When Jacob was blessing his sons (Genesis 49) he called Judah a lion’s cub. From that time on the men of Judah were known as skilled and fearsome warriors. Years later The Lion of Judah, Jesus, would come from this noble tribe.
But during the time when the judges ruled Israel, Judah and all of Israel “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (Judges 13:1), and “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
As a result, the mighty lions of Judah became the cowardly lions.
Samson is a well-known judge. He is known for his single-handed exploits against Israel’s enemies. As a result of his victories against them, the Philistines moved into Judah’s territory arrayed for battle.
In response, the mighty lions of Judah muster a force of 3000 warriors. This should look good to the warriors of Judah, since the Philistines came to the battlefield with just 1000 warriors—after all, 3-to-1 seems like good odds.
But instead, the cowardly lions of Judah decided to take all 3000 warriors to confront just one man: Samson. They went to him in the cave where he was staying, not to ask him to join them in battle against the Philistines, but to ask him to surrender to the Philistines.
But when the Philistines approached Samson “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson” (Judges 15:14). He picked up a donkey’s jawbone and killed all 1000 Philistines. And when they saw God’s power at work in Samson, the mighty lions of Judah jumped into the fray all around Samson!
Uh, actually, no, they didn’t.
The cowardly lions of Judah were nowhere to be found. When Samson had finished with the Philistines, there was not even one lion of Judah around to give him a drink!
They all ran away.
It’s amazing to see what the Spirit of God does for someone. God’s presence in Samson gave him victory when the odds were 1000-to-1 against him. The lack of God’s presence in the lions of Judah made them cowardly lions even when they had a 3-to-1 advantage and had Samson on their side.
“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. … For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory!” (Deuteronomy 20:1, 4)
Don’t try to go to battle on your own. Even if you think you’re a mighty lion, you will end up like the Cowardly Lion if God doesn’t go with you.