When Jacob was approaching his passing, he gathered his sons around him to provide them with prophecy for each one. And when he came to Judah, we see a glimpse of the coming Messiah. Starting with King David, we see a royal line which ends with Jesus…
1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob;
listen to your father Israel.
8 “Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
9 You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
10 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 49:1-2, 8-10
David was the first King of Israel from the tribe of Judah, after King Saul’s death, and David’s ascension to the throne started the reign of Judah, which would not end: “the scepter will not depart from Judah.” From David through to Zedekiah, Judah was on the throne until the Babylonians overthrew them in 586 BC, which marked a period of several successive subjections to other nations, including Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire.
And then Jesus was born. From the tribe of Judah.
Jesus is the one to whom the scepter belongs (verse 10). The obedience of the nations shall be his, according to Jacob’s prophecy. We have not seen that yet. We have seen only the rejection of Jesus as darkness has pushed him back and the people of the world have not been willing to come into the light (John 3).
Jesus is on the throne of his Church, yet the nations are scattered. We will see Jesus reign at his second coming, at which time every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jacob’s prophecy lines up with the rest of God’s Word in pointing us to Jesus. His coming and his throne emerged in a humble form. His influence incredible, yet punctuated by death at the hands of his own people; His resurrection powerful, and giving hope for our own rising to be part of his reign in eternity.