Names nowadays usually don’t mean a whole lot. Most people name their kids a name from the family, what they think sound cool, or what names are trending at the time. But in Bible times, every name meant something significant. Abraham, father of the nation Israel, means “father of many.” Adam means “man” - a pretty fitting name for the first man to exist. Last week we looked at Isaiah 9:1-6, discussing the darkness Israel was in, their desperate need to be saved, but also that in all their pain they would have this Savior to put their hope in. And in Isaiah 9:6, he describes the ultimate hope Israel will look to:
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 gave this Savior four names: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Are these just random names assigned to this Savior that merely sounded nice, or did they have a greater impact on Israel (and on us)? Today we’ll dig for the deeper meanings of Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God, next week we’ll dissect the others.
Let’s start with Wonderful Counselor. The word “wonderful” was used in the Bible to either describe God or extraordinary, supernatural things that have happened. It was not used in a trivial sense like we may use it in (i.e. “that cheeseburger was wonderful” — that’s typically how I use the word, but not how the Bible would). The same word was used in Genesis 18, in describing the birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah were very old at the time the Lord told them they’d have a great family, and Sarah laughed because of how unbelievable it seemed. God’s response was “is anything too hard for the Lord?” We’ll use the word “hard,” but in Hebrew it means - “is there anything too marvelous, too wonderful, or too extraordinary for the Lord to accomplish?” (While we're on the topic, the name Isaac means "laughter"). In Psalm 139:1-6, when David came to the realization of how intimately God knows his every thought, inclination, and words - he responded by saying “such knowledge is too wonderful for me!” For Isaiah to use this word “wonderful” to describe this baby is to say He would be extraordinary with supernatural ability.
When you think of “counselor,” a wise sage may come to mind (or perhaps just a school counselor). This word means “one who plans” - wisdom to rule. The coming Savior king will have God-given wisdom to rule. Like any good, wise king He will have the wisdom to rule rightly. So what would this have meant to Israel, in time of total captivity, struggle, and desperation to look forward to a Wonderful Counselor? The Savior they could put their hope in would not only have the supernatural power to make change, but also the ultimate wisdom to make the right changes. You better believe they 100% could not wait for Christmas, and not the can’t-wait-to-unwrap-my-gifts kind of anticipation.
What does a Wonderful Counselor mean to us? Like Israel, we can rely on Jesus to supernaturally make things right. Look at your own life, think of the things that hurt you, cause pain, and distress. Messed up family situation: divorce, death, blown out relationships. Messed up social situation: friends falling apart, no friends at all maybe. Or a personal situation that holds you back, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional. Jesus came here as a Wonderful of a Counselor, as a personally loving God that has supernatural power to make things right for you. That doesn’t necessarily mean, POOF, and all your problems go away. But it means forgiveness of sins to restore your relationship with your Maker. That means unbelievable peace and joy that surpasses understanding in times of hardship. It means that one day, when He returns, we hope in the promise that all things will be made new and perfect. We have Jesus now to give us all we need now, and we have Jesus to look forward to make all things right in the future.
Isaiah didn’t stop at Wonderful Counselor, though… He continues by calling this baby to be born a “Mighty God.” In more ancient times, it would have been normal to call someone of high social status a “lord” or “god.” But the word Isaiah used is most definitely not referring to just a king - the term he used would have been far too generous for a mere mortal king, and the people reading would’ve known that. To call this baby a “Mighty God” was to say this little human boy was coming as God Himself. The Creator of the entire universe would be born into a helpless baby body. Jesus: fully God, fully human to one day make things right in the world. Calling the baby to be born the Mighty God has absolutely massive implications.
Why is Jesus being fully God and fully human so important? We can trust that Jesus is the only worthy sacrifice to save. Since the whole fall of man debacle, the only way to be made right with God was through the blood of an innocent sacrifice. Those were the rules of the game from the get-go that Adam and Eve were fully aware of. Jesus, as God, lived a perfectly innocent human life - tempted but never sinned. Being fully God makes Jesus the only one worthy of a sacrifice this great (save-the-entire-world-from-their-sins kind of great), but His humanity allowed Him to shed the blood necessary to save. If Jesus wasn’t fully God, He wouldn’t have been worthy enough for a sacrifice that great, and if He wasn’t fully human, He wouldn’t have been able to be a sacrifice at all…
As we reflect on what Christmas means, and ponder on this Mighty God coming to this earth to save us - all other Christmas things (gifts, trees, traditions, etc.) pale in comparison to it’s true meaning. We have a Wonderful Counselor to supernaturally make things right, and we have all we need Ito save in this Mighty God Jesus.