There are many wonderful texts in the Old Testament that prophesy the coming of Jesus Christ. But one of the most remarkable of all is Isaiah 9:6. It’s part of Handel’s Messiah, so we have heard it sung and no doubt we’ve recited it. We have heard it read many times at Christmas: “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.”
There are a number of reasons why that prophecy is so significant. It’s a very subtle prophecy in some ways, and that in itself is significant. You may have noticed that interesting play upon the child and the son that’s mentioned in the first part of the verse. It says the child is born and the son is given. We might think that this is just another example of Hebrew parallelism, a characteristic of Hebrew poetry. And it’s true it is that, but it’s more than that.
The choice of verbs is most significant. As a child, the Lord Jesus Christ was born. He had not been a child before; He was the eternal God who became a man through the incarnation. But the next phrase reads “to us a son is given.” He did not become a Son by the birth; He was always the Son of God. So God gave His Son, and He became a child through the incarnation.
Let’s consider the list of names that occurs in description of the Messiah which we have in the second half of Isaiah 9:6: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Those are four separate names or titles. The Christ who bears those names ministers to us in four separate ways.
It’s really worth looking at each one, because together they describe the magnitude of this wonderful gift which God has given us in Jesus Christ at Christmas. The first is Wonderful Counselor. That name, Wonderful, is remarkable in itself. In the Authorized or King James Version of the Bible it is set apart by itself, with Counselor serving as a separate title, thus giving us four titles instead of five. However, I don’t think that “Wonderful” should be treated as a separate title; it is best to join it with “Counselor,” which is the way most of the modern versions have it. Nevertheless, there is something noteworthy about the name Wonderful, which we considered in last week’s devotional.
In that study, I had mentioned Dr. William Miller, a great pioneer missionary to Iran, who is now retired. He once preached a sermon on that name Wonderful. In it he asked, “Have you ever known a child whose name was Wonderful?” He said that he never had, and yet in the book of the Isaiah, there is mention of one whose name is Wonderful. In this sermon, as he went on to develop the thought, he listed a number of different ways in which Jesus Christ, who bore this name, really is wonderful.
When we consider Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor, it really does draw our attention to a fundamental need that all human beings have, and that is the need for wisdom, knowledge, and counsel in how we are to get through the affairs of this world.
When we’re young, I suppose we tend to be brash in our ignorance. We think we know just about everything we need to know, or at least do not realize just how much ignorance we have, and so we blissfully go on. When you’re young, you think you don’t need counsel. But as you begin to get older, you begin to experience some of the complexities of life, and became more aware of how much you really do not know. You begin to see that you do need counsel. You need counsel even to understand the basic ideas and questions that human beings think about. You need counsel to understand who you really are, and what purpose do you serve by living. Then you wonder what anyone is here for, and what is the purpose of our existence? And behind that question is the idea of God. Is there a God who is behind all this and who controls all things? Is that God moving all of history toward a conclusion that He has purposed? If there is, how can He be known?