Secondhand Lions is one of my all-time favorite movies. It was produced in 2003, starring Robert Duvall and Michael Caine. At one point in the movie, two old eccentric brothers have grown restless in their calm retired life and decide to break up the monotony by purchasing a lion to release and then hunt. Instead of taking off to Africa as they would have in their younger days, they decide to bring the safari to their own backyard. The scene begins with a truck winding up the driveway carrying crates. The long neck of a giraffe extends high in air, far above the brush that lines either side of the driveway.
The brothers had been “forced” into caring for their precocious nephew, when his desperate mother had abruptly dropped him there one summer afternoon. Though she promised to return, the boy and his uncles soon realized that this was unlikely. The curious boy was quite mesmerized by the truck load of mysterious creatures and his quirky uncles. While the truck drivers are unloading one of the crates, the men go into the house to get their rifles. They are long overdue for some excitement and danger, and so they impetuously allow the captivated young boy to open the flimsy crate that houses the fierce and majestic lioness.
But when the door of the crate is finally flung open, the beast doesn’t charge, roar, or even appear to be moved by the prospect of freedom. What should have been intimidating and dangerous turns out to be calm and tame. The men quickly realize that they had purchased an old and worn out lioness. They actually call her “no good” and “defective.”
She had been caged and confined her entire life, and now she was old. She had never laid eyes on a real jungle, nor had she ever had to hunt for prey. Her life had been spent in bondage; and though she was a lion, she had not the slightest clue as to how to be one. She was truly an old, secondhand lion.
I wonder how many of us are like Jasmine (the name the boy eventually gave to the lioness)? Have we been crate trained into relinquishing our great authority and power? Have we forgotten how to be a lioness?
Most of us haven’t had any experience with a caged lion, but have you ever tried to crate train a puppy? At first, they resist the crate because they have an overwhelming feeling of being trapped, restrained, and alone. It is important to slowly introduce crate exposure and associate only positive actions and emotions with its usage. Over time, what originally caused the puppy great anxiety will become a source of security, safety, and comfort. We can only imagine that this process would be even more dramatic and unnatural for a king or queen of the jungle.
While followers of the Messiah aren’t likened to dogs, they are certainly likened to lambs (sheep) and lions, among other creatures. For many Believers, the image of a lion and a lamb invokes visions of the Messiah. As His Bride, it’s not surprising that these same symbols reference us. Consider these verses from the Book of Numbers.
“For there is no omen against Jacob, Nor is there any divination against Israel; At the proper time it shall be said to Jacob And to Israel, what God has done! “Behold, a people rises like a lioness, And as a lion it lifts itself; It will not lie down until it devours the prey, And drinks the blood of the slain.” (Num. 23:23-24)
Jacob (Israel) is like a mighty lioness. She, along with the lion, rules the entire jungle. Every other creature has a healthy fear and great respect for this pride. But something else caught my attention in these verses from Numbers. “At the proper time it shall be said…” There is an appointed time when this correlation will be true. Thinking Hebraically or cyclically, this “time” can have multiple fulfillments. Are these allusions to the millennium reign? Isn’t the Kingdom in which we have been engrafted, the Kingdom of all kingdoms? Are we not learning how to rule and reign with Messiah?
Do we really get this? You are a king or a queen of THE Kingdom. You have far more authority and power than you realize. We will one day rule the earth! But we will not be tyrants; we will be servants. Strong and fierce, yet loving and gentle. We will be like our One only King: a Lion and a Lamb.
There is an unquestionable premise given in the first chapter of Bereshit (Genesis). That is, that like kind produces like kind. Birds produce birds. Whales produce whales. Dogs produce dogs. Therefore, male dogs go with female dogs, male whales go with female whales, and male birds go with female birds. Do we expect a different pattern when the Father likens us to His bride? Are we not made in His image (male and female)?
Within each of us is a divine spark. It is the very breath of the Creator and it is what makes us undeniably His. This must be true in order for us to not only be likened to His children, but even more intimately as His wife or bride. Therefore, we are the lion/lamb counterpart to His Lion/Lamb. I think we have far more potential and influence than we realize.
We think we understand how to be a lamb. After all, a lamb is weak, defenseless, and in need of a care taker. We don’t have a problem realizing our vulnerability. We know where our weak spots are located. We usually protect these areas quite fiercely. So much so, that we often have a hard time even releasing them to our Abba, even though He greatly desires to heal these areas. Perhaps, we are too ashamed to allow Him to speak to these issues. Maybe, we don’t trust that He will actually heal us, because we certainly know we don’t deserve it.
My point is that Believers have no problem identifying themselves with weakness, shame, guilt, fear, depression, anxiety, worthlessness, and the like. Sadly, many even believe these are desirable traits because they equate them with humility. Dear friend, this is NOT true humility. And, this is not the picture of a Lamb! There is nothing holy or good about this kind of thinking.
A real lamb in the image of Elohim is not weak; it is strong! It freely offers its life. It is without spot or blemish. It is not guilty, but innocent! It has full trust in its Shepherd. Likewise, real humility is strength, not weakness. Keep the image of a lion and lamb in your mind and consider these most humble of men.
Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth. (Num. 12:3)
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. (Mat. 11:29)
Both Moses and Yeshua were humble or meek. Would you consider them weak or even self-dejected? Of course not! A humble person is willing to put other people before himself. They submit without resistance to the will and desires of someone else. This requires great self-control. It’s not that they aren’t able or capable to perform; rather, it is that they restrain their ability and channel it to lift up someone else. Humble people possess the strength of a mighty lion. This is a very “regal” trait or virtue.
Moses and Yeshua certainly display the imagery of the lion and the lamb! These are our role models. Do you believe you possess both the strength and restraint of a lion or lioness? According to Scripture, these virtues have already been given to you when you became a Believer. This is the legacy of Israel, but sadly, like us, they possessed an ungodly self-image. Do you remember the bad report of the 10 evil spies? They envisioned themselves to be tiny insignificant grasshoppers in the eyes of the Canaanites. Believing this lie cost the Israelites more than they could have ever imagined. What have we given up to cling onto our poor self-image?
Joshua and Caleb reported the truth, but the people PREFERRED the lie. Keep in mind that this lie was about WHO they were. YHWH’s people are not insignificant. They are the mightiest people on the planet! We are the light of the world, not the scum of the earth! When we deny our real identity, we are in effect denying the majesty, power, and might of our Creator and King. In other words, it’s blasphemy.
I had never really considered this until the other day. My view of who I am is a direct reflection of my Maker. I cannot separate the two. When my self-image is unhealthy, it is because I don’t really believe or trust YHWH. In fact, it’s worse than that. If I claim out of one side of my mouth that I am His and out of the other that I’m worthless, what I’m really saying is that He is not worthy. How many of us need to repent of this? How many of us are sick because we are inadvertently blaspheming the King of the Universe in this manner? By the way, this is also the case when we oppress, slander, or speak against our brothers and sisters. They, too, are made in the image of Elohim.
Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb understood this fact. Notice their words to the people.
“Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us; do not fear them.” (Num. 14:9)
The Canaanites would be the prey of the lions and lionesses of Israel! If only the people could see this truth. If only WE could see this truth! Instead, the people would rather stone the messengers.
But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the LORD appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. (Num. 14:10)
Beloved, we are worthy because He is worthy! We are mighty because He is Mighty! We are kings and queens of the earth because He is the King of kings. If we got up every day really believing that we have the authority and power to change the world and overtake our Canaanite enemies what a different world it would be. What a different view the world would have of us.
The world should fear us as we fear our King. Instead, we have allowed our fears, the world, and the enemy to chain us to feelings of helplessness and powerlessness. We longingly speak of a future where our strength and impact are restored. Sadly, we think that future can never happen this side of Kingdom Come. Where did we get this idea? Have we bought a lie and forfeited our birthright for the here and now?
Bondage, burdens, sins, fears, and the like are very real CAGES. Pet doctrines and traditions can also be a stronghold of false security. Like the puppy or the lion cub, we at first resist our confinements. We have an innate knowing that they are unnatural — that they are keeping us from being free to be exactly what YHWH designed us for. But somewhere along the way of life, we lose our resolve. Do you know how many of us are sick, dying, depressed, dejected, lonely, disappointed, discontent, restless, insecure, and needy?
The door of the cage has been swung wide open, and we are like Jasmine, the secondhand lion, tired and worn-out. The fight left us long ago. We have been entrapped for so long that the steel cage walls seem comfortable, safe, and peaceful. Many no longer have the desire to run, chase, hunt, or explore. What a pitiful bunch we have become. How did we get here?
I believe we are like the ten virgins that fell asleep before the bridegroom arrived. There are numerous passages that liken our apathy and indifference to slumber. For too long, western Believers have hit the snooze button. We have grown fat, lazy, and diseased. We need to WAKE UP!
Just as importantly, we need to be rousing our brothers and sisters to this truth. How much greater would our impact be in our circumstances, relationships, and the world if we received this message? A poor self-image cost an entire generation the Promised Land. My prayer is that we will start walking in the mightiness of our calling.
To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2Th. 1:11-12)
What kind of crate do you find security in? Let’s break out together!
There is another side to this coin revealed in Part II, The Devouring Lion.
 Lisa Bevere has written an excellent book called Lioness Arising that speaks about the imagery of lions and the believer. Her focus is on the role of women as the lioness. I highly recommend it!! http://www.amazon.com/Lioness-Arising-Wake-Change-World/dp/0307457796