But the children inside her struggled with each other, and she said, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.'” (Gen. 25:22-23).
The sons that struggled in Rebekah’s womb were, of course, Esau and Jacob. Hebrews 12 warns us not to be “immoral or irreverent…like Esau” (Heb. 12:16). Jacob became heir of God’s promise to Abraham and Isaac. Esau is typical of the old nature (the flesh). This is fitting since the Lord refers to him as “the older.” Jacob is the new nature, born of the Spirit. As the firstborn, Esau shows us the first man, Adam. The second born, Jacob, is the Last Adam, Christ (1 Cor. 15:45).
God refuses to covenant with Esau, no doubt because Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup so he wouldn’t die (Gen. 25:29-34; Heb. 12:16). “The older” seeks to save his life (Matt. 16:25). God instead makes a new covenant with Jacob. Again, we can see Adam, with whom God refuses to covenant, and Christ, with whom God makes a new covenant.
Esau and Jacob struggling with each other in Rebekah’s womb show us the experience of the believer. The older (the flesh) struggles with the younger (Christ). Galatians 5 addresses this situation: “For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want” (Gal. 5:17). Rebekah’s question–“Why is this happening to me?”–captures the perplexity we feel about this struggle. Our heart loves the Lord. His desires are real within us. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak and pulled by temptation (Matt. 26:41). The desires of the flesh are also real, and sometimes we go with them.
But here, the Lord injects the gospel into Genesis: “Two nations are in your womb; two people will come from you and be separated. One people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23).
Praise the Lord! The older *will* serve the younger. The Spirit *will* be stronger than the flesh. It is a guarantee, a promise from the Lord we can trust. This is the answer He gives when we are conflicted and inquire of Him as Rebekah did.
What is our confidence based on? First, because God said it. It is impossible for Him to lie so His promise is an anchor to our souls (Heb. 6:18-19). But consider also, “two people will come from you and be separated.” This separation speaks of the cross.
The cross cut the flesh away from us (circumcision) (Col. 2:11). Paul says we are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God lives in you” (Rom. 8:9). Separation is a reality because of the cross.
Peter says, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). We *have* died to sins, past tense. What was future when spoken to Rebekah is past to us. We are not now trying to make the older serve the younger. We are not now trying to make the Spirit stronger than the flesh. The Spirit is stronger. The older has been subjected to the younger because of the cross. “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).
The word of God tells us the struggle is over. We have been crucified with Christ. We no longer live but Christ, the Younger, lives in us. Our objective is to live by faith in the Son, not strive to end the struggle ourselves. Separation from the flesh happened at the cross. The older will serve the younger.