In Revelation 5, John weeps because there is no one worthy to open the scroll and loose its seals. But one of the elders calms him and says, “Do not weep. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals” (Rev. 5:5).
Apart from Gen. 49:9 where Jacob calls Judah a lion, the only other reference to a lion immediately linked to Judah is in Hosea 5 where God says that He will be “like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I , will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue” (Hos. 5:14). Lions actually show up regularly in the prophets, and frequently they are metaphors for God’s fierceness towards His own people (Hos. 13:7-8, Amos 3:8, 5:19, Lam. 3:10). There are also occasions where God speaks of His fierceness to save like a lion roaring (Jer. 30:6, Hos. 11:10-11).
But it doesn’t seem accidental that immediately after referring to this Lion of the tribe of Judah, John looks and sees a Lamb as though it has been slain (Rev. 5:6). The title given to Jesus is the fierceness of God’s own wrath against Judah, against Jerusalem, but the Lion is also a Lamb that has been slain. The kind of logic chopping that objects to God’s wrath and mercy being found together in the same moment, in the same person really needs to grapple with this picture. Jesus is the Lion of God’s wrath rushing down on Israel, announcing God’s judgment against His wayward bride summoning up the powers of evil, who follow hard on Him, roaring like lions (Is. 5:25-30), but then in the greatest of narrative twists, He turns around at the last moment and He has become a Lamb and the judgment falls on Him for us. God provides the Lion and the Lamb, the justice and the mercy, and in the cross they have kissed, fulfilling all love and righteousness.