give the praise, and on His brow I place my victory's crown."
But you deny not, that the fight continues to be very fierce. Temptations have not ceased to tempt. The world remains the world. Flesh still is flesh. Traitors still dwell within. Satan still hates. His wrath increases. With craftier stratagem he marks his opportunities, and lays his snares. There is no day, when allurement spreads not some net. Woe would be yours, if Jesus were not ever near. But He is near, ministering real strength. Thus you hold on. Thus you hold out.
It is a miracle of grace, when thus the little flock gains trophies, "strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might." It is divine empowerment, when thus experience shouts, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." Aid from heaven is supplied, and then the old serpent flees. Victory comes, because the Lion of the tribe of Judah helps. Wonder of wonders! In Jesus' might, the weakest heart—the feeblest will—with Lion's strength, beats back all hell.
Believer, ever remember, then, where your true power lies. Take not one step, approach no work, except armored in a Savior's grace. Appalling instances record, how saints have stumbled, when they have ventured forth alone. Abraham flinched. Noah sinned foully. Jacob stooped to fraud. David tumbled into filthiest mire. Peter acted a coward's part.
Seek not excuse for such vile falls in nature's frailty, or in evil's power. Nature is frail. Evil is mighty. But here is the fault—Faith did not grasp the ready sword. Prayer did not ask the ready aid. Learn from these instances to meet Goliath in the name of God. And then fear not. You will stand Lion-like in strength.
Does any poor sinner, pierced by many a wound—bemired by many a fall—tottering at each step beside a precipice's edge—read these lines? Sir, turn not from the encouragement of this Gospel-truth. You yet may obtain strength to trample down your perils and your foes. You live. Your many wounds have not brought death. In these present words another warning meets you. Is not this the Savior's call? Come, then, and join yourself to Him, and all His might is yours—and you will triumph with those, who, through His blood, have overcome. Cease to grovel a crushed worm. Become a Christian Lion.
2. Courage. Lions to their strength add courage. They never know timidity. Valiantly they face all danger. Fearlessly they rush to the attack. No multitude of beasts or men alarm them. As power is in their limbs, so bravery fills their hearts.
This quality again portrays the child of God. When heavenly commands are clear, unflinchingly he obeys. He confers not with flesh and blood. Despite all threats, he steadfastly advances. His only fear is, lest he should fear. He only trembles, lest he should tremble.
See the three captive youths. The tyrant menaced. They stood alone against an empire. What! shall they yield? No, rather, welcome the furnace—the agony—the flame. They failed not God. God failed not them. He made them bold as Lions. And their fame lives among faith's heroes.
See Daniel. Command is urgent. Shall his knees leave their beloved employ! Shall he address a worm, though king, in prayer! The thought is keener torture, than the Lion's teeth. With open window bravely he worships. His courage conquers. The lions' mouths are closed. The tyrant's heart is turned.
See, too, the Baptist. He fears not Herod's might. Fearlessly he drags to light the darling sin. He chooses truth and prison, and death; rather than unfaithfulness and ease. Where he sees error, there his mouth is open to reprove.
Believer, let it be so with you. What though falsehood's guise be specious—and high authority endorse it—and brilliant gifts commend it—and pliant worldlings fondle it—and gilded honors follow in its rear—if the cup holds one poison drop—if statements swerve one hair-breadth from Gospel-truth, then, with Lion valor let your voice scare the traitor. Thus Paul resisted Peter to the face.
So, too, courageously confess Christ. This often needs a martyr's spirit. When friends desert—and the world sneers—and blight descends on prospects—and Gospel-truth seems linked with trouble—it needs a Lion's heart to testify, 'None but Jesus—none but Jesus!' But thus the Apostles, menaced with near death, preached Christ more fully and more clearly. Their hearts were faith. Their faith was courage. Their courage was success.
A noble army of confessing saints beckon us onward in this path. Ignatius moved with a Lion's heart to meet his grave in lions' jaws. May his bold words be cherished, while the world endures! "Now do I begin to be a disciple of my Master Christ." Luther stands with Lion's courage re-echoing Paul's resolve. "None of these things move me." In this grand spirit he exclaimed, "Though there were devils many as the tiles on the roofs of Worms, I shall go forward."
Come, then, believer, be you, too, as a Lion for your Lord. Boldly devise great plans. Heroically act them out. Let neither earth nor hell intimidate. Your cause is good. Your call is from God's throne. Your help is sure. What promises encourage! What triumphs are at hand! Only be very courageous. Be not a coward in the camp of Christ—for Judah's Lion expects Lion-followers.
Gad dwells as a Lion. Dan is a Lion's cub. Will you be less?