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R&V At the Movies: The Lion King


The other night, my son asked if we could watch The Lion King, but not the original one I grew up watching over and over, to the point of memorizing the entire script; he wanted to watch the live action version that came out in 2019. Other than animation so realistic you start to question whether animals in Africa maybe can talk and sing and dance, there were only a couple of noted differences between the original and this new version.

It’s hard to give up a childhood favorite, but I have to admit, I found the live action version to be better.

The Lion King: What to Expect

Disney’s The Lion King is the story of a lion cub named Simba who is destined to become king of the pridelands someday. His father, the reigning king, is good, strict, honorable, playful, protective, and patient with Simba. Meanwhile, Simba’s uncle, Scar, is jealous of his brother’s power. In a harrowing scene in both versions of the movie, Scar guides his nephew into the path of a stampede with the hopeful end goal of killing Simba and Simba’s dad so that he can rule everything the light touches, alongside his band of hyenas.

The Lion King (2019) © Disney. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

Although Scar does ascend to the throne, unbeknownst to him, his plot is only 50% successful. Simba escapes. He flees to a distant jungle in the hills to grow up fatherless, living the “hakuna matata” life, instilling at least the idea of a life with no worries into the hearts and minds of millions of millennials everywhere. Meanwhile, Scar welcomes the pack of hyenas into the prideland, and their insatiable hunger disrupts the delicate balance of order Mufasa had maintained.

Finding the Love: Faithifying Your Viewing

Mufasa is a model father, cut from the same cloth as the Father God who described himself to Moses as “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth; who keeps faithfulness for thousands, who forgives wrongdoing, violation of His Law, and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:6-7 NASB).

The Lion King (2019) © Disney. Image Courtesy of IMDb.

That same father is the central figure in Jesus’ Parable of the Compassionate Father, better known as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Even after Mufasa is no longer in Simba’s life, his love stays with Simba and calls him back to himself, out of the wilderness of no worries and back into the family of lions, back to his place in the kingdom.

Meanwhile, the contrast between Mufasa and Scar is stark. While Mufasa protected and nurtured the sacred balance of life in his terrain, Scar abused the resources of the pridelands. He used his power to subjugate his pride of lions and lionesses rather than serve as their humble servant-leader. Power is the drug that he can’t get enough of, the drug that will ultimately be his demise.

This is the reality of leadership throughout the ages. The narratives throughout the Old Testament present the contrast between leaders who follow the Lord and leaders who “do evil in the eyes of the Lord.” This isn’t just one instance of a failed leader, it’s many. Seven times in the book of Judges, the Israelites are said to have done evil in the eyes of the Lord, turning from the One True God to other gods.

It wasn’t just under the leadership of Judges; other kings departed from the model God gave, the kind, compassionate, patient, faithful, and true God who disciplines to restore the right order of things. Saul did evil in the eyes of the Lord. David did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Nadab did evil in the eyes of the Lord. In fact, as the book of 1 Kings progresses, the kings just seem to get worse and worse. “Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him” (1 Kings 16:25 NIV). Then Ahab, Omri’s son, “did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him” (1 Kings 16:30 NIV). 

The phrase “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” appears 27 times between 1 Kings and 2 Kings, each identifying leaders that failed to follow the way of the Good Father, the Righteous King, the One True God. 

In fact, there’s only one descendant in the lineage of kings to follow David that avoids doing evil in God’s eyes. 

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 NIV).

The Lion King mirrors the same Old Testament pattern of prophetic warnings against the abuse of power to subjugate and oppress the people. This pile of bad leadership cumulates throughout the Old Testament, and then the True King arrives to show us who He really is. The Father God who revealed himself to Moses incarnates in the person of Jesus, His Son, who heads into the wilderness for 40 days, who is tested by Satan, who stands up to the powers and principalities that undermine the Word and work of God, and who ultimately wins, triumphing over death itself, with the ongoing purpose and mission from thenceforth to restore all of creation back to wholeness.

What a good, good Father.

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