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.
These words from Isaiah are some of the most often read scriptures of Christmas. The advent devotionals that I am reading this year have both mentioned them at least once. I heard them again this morning at church. The last part, the potential titles of the predicted messiah, has particularly caught my attention today.
As Christians, we believe that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies spoken so many years before by Isaiah. Collectively, we acknowledge Jesus as all of the above…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Those are lofty titles, but what do they mean to me personally? If all those things were true of this baby born at Christmas, if all those things are still true today…what difference does it make in the way I live my life everyday? In the way I might live my life differently in the coming new year? The verse says “he will be called…” Do I call Him MY Wonderful Counselor, MY Mighty God, MY Everlasting Father, and MY Prince of Peace?
So these are the thoughts that have been rattling around in my brain today, in between naps and football games…yes, I actually took two separate naps today! We don’t have any company coming this year, the shopping is done, the packages are wrapped, so I am actually amazingly relaxed as we countdown the last few days before Christmas. What better way to spend these quiet days of Christmas than considering some of these questions.
First, what does it mean for Jesus to be MY Wonderful Counselor? When I was reading this verse in the different translations, I noticed that some versions put a comma between the words wonderful and counselor. One of the translations used the word “amazing” instead of wonderful. Regardless of which way you read it, the word wonderful is certainly true of the God that I am trying to follow. The definition of wonderful says “capable of eliciting wonder, astonishing, excellent, admirable.” Another says “so remarkable as to elicit disbelief.” I read somewhere that the word that is translated as “wonderful” in some parts of the bible, is translated as “beyond understanding” in other places.
Wonderful and counselor, together or separately, speak to me of wisdom so amazing, so unbelievable, so unexpected, so surprising that it is hard to explain as anything but Divine. So what about the word counselor? As I was reading about this verse online, I came across an article that talked about the context in which Isaiah wrote these words about the coming Messiah. I found these words particularly interesting:
This is a term that has connotations of deity. The term “counselor” is not what we think of today in terms of a therapist, or someone we tell our problems – although Jesus is that as well. It’s more of a military strategist. It probably refers to a king who has the ability to come up with a winning military strategy. You could say “Extraordinary Strategist” (NET Bible).
Isaiah predicts a baby that will become an Extraordinary Strategist. Jesus is a Master Strategist, able to deliver his people from hopeless situations. Many of these situations are of our own making. Judah’s was. He is a strategist who can handle situations that look hopeless to us.
In this sense, Jesus is a “strategist” that is greater than we can even comprehend or understand. He is a strategist…a counselor, that specializes in situations that we can’t handle on our own. Those times in my life when I didn’t know where to turn, when I was confused or troubled or looking for answers, those are the times when I can experience Jesus as my wonderful counselor, if only I ask. As I seek His wisdom, the answer may come as that still small voice in my spirit, or in the wise words of a friend, or in the discovery of the perfect scripture for my situation, or maybe the strength to endure a situation where the answer is still unknown to me. With that wisdom…that answer…comes the incomprehensible realization that I am never alone. When Jesus finished His earthly ministry, He promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit…the Wonderful Counselor to whom we have access 24/7….if only we avail ourselves of that ministry.
No matter how many years I walk this path, I am still amazed that the God of the Universe is interested in my problems and worries, the big ones and the small ones. And I am grateful that He is not only willing, but eager, to provide just the kind of Wise Counsel that I most need in any situation. A better plan, a winning strategy, an unexplainable strength. And because He actually got down off His throne in Heaven and became one of us, He understands what I experience as a human being in a fallen world. He’s been there. Knowing these things, it amazes me how often I try to solve my problems by myself before it occurs to me to take the situation to God. I laugh when I realize that I have asked God’s guidance about an issue I am dealing with in my volunteer work, but then attempted to solve a parenting issue with my own wisdom…maybe even in the same day! How often do I compartmentalize my life as God’s business and MY business? How foolish to wrestle with life’s challenges on my own when I have access to a better way.
What do you call Him this Christmas?
For one, I will call Him MY Wonderful Counselor…
(to be continued…)