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FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN
Date Text Theme
Dec 2 Isaiah 9:6 “Wonderful Counselor”
“The Wise Messiah”
During election time you often hear the question “who did you vote for?” The usual answer to this includes the person’s name and the reason/s why you voted for them. But what makes a person worthy of your vote? We seem to elect people to their offices so that they will represent us well, while upholding the values that we think are important. There can be great diversity in the values we hold though, especially in the world we live in today. Yet, most people would probably agree that wisdom is one of the key attributes for a leader to possess.
The Bible makes it clear that God’s people, especially their leaders, are to follow his commands and practice justice, mercy, righteousness, and impartiality. In other words, they are to be wise in how they make decisions and live before the Lord. In addition, leaders were to surround themselves with other wise people, or “counselors,” to help guide their thoughts and decrees.
In Isaiah, the prophet looks forward to a time when the king would bring salvation, freedom, peace, and joy, while reigning in righteousness and ruling with justice (Is. 9:2-7; 32:1-2). Although this should have been how all of God’s kings reigned, they often failed miserably. That is part of the reason why the people of Israel and Judah were taken into captivity. Yet, the prophecies in Isaiah ultimately point to, and were fulfilled by, a messianic king. This king, who we come to know as Jesus in the Gospels, was the Messiah. He was born in the little town of Bethlehem almost 700 years after Isaiah's prophecy.
According to Isaiah 9, not only was Jesus the ideal, godly king, he was God! And what was one of his defining attributes? He was, and is, a wonderful counselor who does not need anyone else to advise him. The Hebrew term for “wonderful” can also be understood as “extraordinary,” while the noun “counselor” is associated with the qualities of wisdom, advice, and (good) counsel. Combined, the descriptive "wonderful counselor" is connected with royalty and divinity, and is meant to provide a glimpse into the plan that God has in store to save humanity. Meaning, the Messiah would be the ultimate King, and the one true God, who would rule, reign, and judge the world with perfect wisdom.
We thank God that Jesus truly is the wonderful counselor who came and died for us that we may be forgiven!
Longing for the Warrior-God
In the days of Isaiah, peace was becoming a difficult concept. The political tensions were growing between the surrounding empires, military invasion was becoming more and more inevitable, and God’s people, both in the northern and southern kingdoms, were living unfaithfully. Even worse, the kings of Israel and Judah were becoming increasingly corrupt, so there was little hope for the people. What they needed desperately was a sign from God, some kind of intervention that would change the course of their national trajectory.
Into those dark times, God gave his prophet visions of peace and renewal that revolved around special children being born. And the names of those children were especially important. Whether Shear-Jashub (7:3), Immanuel (7:14), or Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:3), the names served as signs of the hope to come. So, it is noteworthy, by the time we get to chapter 9 of Isaiah’s prophecy, that a child was promised, from the line of David (9:7), who would be known by a four-fold name: something often translated as, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6). The titles in the name were less likely to be ascribed to the child himself, and more representative of the God whom the child would serve. And all these titles were directly tied to how Yahweh, the God of Israel, would bring about peace for his people.
The name “Mighty God” demonstrates God’s strength over his enemies. It is used later in Isaiah in reference to how God will bring his people back to himself (10:21), and to his role as a triumphant warrior (42:13). In this way, the peace that God’s people are longing for is only possible if their God is strong enough to defeat their enemies, and if the ruler God raises up is utterly dependent upon him.
Both of these truths are represented for us in Jesus the Christ. In his day, the “mighty God” overthrew the false powers of corrupted governments, Satanic misguidance, and death itself, while Jesus, the King of the Jews, was completely faithful to his heavenly Father. So, this Advent season, may we long for the warrior-God who will one day stamp out all the powers that still oppress us, and may we daily follow him according to the faithfulness of Jesus.
God’s Enduring Role as Father
How God reveals himself to us deeply affects how we think of him. In fact, one of the things God does all throughout the Hebrew Scriptures is to give names and attributes to himself that set him apart from the foreign gods of the surrounding nations. As such, these titles often cause us to think of God as Creator, holy, righteous, Provider, sovereign, and so on.
In Isaiah’s prophecy, children are often named in such a way as to help us think about God. In 7:14, the name Immanuel was meant to remind the people that “God is with us.” In 9:6, the compound name was meant to remind the people about four distinct characteristics of God—he “plans” wonderful things for the world, he is “mighty” enough to complete his plans, he is “Father” everlasting, and he rules in “peace.”
How do you think of God? Sometimes it is easy to remember that he has plans for the world, or that he is a mighty God, but how often do you think of him as a fatherly figure in your life? It’s a very personal title which reveals his compassion, concern, commitment, and care for his people, and it’s a role we’re told carries on into perpetuity.
This Advent, as we think of the coming of Jesus (both in his first appearing and his second), we remember that he revealed God to us in ways we otherwise could never have understood. And one of his favorite ways to reveal God was as the Father—both his Father as well as ours (see the Lord’s prayer, Matt 6:9). So let us follow more closely the steps of our Savior, Jesus, as he leads us deeper into our Father’s love.
We do not seem to live in a very peaceful world. All over there are bullets being fired, bombs being dropped, governments being overthrown, and drugs being used. People are constantly fighting, arguing, breaking laws, bullying, swearing, worrying, and going without food and sleep. We often think that these are just modern-day problems, but they have been around for a long time.
In the 8th century BCE, the prophet Isaiah also lived through some tumultuous times. Empires were rising and falling in their struggle to control the region and God's people were caught not only in the middle of these warring nations, but in great sin and rebellion against the Lord. Despite his commandments and warnings through the prophets, they continued to commit idolatry, and because of this, they were about to face some very dark days. Their land would one day be ruined, their cities would be destroyed, and they would be taken into foreign captivity. They were probably left wondering if they would ever experience peace again.
It is into this situation that Isaiah speaks words of hope. He prophesied that one day a descendant of David would rule with true justice and righteousness, and whose kingdom would be predicated on peace. In fact, his government and peace would increase and have no end (9:6-7)! Yet, what would this all entail? While it ultimately included the eventual cessation of war, it also promised the well-being, safety, and prosperity of the people. It also meant the establishment of right relationships with family, neighbors, and God. It was the fullest sense of the Hebrew word "shalom", and it would manifest itself most directly in the coming messiah. Therefore, this messiah would rightly be called the "Prince of Peace (shalom)."
The NT reveals that this was fulfilled in Jesus, the one who would save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Yet he offered so much more – wholeness to life that the world could not match, and a kingdom that would never end.
We may not see peace very often around us, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can experience it in our hearts and then proclaim it to the world. It is an internal peace that comes only through Jesus Christ, and one in which the apostle Paul says transcends understanding (Phil. 4:13). It is a peace that we hope will one day truly reign over all!
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