For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).
(The following 4 blogs are excerpts from messages I preached at Lakeside Christian Ministries a few years back as we explored the meaning and application of the four names prophesied by Isaiah of the coming Messiah whom me know to be Jesus Christ)
We hear this scripture read often as we enter into the Christmas season. It speaks of the awesome promise fulfilled by the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. God chose that point in history, some 2000 years ago, to start into motion His plan of redemption for mankind. His marvelous light shone into a dark world bringing the hope of salvation to all who would believe.
As I contemplate the current world around me, I wonder if ever there was a time that we needed the light of God to shine on us more than we do right now. The deep divisions within my own country of America are threatening the very fabric of our nation. Fear and dis-trust are at an all-time high and the future seems anything but certain. Racial, economic and political strife are the daily reality for a growing number in our land. To sum up, a deep darkness has enveloped us, seemingly blocking out any light of the hope God brought through the birth of His Son.
The Scripture verse at the top is part of the prophesy spoken by the Prophet Isaiah over the troubled land of Israel, some six hundred years before the birth of Christ. The people lived in gloom (you can read about it in Isaiah 8:19-22), they were hungry for something and searching for answers from everything but God. Spiritual confusion had replaced their hope.
As unsettling as our times are, one thing they are not, is unique to the human experience. History is marked with both long and short-term examples of prevailing darkness. In the 1300’s, it is estimated that 100 million people in Europe died from Bubonic Plague. Biblical history also gives many accounts of the darkness that existed periodically over the nation of Israel as they suffered at the hands of various conquerors, as well as oppressive rule from their own. Just skim the historical books of 1&2 Kings to get of sense of this.
Thankfully, our God is an ever-faithful God! Throughout the scriptures He has promised, and fulfilled, to never leave us nor forsake us. Whenever His people, whether individually or as a nation, recognized they have strayed from His marvelous light, He forgives and brings them back into His fold. That’s the ‘bottom line’ we must all remember. God has provided the means for our forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.
Isaiah 9:6 is one of the most frequently quoted verses of the Old Testament. Together let’s consider what it is God is promising and has done in fulfillment of this prophesy, with the emphasis being on the four names Isaiah referred to this coming child as, starting with Wonderful Counselor.
As usual, we have to work through the language to get at what God’s word is saying to us today. To this point, consider how you and I often use the word wonderful. We say things like ‘isn’t that wonderful,’ or, ‘that’s a wonderful idea.’ We use wonderful to describe things that are pleasant or enjoyable. Isaiah had a much deeper meaning in mind when he told us the Messiah would be called Wonderful Counselor. The Hebrew word used that has been translated wonderful means miracle or astounding, something that is incomprehensible and totally set apart from the normal (Strongest Strong’s Concordance).
Carrying this thought forward to Jesus’ actual life, we see many examples of this being fact. Actually, start with His conception through the Holy Spirit and his virgin mother Mary. Incomprehensible? You bet. That’s not how conception normally works is it? True, but this was no normal child to be conceived. I would add the record of His healings and His sinless life to the list of the miraculous, astounding and incomprehensible things about this Wonderful Messiah named Jesus.
The biblical meaning of wonderful counselor as it applies to Jesus means that He is, as one commentator puts it; beyond anything we have ever seen, that He is so extraordinarily vast that we cannot possibly understand all that He is because he is outside the realm of human possibility. John’s gospel captures this thought:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 NIV).
But Isaiah not only described the coming Savior 800 years before the fact as Wonderful, he ties this word with Counselor. Once again, we must look more deeply into its meaning to get the full richness of the intent. There are no shortage of counselor’s in our world today. Many are highly trained professionals, whose clinical knowledge and expertise help people with myriad ailments plaguing them. According to research done in 2013, there were over 1 million practicing counselors in this country alone. They span the spectrum of professions, from mental health to educational and vocational, just to name a few.
Please know that I am in no way depreciating the work and dedication of these men and women, for a vast majority are modeling the very heart of Christ as they bring care to so many who are in need. What we must understand, however, is that Isaiah was not describing a counselor as we have come to recognize the term. Whereas today’s usage of the title often describes a particular area or field a counselor works in, the term Counselor as applied to the coming Messiah was meant to be singularly applied to the ruler giving counsel to his people. The advice from this kingly counselor was to be known as trustworthy and full of godly wisdom. You should act in confidence about what this Counselor told you, for He has had access to the wisdom of heaven.
Jesus, as the Wonderful Counselor, has been described as being the sum total of all knowledge. He is/has all wisdom, all guidance, all direction, all truth and insight. He knows everything about everything and is never wrong.
Now that’s quite the list of qualifications for Counselor, wouldn’t you agree? They certainly go well with the adjective wonderful, for Jesus, as this perfect counselor, is indeed incomprehensible to us.
Knowing what we now know and as we enter in to the Christmas season, let me encourage you to really consider what this time is all about. Of course, we ought to celebrate our Savior’s birth and I’ve nothing against trees and presents and parties, but please take the time to remember this: For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. (John 3:16)
He did so to save us from judgment we all deserve and thus to offer us eternal life through the saving work of the cross of Christ. That certainly is a cause to celebrate! Just don’t let the hectic days of planning and travel and shopping lessen the marvel this time should be inspiring within us.
And while you are thinking about God, ask yourself this: Have I been using the awesome resource of this Wonderful Counselor? I/we are often so quick to seek advice to try to gain understanding on our own; shouldn’t we be at least as eager to seek the counsel of Jesus Christ?
He is the definition of Wonderful! Let that thought linger in your mind. Everything about our Savior is Wonderful. As such, He is the One from whom we ought to be daily seeking counsel. His wisdom is eternal, His understanding unmatched and His compassion unending. And He has left the on-going connection to God the Father by leaving us the Holy Spirit to remind us of all He has said.
Please don’t think that this is not for you, because it is. We read it at the top: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given. That us is you and me and absolutely everyone. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Amen.