Simplifying Common Scriptural References

Here’s a different type of blog entry, but I think you’ll enjoy it! Our pastor gave me a brief assignment this Easter: study the lyrics in the song Lion by Elevation Worship and, on Easter Sunday, share a 4-minute teaching explaining the biblical references found in the song.  The idea was to give everyone a better understanding of what they were about to sing.  

I adored the assignment, and the song did not disappoint when it came to providing references to teach about. In today’s blog, I’m going to share an expanded version of what I taught on Easter Sunday. 

If you haven’t heard the song yet, you can find the lyrics here and watch/listen to it on YouTube below.  

Clearly, the song is steeped in rich scriptural references and imagery.  I’m going unpack some of those references to offer some additional context.  Hopefully, in doing so we will not only understand the lyrics more, but really begin to internalize how they point up and back to God.  

Regardless of which image I attempt to explain, just know that they all have one thing in common: they relate to a larger story of God’s redeeming faithfulness throughout history, which really is the very thing which allows us to gather and celebrate on Easter. 

At least two names for God are used in the song: the God of Jacob and the Great I AM.

God of Jacob

When we sing about the God of Jacob, we are referring to a term from Genesis 31.  We often hear the term, “God of Jacob” as part of a trio: God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Whenever we hear associations to generations or lineages in the Bible, that usually points us to God’s faithfulness throughout those generations.  

What God says in earlier generations either comes to pass in later ones or stands as proof of His faithfulness to those who follow.  For example, when God made the Abrahamic covenant with Abraham, His plan included descendants as numerous as the stars, which included Jacob, David, Jesus, and us as believers. 

Also, something else to keep in mind about Jacob, like us, Jacob didn’t have a pristine history or character. This is important, because in many ways, he is us.  Yet, God was still able to accomplish His purposes through Him as being the fulfillment and perpetuator of a promise.  

God doesn’t seem to mind being known as the God of Jacob (or God of…insert sinners name here…) for all of eternity.  God came for all of us.

The Great I AM

Another name we will come across is The Great I AM, which is a term from the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3.  When God appeared before Moses in the flames, he said, “I am the God of your father: The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob” (like we just read about) and then went on to say, “Moses, I-AM-WHO-I-AM,”  also known as The Great I Am. 

Now, just a few verses before this, God explained His plan for His people when He said, “I’ve taken a good long look at the affliction of my people in Egypt.  I’ve heard their cries of deliverance from your their masters.  I know all about their pain.  Now, I’ve come down to help them.”

As God came down in the bush that day, He also came down to dwell among us in Jesus. In the same way I AM set out to free His people in Exodus 3, Jesus also came to free His people from what holds them captive & usher them into a new life.

When we sing “I AM,” we should recognize that God just is. He is present.  He was present then in the past and still is today.

Also, God’s conversation with Moses nods back to God as the God of Jacob, further reinforcing His faithfulness throughout the ages. 

So far, we have looked at two names for God the Father, but let’s take a look at some of the references to Christ the son. 

Lion of Judah

Another really specific reference we will sing about is the Lion of Judah.  Judah is the 4th son of Jacob, the person we just heard about in Genesis.  In Genesis 49:9 we learn that Jacob gives the lion symbol to Judah and his tribe.  The Lion of Judah also pops up right at the very end, in Revelation.  There we learn that the Lion of Judah is Jesus…and when we sing let the lion roar in the song, remember there’s an authority in a roar.  A Lion’s presence is known.  Our Lord’s presence should be known and should leave an impression.  

Also, let’s not miss that the same term for Jesus in mentioned in Genesis and Revelation, the first and last books of the Bible.  He truly always was and is there, harking back to the idea of God as the Great I Am. 

When we sing “Hail, Hail, Lion of Judah” keep in mind that no earthly king or conqueror can offer what our one true God can: eternal life.  When we “Hail” we show respect, obedience, and allegiance. 

Pride of Zion

We hear about the Pride of Zion in 1 & 2 Samuel, but the term Zion is referred to over 150 times in Scripture.  It carries different and broadening meanings as Scripture progresses, starting with a specific reference to the City of David (i.e., Jerusalem) and morphing into God’s spiritual kingdom as a whole. In the New Testament, Peter quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and calls Jesus the cornerstone of Zion…meaning the whole of God’s kingdom rests on Him.  

Of course, there’s also significance when we think about Zion being Jerusalem, the City of David, considering that Jesus is a descendant of David, who by the way, is a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Isn’t that amazing?!  All of these terms reinforce one another in multiple ways. Are you beginning to grasp how God’s divine plan and faithfulness has played out perfectly throughout human history? 

He who Opens the Scroll

Keep all this in mind with the lyrics, “You alone are worthy to open up the scroll.”  This is a prophecy mentioned in Revelation when John was told, “Do not weep for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered so that he may open the scroll and its seven seals.” This sounds a little abstract but that’s ok…because it is.  It’s an apocalyptic prophecy, which is generally more abstract in nature, and it begins to make more sense when we understand the references it makes throughout Scriptures. 

You can read more about this vision in Revelation, but basically Jesus alone was found worthy to open a scroll because, as the lamb of God, He had shed His blood for all mankind.  He became worthy of universal praise. 

Lamb of God

The term Lamb of God is one which may sound more familiar to us, but this concept of Jesus as lamb is too important to just breeze over.  Here’s what we are referencing when we talk about the lamb of God:  in the times of the Old Testament, lambs were sin offerings.  These sacrifices were time-limited, and they needed to be made again and again…that is…until Jesus came.

He was perfect, an extension of God: the God of Jacob, the Great I Am, the Lion of Judah, the Pride of Zion, and the cornerstone of the City of David.  He was the perfect sacrifice.  Our sins could be wiped clean once and for all.  We need not have to sacrifice sin offerings anymore.  The work on Calvary finished that sacrificial cycle. Jesus as the lamb was not just led to the slaughter- he was slaughtered.  We will sing “Like the lamb, You suffered,” and like the Passover lamb, Jesus also died because of sins he did not commit…OUR sins.

Make no mistake, however: with the dying of the lamb, we also have the rising of a lion!

He is our lamb and our lion, our Lord AND our Savior.  He is worthy of praise.

And that’s what we are called to do.  Praise him for His faithfulness throughout human history to restore us back to himself…for being a human sacrifice in our place…for giving us a way to be with and worship God forever. He is the source of our eternal life and destination, our center and circumference. Let’s worship Him as such!

Our worship team at Wallenpaupack Church did such an incredible job with this song on Easter. Please check it out by clicking here! Enjoy the all that the talent and lyrics have to offer!

Also, for anyone who wants to watch the original, abbreviated version of this teaching, check out this clip, beginning at 5:10.