Jacob and Contending Prayer
a. Significance of new name, "Israel", meaning "God strives" or "he who strives with God."
1) Theological implications: Jacob had striven with God and men and prevailed
a) I don't believe that Jacob strove against God, but rather WITH God.
b) In the name is a picture of prayer which the NT will make clearer.
c) Jacob was striving along along with God for what God was "striving" for.
d) Why does God have to strive?
-picture of God's desired cooperative relationship with man
-God desired to give Jacob blessing or else wouldn't have
-God doesn't force anything upon man-man must choose to receive all that God offers
-God striving against Jacob's sinful nature so that He could give blessing
-Jacob striving with God against himself-his own fears and insecurities; Jacob contending with God that he would be receptive to blessing
2) Prayer is a divine mystery-God is sovereign and omnipotent and yet he calls man into cooperation with Him to release things on earth.
*NT Explanation of OT analogy
a. Foundation of Contending-What puts us in proper standing before God to contend before His throne?
1) Identity in Christ-Heb. 6:17-18
a) only "children of the promise" can presume to lay hold of (contend for) God's promises
b) Rom. 8:34 --> Christ is the pioneer intercessor who contends in prayer before the Father and it is His standing before God that gives His that right. Only those in Christ can be heirs of the promises of God and can lay hold of them.
b. Hebrews 6:11-12 --> foundations of faith and patience necessary. No one can contend in prayer without these ingredients in place. The faith is based on one's identity in Christ and patience is simply a fruit of the Spirit of God inside us.
c. Also see: Ps. 27:13 and Heb. 10:23, 35-36
d. All of these verses assure of the absolute certainty of all of God's promises for those which will contend for them (lay hold of them).
e. Encouragement in the midst of contending
1) Heb. 4:16 and 2 Cor. 12:9
2) These 2 Scriptures remind us that contending in our own human strength amounts only to useless striving and contending is only possible from the position of faith. There's no room for faith where one is relying on his own strength. Faith is only possible in it's fullness when one realizes their helplessness resulting in crying out to God.
f. Heb. 4:12 --> the word of God is the source of discernment for us to test our motives; are we striving out of our souls rather than contending in our spirits in confident agreement with God?
*Practical Differences Between Contending and Striving (not technical differences since the words are synonyms)
a. Contending: foundation of love, confidence and belief in God, agreement with God, overcomes the self, comes out of faith in the midst of human weakness, fueled by faith in God for the sure attainment of what's hoped for.
b. Striving: foundation of fear, motivated by pride, self-centered, striving to earn God's favor, strives against God's aid.
It's cooperative contending. God contends on our behalf as we contend in agreement with Him, thus finding His aid and strength in our bodies because we're aligned with His heart and will. God promises in Romans 8 that as we set our minds on spiritual things in Christ, we will find the Spirit in us actually giving strength to our mortal bodies! This is the case of contending in prayer! It's like endless encouragement from God Himself! And, as one comes into perfect agreement with God in unity, the will of God is manifest in earthly reality!