VI.A.4 Strength to Wrestle with God


SUBPART A –  MESSIAH-HEAD; The Incarnation of Christ


a.  The Elder Must Serve the Younger

b.  Christ-Alone is God’s Champion

c.  Strength of the Firstborn

d.  The Divine Strength Given Unto Men

e.  Our Own Proxy Must be Given Unto Christ


a.  The Elder Must Serve the Younger

As related in the previous section of this article, Christ existed before the natural man.  He alone is God’s firstborn.   Jesus Christ therefore holds the preeminence as the rightful heir of God with all the title, power, and resources of God that is due the Firstborn.  And yet somehow mystically so is the church referred to as the Firstborn of God:

But you are come unto mount Sion, & unto the city of the living God,  the heavenly Jerusalem, & to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly & church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,  & to God the Judge of all, & to the spirits of just men made perfect.       Heb 12:23

In this section we will look further into prophetic-type for an understanding of this principle of the Firstborn that has been made ours through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  We begin by looking to the prophet Hosea, whose prophecy raised allusion to Jacob and Esau:

In the womb he took his brother by the heel, & in his maturity he contended with God.    Yes, he wrestled with the angel & prevailed; He wept & sought His favor.    He found Him at Bethel, & there He spoke with us, Even the Lord the God of hosts; the Lord is His name.                      Hos. 12:3-5 (NASV)

Jacob and his brother Esau were twins.  Hosea’s prophecy is a reference to the Genesis-account which relates concerning their birth:

When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb.   Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; & they named him Esau.   & afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heelso his name was called Jacob; & Isaac was 60 years old when she gave birth to them.                                                                                      Gen. 25:24-26

Rebekah had been unable to produce children for Isaac.  Recall that God gave Rebekah these children through prayer.  During her pregnancy she became troubled when she felt the twins struggling against one another inside her womb.  When she inquired of the Lord, the Lord told her:

“Two nations are in your womb; & two peoples shall be separated from your body; & one people shall be stronger than the other; & the older shall serve the younger.                                                                                     Gen. 25:23

 Who is “the older [that] shall serve the younger”?  Therefore this principle of the Firstborn immediately comes into application in the relationship between Jacob and his twin-brother, Esau!  Certainly, this is a spiritual principle that is being expressed.  Therefore it is a principle that should find expression as well within the Gospel.  Paul writes:

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,  who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.        Rom 8:1

Who is “the older [that] shall serve the younger”?  Paul writes a little further on:

  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.   For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die:  but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.                 Rom 8:12-13

Why do the promises of God only apply to those of whom the Spirit rules over their flesh?  The answer is because we cannot begin to fulfill the righteousness of God until our flesh be mortified.  Paul’s context relates to two distinct natures that operate within the believer, namely; the carnal-nature that is birthed from below versus the spiritual-nature that is birthed from above:

That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,  who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.     For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh;   but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.      Rom 8:4-5

Therefore there is a struggle occurring within everyone that is born of the Spirit.  That struggle is between their natural-mind and their spiritual-man that is planted by God.  Just as the twins (Esau and Jacob) struggled within Rebekah, so must he that came first (Esau, as representing the natural-man) must follow after his brother Jacob (representing the spiritual-man).  Therefore Paul tells us:

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh:  & these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.      Gal 5:16-17

Who then is “the older [that] shall serve the younger”?   The answer is that the flesh must be subordinated to the interests of the Spirit and not vice versa!  While humanity will certainly try, the natural-mind cannot please God.

So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.     Rom 8:8

And Esau was a perfect example of this.  Try as he might to please his parents by following the example of his brother, his efforts were hopeless.  We find that Esau married women from the land of Canaan and that these “brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”  Failing to please his parents, he tried to learn from his brother Jacob’s example and marry again from outside Canaan.  We read:

Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob & sent him away to Paddan-aram to take to himself a wife from there, & that when he blessed him, he charged him, saying, “You shall not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan”, & that Jacob had obeyed his father & his mother & had gone to Paddan-aram.    So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac;  & Esau went to Ishmael, & married, besides the wives that he had,  Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.                                                                                       Gen. 28:6-9

Therefore we are given a depiction of the hopelessness attending Esau’s best efforts to do right in terms of living under the promises of the covenant.

b.  Christ-Alone is God’s Champion

And so we read concerning Jacob, that; “in the womb he took his brother by the heel”.  What does this mean?  Notice the context is not a positive one for Jacob.  For the statement that immediately precedes this observation that; “in the womb he took his brother by the heel”, is the declaration that God; “will punish Jacob according to his ways; He will repay him according to his deeds.”.

As the second to be born, while still; “in the womb he took his brother by the heel”.  His brother had something that he did not.  What was that?  As the second-born, did Jacob have a birthright?  Did he have any right to the strength of the firstborn?  No, he did not!  He was an “usurper”, as Esau tearfully referred to him:

“Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times?  He took away my birthright, & behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”                                                                                       Gen. 27:36

We do not know what the name “Jacob” means.  But apparently, the name had something to do with usurping the rights of another.  Esau protested tearfully against the audaciousness of his brother having taken all the benefits of his firstborn status.  But Esau’s tearful pleading with his father may not have been borne of true knowledge and insight into the ways of God.  For what if Esau had succeeded to his own birthright?  What if he (ie. the natural-man) had attained upon the promises of God concerning man?  Those principalities and powers of this world which command the flesh of men would have succeeded by default to the promises of God of dominion over all the works of His hands!  However, through the Spirit of Christ, the birthright of mankind is restored to mankind, albeit mankind in union-with and in subjection-to the Spirit of God.  Jesus said:

But be not ye called Rabbi:  for One is your Master, even Christ;  and all ye are brethren.  Matt. 23:8

God has appointed a champion – one “like unto” Himself to do the battle for humanity, and flesh is not that champion!  Therefore Jeremiah prophesies:

Behold, he shall come up like a lion  from the swelling of Jordan unto the habitation of the strong:   but I will make them suddenly run away from her:   and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her?   for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time?   and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?       Jer 50:44

To contend with God is an impossible-thing; and a revelation that bent Job severely:

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?   If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.                                                                                       Job 9:2-3

How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?                                                                                     Job 9:14

If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.                     Job 9:20

  For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.   Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.                           Job 9:32-33

And the prophecy of Hosea continues:

. . and by his strength he had power with God:  Yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed.                              Hos. 12:3-4

c.  Strength of the Firstborn

The Hebrew word translated “maturity” in the NASV, but “strength”[1] in the KJV, has a coincidental association with the principle of that of the “firstborn”.  Therefore a study of that concept is most helpful in understanding what is meant by Jacob’s “strength”.[2]

While the NASV says that Jacob “contended” with God.  This is incorrect.  Rather, he had “power” with God.  This is a rare Hebrew word that is used in only one other context in Scripture.[3]  That context happens to be when Jacob wrestled with the angel in the Genesis account:

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:   for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.     Gen. 32:28

The key to understanding the meaning of this Hebrew word is contained in the account itself, which states that Jacob had power “as a prince” with God and man.  The Hebrew word is saw-rah and is  the same word that is the name of Abraham’s wife.  Sarah means “princess”.[4]  Therefore, Jacob is regarded as a “prince” with God.  This is why he prevailed with God.

Let us consider why Jacob is he regarded as a prince!  The reason given is that he is possessed of a status both “with God and with men”.  What else can this signify but the Person of Jesus Christ, Who possesses both the status of the “Son of God”, and the status of the “Son of Man”.  Therefore when Jacob wrestled the angel, his power with God was not an earthly strength.  His power with God was his identification as a son.  That a flesh and blood man could somehow prevail upon an angel as a sign of prevailing with God is one of the most astonishing accounts in Scripture.  This raises implications that might begin to teach us concerning the meaning of the coming-Messiah –   the “Son of Man” as one of Jacob’s descendants!

Once we understand what is this strength of Jacob, we might also understand why it was so necessary that Jacob take from Esau that which rightfully belonged to Esau as the “firstborn”.  For Esau could not have prevailed upon God.  Esau typifies flesh and blood, ie. the natural man consigned under the curse to return to the earth’s dust.  Esau has no standing with God.  For Esau to “wrestle an angel” would be his destruction.  But God, walking in our humanity, did wrestle, and did prevail, and did “inherit all things”.[5]

This may remind us of Paul’s words to the effect that: “ . . .we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities. . .”  Truly, if we are member of the mystical Israel of God, then we do not wrestle with men as we sometimes suppose.  Our struggles involve things spiritual.  Therefore we share the name “Israel” with our forefather, Jacob.

d.  The Divine Strength Given Unto Men

This place in Jacob’s life represented a sudden change.  For he was returning to the land of Canaan.  Since this time, he had fled from the presence of his brother, Esau, and had met and entered into a covenant with God at Bethel.  Again, Hosea’s prophecy reads:

He took his brother by the heel in the womb, & by his strength he had power with God;  Yea, he had power over the angel, & prevailed; he wept, & made supplication unto him;  He found him at Bethel, & there he spoke with us;  Even the Lord God of hosts; the Lord is his memorial.  Therefore turn thou to thy God; keep mercy & judgment, & wait on thy God continually.                Hosea 12:3-6

The Hebrew word translated “supplication”[6] (KJV) and “sought his favor” (NASV) is commonly translated by the KJV as; “favor”, “mercy”, or “grace”.  In fact, most of the early occurrences of this word have it translated “grace”, (most notably) in God’s instructions to Moses on how Israel should be blessed, from which we get the apostolic blessing of “grace be unto you”.[7]  The word also appears in Scripture as the converse-principle of “supplication” (meaning to seek grace).  This is the strength of which the prophet’s allude!  We read elsewhere in Isaiah:

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold Who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number; He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might, For that He is strong in power; not one faileth.        Is. 40:26

The Hebrew-word translated “eyes” is; ah’-yin,[8] which is the common-word for “eye” and for “fountain”. The “eye” is an express-prophetic-symbol to “spirit” – “express” because prophecy specifically-indicates it to be such.[9]  Whenever we find reference to “eye(s)” in prophecy we should first consider whether the meaning is “spirit”.   Applying this understanding to Isaiah’s prophecy, this seems an exhortation to stir one’s spirit unto faith to perceive a spiritual matter.[10]

The prophecy tells us to “lift up your eyes on high, and behold.”  This exhortation to “behold”[11] is never without significance!  When we see this word preceding a prophetic declaration, it signifies a special exhortation that we “see” something of great importance, and do so with the eyes of our heart. 

How are we to “behold”?   We are to “lift up our eyes on high”.  And this is exactly what God told Abraham to do!

And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, & tell the stars, if thou be able to number them:  and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.  And he believed in the LORD; & he counted it to him for righteousness.         Gen 15:5-6

Paul notes that; Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness”.[12]   When Abraham lifted his eyes toward heaven he perceived something of the greatness of the strength of God; “Who has created these . . and brings out their host by number”.  And how does He do this?

by the greatness of His might, For that He is strong in power; not one faileth.                                                                                Is. 40:26

The Hebrew word translated “might”[13] in both the NASV and the KJV, has a coincidental association with the principle of that of the firstborn.  The word is not of common usage – occurring only twelve times in Scripture.  Of these twelve usages, at least four (and possibly six) are in the context of the strength of the firstborn son.   The Hebrew word is pronounced “own”, and its very first usage is in reference Jacob’s firstborn son, Reuben, and continues in its usage relating to the concept of a “firstborn”:

Gen 49:3    Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength,                    the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power:

Deu 21:17  But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him                   a double portion of all that he has: for he is the beginning of his strength; the                   right of the firstborn is his.

Ps 78:51     And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the                    tabernacles of Ham:

The association of this Hebrew word with the “strength of the firstborn” might provide insight into this word of prophecy.  For it further substantiates the Person of this entity as Jesus Christ, as the “firstborn” of God’s children.  We know that Jesus Christ is the “firstborn” of many of God’s children by the words of Paul:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.       Rom 8:29

If this principle represented in the strength of the firstborn had significance in the Law, it has much more profound meaning in knowing of things spiritual!  When we say (today) that Jesus Christ is “the firstborn among many brethren”, we probably are not appreciating the significance of what this means.  His status of the “firstborn” signifies something vital in our relationship to Him and His to the Father, and is a vital component of our salvation.  Consider Paul’s words:

And he is the head of the body, the church:  who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead;   that in all things he might have the preeminence.    Col 1:18

The Lord’s preeminence as the “firstborn” is not a trifling distinction.  His title as the “firstborn from the dead” sets Him in peculiar order to the host of the sanctified.  For He is Himself their sanctifier!  Without the strength of the Father being made His own strength, there would be no strength for the reclaiming of God’s elect!   Therefore it is Jesus Christ who “leads forth their host by number”.  He, Himself is the covenant, and He, Himself constitutes their identification in the Father and strength unto salvation.

Jesus Christ must be given all authority and dominion.  Every knee must bow to the authority and preeminence of Jesus Christ.  All proxy and all self-will must be delivered up to Jesus Christ.  Why?  This is the One upon whom God has declared that His blessing shall rest.  This is the “mountain” upon which God has determined His blessings shall flow.  For in Him, the Father is “well-pleased”,[14] and in Him-alone.   Upon Him (and no other) does the Spirit descend as a dove!

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.      Ps. 133:3

The blessings of God, the gentle fruit of the Spirit and eternal life – these descend upon Jesus Christ, the Righteous.[15]  Therefore it is wisdom to “count the cost” and to submit to the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  We must decide for ourselves whether “with an army of 10,000 we can prevail upon an army of 20,000”.[16]  Do we have sufficient reserves with God to complete the building we have undertaken to construct?[17]   If not, then we must make peace and relinquish our proxy to Him that does have the strength, and that does have sufficient resources from heaven.  For; “He is the head of all principality and power”[18]  And His rule is by faith.  Faith that; “God is”, that “God is holy”, that “man by sin, has fallen short of giving God the glory due His name”,  and that “God is good, and that by His mercy He has provided an atonement and a way back to Himself”.  These things constitute the Spirit’s work to convict the world concerning; sin, righteousness, and judgment.  If the Spirit cannot convict us concerning these things, we shall face them on our own strength and in our own merits without the strength of the firstborn of God.

These are the things C. S. Lewis writes of in explaining how repentance-itself cannot truly occur without the Spirit of Christ:

This process of surrender-this movement full speed astern-is what Christians call repentance.  Now repentance is no fun at all . . . It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.  In fact, it needs a good man to repent.  And here comes the catch.  Only a bad person needs to repent; only a good person can repent perfectly.  The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it.  The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person-and he would not need it. . . . Can we do it if God helps us?  Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us?  We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak.  He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think; He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. . . . But supposing God became a man-suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person-then that person could help us.  He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God.  You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes a man.  Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence; but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man.  That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.[19]

e.  Our Own Proxy Must be Given Unto Christ

Worthless in our own hands, God has made provision in Himself through the Person of His Son to receive our proxy and rely upon the strength of His firstborn!  Commit what is here unto what is hoped for.  Commit all things unto Christ for their keeping!  Might you suffer hardship? (Yes)  Might you suffer persecution and trials? (Yes)  Might you suffer chastening at the hand of God?  (You certainly will):  But you will fair better with your proxy in the hand of Jesus Christ:

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.           II Tim. 1:12

To the firstborn is the preeminence and all strength!  To Him belongs the wealth of the kingdom of God.  Shall any other among the defiled inherit the blessing?  Rather the Son of God who died for us has inherit the blessing!  Therefore our prayer is not that we be blessed –  Messiah has already been blessed with the fullness and strength of God – the fullness of all blessing.  Our prayer is rather that we die that the blessings of Messiah may walk and talk and live within this mortal humanity.

by the greatness of His might, For that He is strong in power; not one faileth.                                                                     Is. 40:26

Why is not a single one of God’s elect missing?  Because they are not kept by their own might, strength, intelligence, or diligence!  Rather they are kept by the strength of the Father as effectuated through the Person of Jesus Christ!  Recall the Lord’s words to the Jews in explaining to them why they could not understand God’s redemption:

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, & I know them, & they follow Me.   & I give eternal life to them, & they shall never perish;   & no one shall snatch them out of my hand.   My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;  & no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”               John 10:26-30

The Lord Himself indicated that every one of His sheep would be preserved.  For the strength at issue is not their strength, but it is the Father’s strength working through the Son.[20]  They are justified, sanctified, and resurrected by the power of the Father via Jesus Christ.[21]

[1] H202  ‘ôn  one  Probably from the same as H205 (in the sense of effort, but successful); ability, power, (figuratively) wealth: – force, goods, might, strength, substance.

[2] See commentary on Isaiah 40:26  “Because of the greatness of His might & the strength of His power”

[3] H8280  śârâh  saw-raw’  A primitive root; to prevail: – have power (as a prince).

[4] H8283   śârâh  saw-raw’  The same as H8282; Sarah, Abraham’s wife: – Sarah.

[5] See commentary on Revelation 21:7  He that overcometh shall inherit all things;  and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.

[6] H2603  chânan  khaw-nan’ A primitive root (compare H2583); properly to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior; to favor, bestow; causatively to implore (that is, move to favor by petition): – beseech, X fair, (be, find, shew) favour (-able), be (deal, give, grant (gracious (-ly), intreat, (be) merciful, have (shew) mercy (on, upon), have pity upon, pray, make supplication, X very.

[7] See commentary on Isaiah 26:10  Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not learn righteousness;

[8] H5869  ‛ayin  ah’-yin  Probably a primitive word; an eye (lit or fig); by analogy a fountain (as the eye of the landscape): – affliction, outward appearance, + before, + think best, color, conceit.

[9] See commentary on Isaiah 33:17  “Your eyes shall see the king in his beauty” for study of this principle.

[10] See commentary on Isaiah 42:16  “& I will lead the blind by a way they do not know” for further study of this principle.

[11] H7200  râ’âh  raw-aw’  A primitive root; to see, literally or figuratively (in numerous applications, direct and implied, transitively, intransitively and causatively): – advise self, appear, approve, behold, X certainly, consider, discern, (make to) enjoy, have experience, gaze, take heed, X indeed, X joyfully, lo, look (on, one another, one on another, one upon another, out, up, upon), mark, meet, X be near, perceive, present, provide, regard, (have) respect, (fore-, cause to, let) see (-r, -m, one another), shew (self), X sight of others, (e-) spy, stare, X surely, X think, view, visions.

[12] Romans 4:3 & Galatians 3:6

[13] H202  ‘ôn  one  Probably from the same as H205 (in the sense of effort, but successful); ability, power, (figuratively) wealth: – force, goods, might, strength, substance.

[14] Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22

[15] I John 2:1

[16] Luke 14:31

[17] Luke 14:28-29

[18] Colossians 2:10

[19] Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis, Chapter 4 The Perfect Penitent.

[20] See commentary on Zechariah 11:17  Woe to the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock!

[21] See commentaries on Isaiah 27:5, 41:14, 52:1, and 63:1 discussing the strength of the Lord.


About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
This entry was posted in 6A. MESSIAH - HEAD; THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST (Transitional Aspects) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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