The Tribe of JUDAH
Henry Law, 1858
"This is the blessing of Judah—and he said, Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah; and bring him unto his people—let his hands be sufficient for him—and be a help to him from his enemies." Deut. 33:7.
Judah is the royal tribe. To it the throne, the scepter, and the authority belong. It is the cradle of the nation's kings. This is great honor. But its main glory is its connection with the God-man Jesus. He is "the Lion of the tribe of Judah." A maid of Judah bears the wondrous babe. In Judah's house, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, puts on our flesh. Hence expectation eagerly surveys the blessing cast into its lap. Surely signal favors will deck the tribe so signally exalted. Surely the mercies in his crown will have transcendent luster.
Let us now turn to listen. These sounds go forth—"Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah." One fact is instantly made clear. Judah is loud in prayer. That must be uttered, which is to be heard. Mute lips gain no reply. The silent tongue arrests no notice. Judah's voice then encompasses the mercy-seat. In spirit and in cry he often visits heaven. The opening words stamp him, as a praying tribe.
Prayer is the heart-home of each child of God. This is the first sign of new birth. This draws his morning-curtain. This wakens with his earliest thought. This is the atmosphere, which his soul breathes. This is the staff, on which he leans. Thus every act begins—proceeds—and ends. This bolts the evening door. This is the pillow, on which the head reclines. Trials—temptations—troubles—and life's countless ills, here find their refuge. When sins prevail, here is relief. When dangers threaten, here is sweet shelter. When mercies beam, they beckon to this sunny hill. Each place, and company, and time, promote this gainful traffic. The child of grace lives, as Judah, crying unto God "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah."
But what is prayer? The question is not vain. Many are prayerless, who seem prayerful. All glittering tinsel is not gold. It is not a vain attitude—nor repetition of unfelt words. It is not copious phrase. It is not the uplifted eye—the outstretched hand—the bended knee—the prostrate form—the smitten breast—the heaving sigh—the falling tear. All these may be, and yet no prayer.
It is reality, not external show. It is the soul in earnest wrestling with God. It is the inner man's intensest agony. It is a mighty grasp clinging to Jehovah's strength. It is a struggling effort. It is the heroic cry, "I will not let You go." It is divine in origin—in confidence—in plea. The Spirit from on high kindles, and fans, and cherishes the flame. The covenant of grace is its strong rock. Standing on such vantage ground, it boldly shouts the name of Jesus and never shouts in vain.
But is not such prayer rare? O my soul, what is the answer of your secret hours? If you hang down a conscious head—pause, and take shame, that you are not more Judah-like.
Think of the motives calling to this exercise. A mercy-seat stands ready. An open path invites. The door is never shut. The golden scepter courts your touch. Calvary gives you an unfailing plea. Commands impel you. It is sin to hesitate. Promises, too vast to measure or to count, come forth in crowds to fill your hands. All blessings wait to be received. In this art, misery learns to smile—peace flows into the conscience—weakness becomes strong—faith matures—and every power to do and bear expands into a vigorous tree. Whatever be your age—state—frame—need—circumstance, be wise, and pray. Pray more. Cease not. Faint not. Judah's Son—the glorious Jesus—is your example, model, lesson. On earth, His life was prayer. In heaven, His intercession ceases not.
Mark, too, what rich encouragement pervades the first note of this blessing. "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah." Fear not. No prayer was ever lost. It is the Spirit's voice within. God will not turn away. It sounds a name, which must be heard—all heaven will listen with delight. It is the child's entreaty—the Father's heart will melt. Grace is no grace—truth fails—and mercy hardens into flint, if this cry prospers not. If all the annals of all saints were spread, as an open page, their testimony would be this, true prayer will speed.
But this text belongs primarily to Judah's story, in which we read prayer's mightiest exploits. Mark David. We have a volume of his prayers. And with expiring breath he witnesses, "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God—and He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry entered into His ears." 2 Sam. 22:7. Call Solomon; he begs, "Give me now wisdom and knowledge." 2 Chron. 1:10. Was he not heard? "Wisdom and knowledge are granted unto you." Go to Abijah's day. "When Judah looked, behold the battle was before and behind—and they cried unto the Lord." Instantly "the men of Judah gave a shout, and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel, before Abijah and Judah." 2 Chron. 13:14, 15.
Proceed to Asa. The Ethiopians—a thousand thousand—threaten to destroy. The king sends forth this arrow—"Lord, it is nothing with You to help, whether with many, or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God, let not man prevail against You. And then the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah—and the Ethiopians fled." 2 Chron.14:11, 12. Jehoshaphat used well this weapon, and thus repelled the myriads of Ammon. Hezekiah thus wrestled against the Assyrians. An angel was sent forth to help—and the vast host became a pile of slain. He thus contended against malady—and sickness bloomed to health. 2 Chron. 32:21, 24.
Jesus, this tribe's high pride, when on earth, gives the like witness—"I know that You hear Me always." John 11:42.
Believer, lift up your eyes. Pierce heaven with faith's keen gaze. You see your Jesus by the throne. What is His employ? He prays for you—for all His needy flock. And is He heard? Yes—every petition is success. He asks and gains all that His blood purchased—all that the covenant secures. Here is the spring of your soul's being, health, and prosperity. You thrive—you prosper—you prevail, because your mighty Advocate mightily pleads. Your inward life is proof, that His intercessions triumph. "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah." Judah's voice is ever heard.
The blessing thus continues—"And bring him unto his people." The tribes were often called to war. The quiet hearth must then be left. Their feet must tread the tedious march. But in these cheering words they catch the hope of safe return. Here seems a promise, that their corpses shall not strew a distant land—but that a peaceful home again shall welcome the victorious troops. This primary message floats upon the surface.
Believer, there is, moreover, something here for your support. You have a home. It is not this polluted scene. It is far off—in peace—in light—in purity—in heaven. And you shall safely reach it. The way may be both rough and tedious. But advance. The end is sure. Waves and storms may threaten to engulf the bark; but you shall enter the haven. The hill may be a wearisome ascent; but you shall gain the summit. Pluck this assurance from the word, "Bring him unto his people." The Lord's hand led you out from the world. The Lord's power will bring you to the company of the saved.
It is not altogether a strained thought, which applies these words to Jesus. He has a people, and greatly do they need His coming. This blessing seems a pledge of His arrival. The good Shepherd's flock is widely scattered. They wander far on hills, and valleys, in every land, and every climate. Some pant beneath a tropic sun. Some shiver in perpetual snows. A watchful eye sees all. And in fit time each is approached. Jesus Himself draws near. He wins the heart. He enters in. He takes the throne. He shows His smile. He melts the rock. He turns the enmity to love. He sits a conqueror in a once rebel camp. All given by the Father come to Him, because He comes to them. They follow, because He calls. They run, because He draws. He opens out His arms—and then they flee quickly to the shelter. Thus faith finds an accomplishment of the words, "Bring him unto his people."
It follows—"Let his hands be sufficient for him." Judah was called to work and war. But there is comfort in each struggle. His hands shall not hang down. His vigor shall not droop. His energies shall still suffice. Is the task heavy? His strength shall bear unto the end. Is the fight long and fierce? He shall hold out.
Believer, to you each day brings burdens. Act faith, then, on this heaven-sent support—"Let his hands be sufficient for him." So long as work remains to be performed—so long as conflicts last, your streams of power will not be drained. Their fountain cannot fail. David's triumph will be yours. "He teaches my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by my arms. I have pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and turned not again, until I had consumed them." 2 Sam. 22:35, 38.
Here, too, again behold your Lord. Were not His hands sufficient for Him? Hell arose with all its hosts—kings of the earth, and godless men conspired. But He strode over them to victory.
And still His arm is strong as Deity in your defense. It is most true, that you require unlimited aid. But you have it all in Him—your ever-present sustainer. If for one moment His hands fail, you sink. But rejoice—give thanks. His hands are braced with all sufficiency.
The blessing thus concludes—"Be a help to him from his enemies." All the true sons of Judah are thus made more than conquerors. What are they in themselves? There is no image weak enough to show their weakness. Their strength is feebler than the tottering reed—the wind-driven dust—the storm-tossed chaff. But all their enemies—countless in number—principalities in might—cannot destroy. And why? Only because the Lord of Hosts is with them—the God of Jacob is their refuge. Jehovah-Jesus is their shield and sword.
Reader, such is Judah's blessing. Let not the picture be a blank to you. See what rich clusters hang from this tree's boughs. See what wealth sparkles in this mine. Do you not long to share these mercies—to repose beneath this shade—to feed in these sweet pastures—to drink of this deep stream? Read it again. "Hear, Lord, the voice of Judah; and bring him unto his people; let his hands be sufficient for him; and be a help to him from his enemies." Mark the praying tribe addressing a prayer-hearing God. Mark the safe convoy to their home. Mark their sufficiency for every need. Examine well this chain of good. Can you desire, can you conceive, a happier lot? And may it not be yours? Did ever any ask, and not receive? When sinners knock in penitence and faith, the portals ever open. A blessing God—a blessing Savior—a blessing Spirit are at hand. Let not indifference turn scornfully away. Take Judah's God, as yours—and Judah's heritage will surely be bestowed.