16. The Lion
The lion has wonderful strength. The muscles of his legs and neck are very large and almost as firm as iron. A lion can strike down an ox, and carry him away in his mouth. The lion is of the same family as our cat. He lives upon other creatures which he kills. His teeth and claws are formidable weapons, and while the cat's tongue is only rough, the lion's is armed with strong, sharp points. The lion's roar strikes all animals with terror. It will be well to read more about lions in the natural history, and to learn from the anecdotes something about their disposition.
Does it appear that lions are cowardly? On the contrary they are remarkable for courage. While they do not, as a rule, attack men, it is not from cowardice, as plainly appears when they are attacked or when the lioness must defend her young. They seem not to know what fear is. Do you think that lions are cruel? They do not deserve to be called so, for they kill only what they need to eat, and do it quickly. They do not kill for the sake of killing, as some creatures do; nor do they, like cats, torture their prey. There are many stories of lions' faithfulness to their masters, and their gratitude for kindness. We read of lions which have refused to kill small animals given them for food, but have treated them with kindness and made companions of them. The lion is above the mean, deceitful, cruel ways of many members of the cat tribe; there is a generosity and dignity about him which command our respect, and which no less than his strength and courage make him deserving of his title "the king of beasts."
We sometimes compare a man to a lion. "As strong as a lion," we say: or "as brave as a lion." What do we mean when we call one "lion-hearted "? And what is the noblest kind of strength and courage? That which meets physical danger? or that which can speak the truth and boldly fight with evil desires and overcome them? This spiritual strength and courage are called a lion in the Bible. Who has the most perfect strength and courage of all? The Lord. And we have this heavenly strength only as we trust in Him and use His Word as our defense. The power of the Lord's love fighting for us and in us, especially through His Word, is the lion in the best sense. (AE 278; AR 241; AC 6367)
Can any one remember a passage where the Lord is called a lion, or is compared to a lion? Here is one. "Like as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the LORD of hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof." (Isa. xxxi. 4) When the Lord is called a lamb, it is to tell us of His Divine innocence. What Divine quality is emphasized when He is compared to a lion? His Divine power and courage in resisting the evil enemies of men, that they may enjoy goodness and truth in peace. (AE 2 78, 6o I; AC 636 7; AR 241) To roar as a lion, when spoken of the Lord, means to speak and act with power in defending men from hell. It expresses also the intensity of the Lord's desire to defend them, and the intensity of His sorrow if they refuse His protection and fall a prey to evil. (AR 241, 471; AE 601, 850)
When we remember what the roaring means, there is a wonderful pathos in these verses of the Revelation. "And the rest of the men . . . repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts. And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire. . . . And he cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth." (Rev. ix. 20, 21, x. 1-3) It was the Lord who so appeared to John, and the roaring expresses His intense sorrow that men refused His protection from evil. (AR 464-471; AE 601) "The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord GOD hath spoken, who can but prophesy?" (Amos iii. 8) The Lord's great love for men should awaken their reverent love for Him, and His words should give them a perception of what is true and right. (AE 601, 624)
Once more in the Revelation: "No man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon. . . . And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book." (Rev. v. 3, 5) As we read on we see that the Lion of the tribe of Judah is the same with the Lamb, which we know is the Lord. The opening of the book means the bringing out of the true meaning and the Divine power in the Word, that the real state of all might be revealed by it, that evil might be resisted, and that all things might be reduced to order. The Lord only can do this. He did it at the time of the last judgment, which the Revelation especially describes, and He does it as often as we use the Word to subdue evil in our own hearts. The Lord fights for us from His Word with Divine courage and power. This is meant by His being called the Lion opening the book. (AR 256-267; AE 305-311) We shall learn by and by that the twelve tribes represent all different kinds of heavenly people, or the different elements of a heavenly character. Judah represents innocent love. (Chapter 39) Therefore when the Lord is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, it means that His power in defending us comes from His great love.
This helps us to understand the blessing of Judah spoken by Jacob: "Judah is a lion's whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he crouched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? " (Gen. xlix. 9; Numb. xxiv. 9) It tells of the power of love, especially of the power against evil which belongs to a heart which innocently loves the Lord. Heaven and the Lord are with such a heart, and give it the strength of a lion. (AC 6367-6370; AE 278) Remember also David's lament for Saul and Jonathan "They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions." (2 Sam. i. 23) Saul, the first king of Israel, and Jonathan his son, represent the first principles of Divine truth which rule in a young man's life, and fight against the evil dispositions which are his deadly enemies. These truths give strength and courage because they are from the Lord, and the Lord is in them. This is meant by the words, Saul and Jonathan were stronger than lions. (AE 278, 281)
Read of the throne of ivory and gold built by king Solomon. "The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round behind: and there were stays on either side on the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the stays. And twelve lions stood there on the one side and on the other upon the six steps." (I Kings x. 19, 20) The throne was so built as to represent truly the king's rule and the rule of every one who is with the Lord's help king over his own heart. It also represents the Lord's own rule, who is the King of kings. And what element of rule do the lions represent? The power of the Lord, and received from the Lord, to conquer and overcome evil. (AC 5313, 6367; AE 253, 430) Does this thought about the throne of Solomon help us to understand what is said in the Revelation about the throne seen in heaven? "Behold a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. . . . And in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts. . . . And the first beast was like a lion." (Rev. iv. 1-7; Ezek. i. 10) What element in the Lord's rule and in heavenly character must this lion represent? The power of the Lord, and the power which those angels who love Him most truly have from Him. (AR 241; AE 278; AC 6367)
But you have found other passages where lions are spoken of as evil beasts; there they plainly represent not the power and courage of those who love the Lord, but the strength and desperate boldness which spring from intense self-love. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet." (Ps. xci. 13) It is a promise of complete control over the fierce power of self-love and its misleading reasonings, so that we shall not be hurt by them. (AE 632, 714; PP) And another promise of deliverance: "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there. (Isa. xxxv. 9; AC 6367; AE 328, 388) "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. . . . They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." (Isa. xi. 6-9; lxv. 25) It is a beautiful promise of the safety from all harm with which the Lord surrounds a life of innocence on earth and in heaven. We recognize the lamb, the kid, and the calf as symbols of innocent affections more interior and more external; the wolf, the leopard, and the lion represent evil desires opposed to these heavenly affections. No lion of selfish passion shall destroy the enjoyment in kindly works of usefulness. (AE 314, 781; AC 430, 10132)
What Chapter do we learn from the story of Daniel in the lions' den? Daniel for his faithfulness to the Lord was cast by king Darius into the den of lions. "Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me." (Dan. vi) The lions here are an expression of the fierce rage of the men of Babylon against Daniel, or rather, against faithful service of the Lord which re fused to bow down to them. Many times in the history of the church, and many times in our own hearts, the spirit of Babylon, which is self-love, has raged with the fury of a lion against the spirit of faithful service of the Lord; but the Lord will always shut the lions' mouths that they shall not harm those that keep themselves innocent and trust in Him. (PP; AC 10412)
Recall also the story of Samson, and how when he once went down to Timnath "a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid. . . . And after a time he returned and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and behold there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion." (Judges xiv. 5-9) We see at once that the lion represents some fierce evil of self-love, which still we may completely overcome in strength given us from the Lord. And the honey in the carcase suggests heavenly sweetness enjoyed when an evil thing has been subdued. Here the lion in the borders of the Philistine country represents especially the prevailing evil of the Philistines, the fatal persuasion of which self-love is so fond, that it is enough to know truth, without any effort to lead a good life. (Chapter 39) When this persuasion is overcome by the Lord's help, the sweet uses of charity are enjoyed. (AE 619) Read also how David slew a lion and a bear which attacked his father's flock. (1 Sam. xvii. 3437; AE 781; AR 573)
"The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." (Ps. xxxiv. 10) The natural lions may go hungry, and so will self-confident courage which relies on its own strength; but love for the Lord and the strength it brings shall never fail. (AC 6367; AE 386) "Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labor until the evening." (Ps. civ. 20-23) As we read these words we think first of the fierce and evil affections which creep forth in times of spiritual darkness. But the young lions have a better meaning. The roaring of the lions represents the intense desire of angels and of all good hearts, when in their darker, less active states, for a return of the fuller life and strength from the Lord, when the truly human faculties will be called into joyful exercise. (AC 9335, 6367; AE 278)