The Lion, the Lamb, and the Koala BearStudy No. 171
The Ferocious Lion
The savage lion is called "the King of Beasts," while the lamb is the symbol of gentleness and meekness. However, there is much more to study about the characteristics of these two animals. During Old Testament times, the lion was such a familiar part of daily life, that there were several Hebrew words, which describe different aspects of this great animal.
The first word for lion, aree or aryeh, Strongís #738, describes the ferocity of the lion. Judah, the kingly son of Jacob, was prophesied to be like a lionís whelp, crouching to attack his prey, Genesis 49:9. Dan, another Israelite tribe, was also compared to a lionís whelp, leaping from Bashan, Deuteronomy 33:22, as well as all Israel, Numbers 23:24, 24:9. Samson tore a young lion in two, Judges 14:5, and a swarm of bees made honey in its carcase, verses 8-9, 18. David defended his flock of sheep against a lion and a bear, killing them both, I Samuel 17:34-37. David eulogized the dead Saul and Jonathan as being "stronger than lions," II Samuel 1:23. The lionís heart is valiant and fearless, 17:10. One of Davidís valiant men, Benaiah, slew two lion-like men, as well as a lion in a pit during a time of snow, 23:20. The word, Ariel, means "lion of God," Isaiah 29:1-2, 7. Brass basins that Hiram made for the Temple had lions, oxen, and cheribums, I Kings 7:29, 36. There were two lion sculptures next to Solomonís throne, and twelve lions on either side of the six steps leading up to his throne, probably made of gold, 10:19-20.
A man of God foolishly listened to the lying words of an old prophet, and disobeyed the Eternalís explicit instructions. As a result, a lion slew him by the way, and guarded his carcase, until the old prophet could come and bury him, I Kings 13:24-30. Because the Samaritans did not fear the Eternal, He sent lions among them, which slew some of them, II Kings 17:25-26. Fierce Gadites who fought with David had faces like the faces of lions, I Chronicles 12:8. The breath of God destroys the fierce roaring lion, Job 4:9-11. David put his trust in God to save him from his persecuting foes, lest they tear his soul in pieces like a lion, Psalm 7:1-2. The wicked lie in wait "secretly as a lion in his den" to catch the poor, 10:4, 9, 17:12. David prophesied of the Messiahís suffering at the hands of evil men like lions, Psalm 22:13-21.
A lazy person fears a lion when there is none, in order to have an excuse not to work, Proverbs 22:13, 26:13. "As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people," Proverbs 28:15. Life is short. That is why a living dog is better than a dead lion, Ecclesiastes 9:4. In the millennial kingdom, the lion shall eat straw like an ox, Isaiah 11:7, 65:25. You might as well forget about going down to Egypt for help; when the Eternal comes down to fight for Zion, He will be like the lion and the young lion roaring after His prey, Isaiah 31:4. The peaceable and safe highway of the redeemed will have no roaring lion there, Isaiah 35:9. Those who have known the way of the Lord, and reject it, face Godís judgment, compared to a lion out of the forest that will slay them, Jeremiah 5:5-6. See also Hosea 11:10, Nahum 2:8-13. The enemies of Israel are compared to lions that have driven them away from their land and broken their bones, Jeremiah 50:17. The cheribum seen by Ezekiel had the face of a lion, Ezekiel 1:10, 10:14. False prophets conspire and are like a roaring lion they devour helpless souls, Ezekiel 22:25. Lions do not roar when they have taken no prey; Godís prophets roar His prophetic warnings, which shall surely come to pass, Amos 3:4-8. The princes of Jerusalem are like roaring lions, who gnaw the bones right to the marrow, Zephaniah 3:1-3.
Another Hebrew word, lavee, Strongís #3833, usually refers to a great, large, old, lion, Genesis 49:9, last part, and Numbers 24:9, Job 4:11, Joel 1:6., Nahum 2:11. God will devour His people in judgment like a lion devouring its prey, Hosea 13:6-8.
The Hebrew word shachal, Strongís #7826, refers to the roaring of the fierce lion, one of the most frightening sounds in nature, Job 4:10, 10:16, 28:8. With the Almightyís divine protection, we can walk upon a lion and not be harmed, Psalm 91:13-14. If we do not repent from our sins, God will be like a lion and destroy us, Hosea 5:14, 13:7.
In the New Testament, the word for lion in the Greek is #3023, leon. Paul compared his deliverance from his persecutors to being delivered out of the mouth of the lion, II Timothy 4:17. Men of faith "stopped the mouths of lions," Hebrews 11:33. In I Peter 5:8, the Devil is compared to a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour. About the throne in Heaven are four living creatures, the first looking like a lion, Revelation 4:7. Although our Savior is the Lamb of God, He is also known as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah," Revelation 5:5-6. The armies of the Fifth Trumpet (First Woe) have teeth like lions, and their horseís heads are like lions, Revelation 9:8, 17. See also Revelation 10:3, 13:2 and Joel 1:6.
To sum up, the Bible is replete with references to the lion. A symbol of strength, of judgment, a terror to the evil, and an awesome foe, the lion is a symbol that you cannot forget.
The Gentle Lamb
In stark contrast to the ferocious lion, the lamb is used symbolically throughout the Bible to represent the characteristics of submissiveness, gentleness, and the spirit of willing sacrifice. It is not a coincidence that the Creator chose a yearling lamb to be the Passover sacrifice, rather than an intimidating lion. Anyone who has bottle-fed and held a little lamb knows how sweet and precious a wooly lamb is.
We are first introduced to the lamb, or sheep, in the Garden of Eden, when God made coats of skins to clothe the nakedness of Adam and Eve after they had sinned, Genesis 3:21. To make these skins, an animal had to be sacrificed, pointing to the future "big sacrifice" of the Messiah, Isaiah 53:7. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin, Hebrews 9:22. Abel was a sheepherder, and God respected his willing attitude in giving an animal sacrifice, but rejected Cainís grain offering with a sinful countenance, Genesis 4:1-7. The Hebrew words for lamb are #7716, sey, and #3532, kebes, and can either refer to a sheep or a goat, Exodus 12:5. When one quickly slits a lambís throat with a sharp knife, it soon bleeds to death. It dies so readily, like the sacrifice of the Messiah. All the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed forward to the Messiah. Sacrifices in the spirit of rebellion against God, are an abomination to Him, Isaiah 1:11. The same goes for the Sabbaths, verses 13-14.
Godís people are compared to sheep, which easily go astray, Isaiah 53:6, Psalm 119:176, I Peter 2:25. Sheep, in contrast to lions, are vulnerable, easy prey to a wolf or a lion. That is why sheep need a shepherd, Matthew 9:36, Mark 6:34, Numbers 27:15-17, I Kings 22:17. Lack of a proper shepherd causes a troubled flock, Zechariah 10:2-3. False shepherds (false prophets) scatter Godís sheep, and He will judge these wicked men severely, Ezekiel 34. Israel today, as in the past, is often a scattered sheep, driven away by the "lions," those the Eternal uses to chastise His people to help them repent, Jeremiah 50:17. When human nature is conquered in the Kingdom, so will the heart of the savage beast be tamed, and the lamb shall dwell safely with a wolf, Isaiah 11:8. Although Israel today is like backsliding heifer, the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large peaceable place, Hosea 4:16.
There are two Greek NT words for lamb, #286, amnos, and #721 arnion. Even though in one sense He is the Lion of Judah, the Messiah is also the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world, John 1:29, 36. He did not protest His unjust crucifixion, Acts 8:32. His precious blood redeems us from death, I Peter 1:18-19. The purpose of the ministry is the feed the lambs, the "little ones," who are Godís people, John 21:15. Some twenty-nine times in the book of Revelation our Savior is called the Lamb, or arnion, 5:6, 8, 12, 13, 6:1, 16, 7:9, 10, 14, 17, 12:11, 13:8, 11, 14:1, 4, 10, 15:3, 17:14, 19:7, 9, 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27, 22:1, 3. This massive use of this term must be very significant. When the Messiah judges the world, pours out plagues, and rules over all, He is still referred to constantly as a Lamb. Thus, a major message of Revelation is that we too must be lambs of God.
Now, that is somewhat of a problem here in Wyoming. We have more sheep than people, and sheep are stereotyped as dumb and subject to abuse. God recognized the perversity of man to sexually abuse sheep when He forbade bestiality, Leviticus 18:23. It is said that the disease of syphilis came to Europe from returning Middle Age crusaders who had illicit relations with sheep during their long stay away from home.
Wouldnít you rather be a noble lion, than a stupid sheep that is always being abused, taken advantage of, misled by wicked sheepherders? Sheep have torn up the landscape in Wyoming, because their teeth are not built like cattle. Sheep tend to pull grass out by the roots, while cattle tend to bite the grass off and leave the roots intact. Sheep have lots of physical problems and diseases and often suffer from parasites such as flukes. Sheep do not think for themselves, but blindly follow another. A sheep is a problem animal, yet the Bible says we are to become sheep? Why?
I am sure that some of the unsavory characteristics of lambs and sheep are not Godís design for us to follow. We should not blindly follow a false shepherd, or a hireling, John 10:1-15. I believe that God made sheep dumb to teach us the lesson not to be dumb like a sheep, but to be submissive to Him, kind and gentle to all men, and willingly sacrifice ourselves in service to others. I know that all too often, I act like a fierce lion when I should be a gentle lamb. I see today in all too many Sabbatarian Churches the tendency to blindly follow a man.
However, one of the most well-known passages of the Bible instructs us otherwise. The famous "Shepherdís Psalm," Psalm 23, tells us the kind of sheep we should be: the LORD is to be our shepherd, not a man. He is the One that feeds us His Truth and gives us the water of His Spirit.
Our Good Shepherd is the one who restores us when we have sinned and acted like a dumb sheep. He takes away our fear of hard times, persecution, and corruption going on around us. In spite of all afflictions, He blesses us in the very presence of our enemies. Certainly we have nothing to fear because He will take care of us all the days of our lives, and resurrect us at the end of days, when we will be in His house forever. This is the kind of sheep we should be.
No, we sheep of God should not put ourselves in the position to constantly be abused. There are many wolves, even in the Church of God, who devour the sheep of His pasture, Acts 20:28-31. The whole history of the Church, both Old Testament and New Testament, is to demonstrate the lesson that the LORD is our shepherd. His sheep hear His voice, and do not follow the voice of a strange hireling.
The Restful Koala Bear
Lastly, on our review of animals and spiritual lessons to be derived from them, we come to Australiaís famous koala bear (actually not a bear, but a marsupial). Although not mentioned in the Bible, the koala was probably known by King Solomon, who sent ships around the world. Most koalas are in Australia, because their required diet of a certain kind of eucalyptus leaves is not available elsewhere. One of the great thrills of our 1996 trip to Sydney, Australia, was to visit a nature preserve and actually hold and pet koalas and kangaroos. Shirley and I lined up with Japanese tourists to have our pictures taken with this lovely animal. There is nothing to compare with this cute, sleepy, cuddly animal. Its fur is so soft and they are such darling little "bears." Koalas sleep about 18 hours a day, slowly rising only to eat eucalyptus leaves. We saw them high in trees, as well as hanging from lower limbs. Apparently, the eucalyptus leaves have an affect on them like catnip does cats: it drugs them into a stupor. That is why koalas move about slowly. After eating some leaves, they go back to take another nap.
To me, the koala bear represents the rest and peace of the Sabbath. The koala does not have a care in the world. Fears, worry, anxiety, strife, and contention are part and parcel of this present evil world. The cute little koala, however, points us forward in time to the fulfillment of the millennial Sabbath rest of God. May God speed that day!
In todayís hurried, hectic, world, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the rest that the Almighty wants us to experience. Compared to other locations, our little town of Gillette, Wyoming, in the middle of nowhere may seem very peaceful. We consider five cars backed up at one of the few stoplights to be a traffic jam! Compared to the "go slow" chaotic traffic of teeming Lagos, Nigeria, or New York City, we do not have any problems at all. However, human nature still produces its restless toll, even here on the western prairie. A friend who at one time worked in our accounting office was well-known and liked in the community. His wife was one of the most respected math teachers at the high school. Yet recently the entire town was rocked when she shot and killed her husband, later taking her own life. Sin produces grief and restlessness. Only through the Almighty can we come to true peace and rest.
The Promised Land that we look forward to is a gift. The Eternal promised, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest," Exodus 33:14. He kept His promise to ancient Israel, "And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that He sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass," Joshua 21:43-45. The Sabbath, like Israel entering the Promised Land, is a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, Hebrews 4:1-11.
King Solomon was called "a man of rest," for the Almighty said, "I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Solomon [peace], and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days," I Chronicles 22:9. Sometimes we go through adversity, which humbles us and teaches us to depend upon God. "Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. For the LORD will not cast off His people, neither will He forsake His inheritance," Psalm 94:12-14. Likewise, we need to discipline our children in order to have peace. "Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul," Proverbs 29:17.
I believe that the great Second Exodus of Israel is yet future. The Lord "will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land . . . they shall rule over their oppressors. And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage [of captivity] wherein thou wast made to serve, That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! The golden city ceased! . . . The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet, they break forth into singing," Isaiah 14:1-7 (see also Jeremiah 50:33-34).
The koala bear reminds me of the beautiful call of our Redeemer, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto our souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light," Matthew 11:28-30.
However, there is another form of rest that we must not have. It is the rest of self-sufficiency, of affluence, of departure from God, epitomized by the Laodicean Church, Revelation 3:14-22. There is no rest for the wicked. "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, . . ." Amos 6:1. Those who rebel against Godís commandments will not enter into His rest, "And among these nations [where you went into captivity] shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind," Deuteronomy 28:65.
Godís rest, as Scripture shows time and again, is a gift. However, we must nevertheless labor to receive that gift. That labor must result from belief in God. Let us faithfully follow the Eternal. "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief," Hebrews 4:11.
ó written by Richard C. Nickels W
Church Politics Nothing New
Walt Tannert of Arizona writes, "Thanks for your recent Giving & Sharing Newsletter. I really thought that the lead article on ĎA Leader You Can Trustí was excellent. Unfortunately, the leadership problem among Godís people is nothing new.
"In Dr. Ron Moseleyís book Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and to the Original Church, he writes (pp. 145-146), ĎFor fifteen centuries prior to the destruction of the Second Temple there was a continual war of words and theologies (and sometime swords) between Pharisaic, prophetic, and rabbinic groups. Even in the environs of the Temple there was contention between the Levites and the priests. . . . Epithets such as "firstborn of Satan" and "the synagogue of Satan" were commonly used even against brothers to condemn differing attitudes or theologiesí. I guess things really havenít changed that much, sadly."
Bible Study Index