On the eastern side of the tabernacle, toward the rising sun, three tribes camped: Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The primary banner that flew on this side of God’s sanctuary was that of a lion. We will now consider the kingly calling in relation to the lion and to the three tribes that encamped on this side.
Throughout all of human history, the lion has been a symbol of power and royalty. It is known for its strength, fearlessness, and territorial supremacy. It has no predators and it has no rivals. Direct connection between the lion and kingship is made in Scripture when Jacob prophesied over his son Judah: “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? 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 49:9-10 NIV) Thus we understand that the lion represents the kingly calling.
Judah – The primary tribe of this east-side encampment was Judah whose banner was the lion. Judah’s name means “praise.” Jacob’s blessing over Judah began: “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.” (Genesis 49:8 NIV) If it were up to you or me to choose one name that would represent the kingly calling, would we choose a name that means “praise?” I’m not sure I would. God, however, puts His emphasis right there. The reality is that the single most essential element needed for God to secure unwavering honor and obedience from His subjects is for Him to be of such an excellent character and to be such a beneficial ruler that His subjects have nothing but ceaseless praise for Him and, therefore, willingly choose to submit to His Kingship. Take praise out of the equation, and all that is left is coercive tyranny. (Imagine for a moment what heaven would be like if there was no praise of the King!) Thus the name Judah (“praise”) is a most fitting name as the primary representation of the kingly calling.
Issachar – The next tribe in this eastern division is Issachar, whose name means: “there is recompense.” The name of Issachar is derived from the Hebrew word “sakar” which means, “wages, reward, pay, hire.” This name points to the essential nature of God’s kingly rule as being one of justice. The psalmist says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;” Psalm 89:14a NIV, and, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.“ (Psalm 45:6 NIV) A “recompense” is a just reward/payment/wage for what one has done, whether good or evil. An essential aspect of God’s righteous rule is that He will recompense each person according to what they are justly due. One of the last verses of the Bible is an utterance of Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.” (Revelation 22:12 ESV) This essential aspect of justice, therefore, is what the name of Issachar is emphasizing in relation to the kingly calling.
Zebulun – the third tribe of this division is Zebulun whose name means “to dwell.” Unlike the potentates of this world who treasure their lofty palaces and elite, separated lifestyles, the King of kings and Lord of lords desires nothing more than to dwell with His people. From His walking with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, to His manifest dwelling in the tabernacle and temple, to His incarnation among men in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, to His indwelling of His Church by the Holy Spirit, through the millennial reign of Christ on earth, and on into the eternal ages, God has ever expressed His desire to dwell among His people as their God and their King. In the second to last chapter of the book of Revelation we see His eternal desire consummated with a loud voice from heaven declaring, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3 NKJV) The kingly calling is ever pushing toward the establishing of the habitation of God on earth among His people and so the name of Zebulun is a fitting third name to associate with this aspect of the “lion” calling.
The three tribes of Judah (“praise”), Issachar (“there is recompense”), and Zebulun (“to dwell”), therefore, emphasize three of the most essential aspects of the kingdom of God and of the nature and purpose of the kingly calling.
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Having looked at the ox/priestly, eagle/prophetic, and lion/kingly callings in relation to the tribal divisions encamped around the tabernacle, we will, last of all, look at the consummate, man/sonship calling in this regard in the next post.