4:8 “Look…from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.” What is the invitation Solomon extends to his wife here? Unless one has studied lions, the natural assumption would be that Solomon is referring to lions’ dens that were far up on the tops of the mountains, perhaps in caves overlooking a rocky ledge, as in Disney’s animated classic The Lion King. However romantic this view may be—to imagine Solomon and his spouse overlooking their world beside the gigantic “king of the beasts”—it can’t be what the Scriptures intended, because true lions may sit on rocks and mountain ledges, but their dens are not on mountain tops.The majestic “king of the beast” dwells in the grasslands. His tawny coat is the color of dead grass—ideal for hiding and stalking prey. And, lions do not live in permanent, cave-like dens! The mothers bear their young in the long grass and hide them for only the first few months, often moving them from one hiding place to another, just the way domestic cats move their kittens. Lions are social creatures, living in prides with one to four males and numerous females and cubs, often consisting of as many as thirty-five members. The “lions’ dens” refer not to specific places, but to the entire regions or territories occupied by the lions, who travel an average of five miles a day through territories ranging from 15 to 150 square miles. “Look…from the lions’ dens” then, is not an invitation to further view Solomon’s kingdom from the mountaintops. It is an invitation to traverse the land that God has given them—not only to understand it from God’s eternal perspective, but also to experience it first hand…to face and conquer the dangers…to “subdue it, and have dominion over” it (Genesis 1:28). There is a moving theme song in the movie The Exodus: “This land is mine, God gave this land to me—this brave and ancient land to me…So take my hand, and walk this golden land with me.” This is the invitation that Solomon is extending here, and this is the invitation that Christ offers us. The kingdom of this world, lost to Adam and Eve, is to be re-found as a spiritual kingdom, subdued and ruled by Christ and his bride. Although this sounds simple, and our eyes can scan this phrase—”from the lions’ dens”—so quickly, there is a world of challenge! To look from the lions’ dens requires meeting and overcoming the lions. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Satan, like the evil king of the pride, is our most formidable foe, but he is attended by a pack of “roaring lions,” evil men (Psalm 22:13), and false prophets (Ezekiel 22:25). Lions generally hunt in groups. They are known not so much for their swiftness (their top speed is about 35 m.p.h., and many of the animals they prey on can run faster), but for their tremendous strength and brilliant hunting tactics. Although most of the hunting is done by the females in groups, the male lion is an incredible foe by himself. The male weighs up to 400 pounds, is almost nine feet long (nose to tail), and stands as high as three and a half feet at the shoulder. His shaggy mane, unique to the lion, makes him appear even bigger and more ominous. Lions do most of their hunting in the night, stalking their prey by slowly creeping forward, their bodies close to the ground. When they get within about fifty feet, they suddenly leap on the unsuspecting animal, grabbing it from behind, dragging it to the ground, and then strangling it by seizing its throat. According to the World Book encyclopedia, one lion overcame and dragged off a 600-pound zebra—something that six men would find difficult to do. When they hunt together, one lion typically distracts the animal while the others silently encircle it. When all is ready, the lead lion lunges at the nervous prey, sending it flying into the waiting jaws of the hidden lions (World Book, 298-301).
There are some awesome spiritual parallels that can be drawn from the physical world of lions. Satan, like the impressive male lion, is a formidable foe. He is much stronger than the strongest man and should never be taken on alone, for even the archangel Michael would not attempt such a thing (Jude 1:9). However, Satan would like to frighten men into believing that he is even more powerful than he is…just like the lion’s shaggy mane makes him appear even more threatening to his enemies than he truly is. Satan does most of his destructive hunting at night…very often in the blackness of physical night, but certainly in the shadowy midnights of our soul…at the times when we are exhausted, weary, and most vulnerable. Satan uses treachery because he cannot outsmart and outrun truth. He sneaks up on his unwary prey with half-truths, and by incremental changes, like a lion stalking his prey, hidden by the long grasses of “grey areas” in life. The old serpent, Satan, like a lion crawling on his belly, stalks closer and closer until he is within striking range, then springs at his unsuspecting prey, biting it in the back, dragging it down, and strangling it. What unsuspecting saint has not had the experience of being “bitten in the back” by malicious gossip or unjust criticism and been dragged off to the “Dungeon of Despair” at some point in his Christian experience? Satan and his evil accomplices are like a pack of snarling lions: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). But, despite the terror of the night and the greatness of our foes, we have nothing to make us fear, because we are not sent to walk through the lions’ dens alone. Just as God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths when Daniel was in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:22), and just as the form of the forth was “like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25) when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into the midst of the burning, fiery furnace, so Christ himself, the great Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:9), leads us and walks with us all the way. “Come with me,” is his call. What have we to fear since greater is he who is in us (the Lion of Judah) than he who is in the world (the snarling but conquered lion, Satan). “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5). If ever we find ourselves fearing as we walk through the land that God has given us to walk, let’s remember these words, and fear nothing but displeasing the heart of him who loved us and gave himself for us!
(I took about half these pictures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but the other half are from Disney’s wonderful documentary on the subject, African Cats. Oh, and I took the next-to-the-last picture from a helicopter flying over coastal Kauai.)