When the prophet Isaiah had seen the Lord in Isa. 6, and when he received his commission as prophet of the living God (the year that king Uzziah died - in 740 B.C.) , Isaiah was given an unspeakable privilege to see and utter things that related to the coming of the Messiah. Whatever he understood about his own prophecy concerning the Messiah, I don't know. What I do know is that the prophet received these words through the Holy Spirit . 2 Peter 1:20 tells us : "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit".
And so it was put into Isaiah's mouth to declare :
"For to us a child is born, a son is given…and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father , Prince of Peace…"( Isa 9:6)
How we love these words! Every Christmas we read them and sing them.
What we may forget however , is that these words of peace and comfort were spoken in an age of distress and turmoil! Isaiah was a preacher in an age of turmoil:
Israel's spiritual light shone very dimly. Her kings were largely apostate; her people were apostates.
Isaiah is explicitly warned not to follow the way of these people ( 8:11) . These people , like their king feared everything else (8:12) but their God, whom they were commanded to fear alone ( 8:13). Their counsel was sought from mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter, when they should have enquired of their God (8:19).
And so things were not going well politically, for their holy God was not with them. He had handed them over to the Assyrians , who were already knocking at the door!
But that did not mean that God did not care for Israel ! God did! He cared deeply, for this was still his chosen, covenant nation!
For this reason we see two familiar themes so frequently side by side in Scripture: God’s wrath and God’s mercy. God’s wrath is necessary, for He is the Holy God who cannot tolerate sin.
But He is also the God who by His covenant is deeply committed to His people.
So, as we might expect, he sends a twin message of comfort and warning to Israel.
We focus on Ch 9 : 1-7 , a message of comfort, and from our perspective and with hindsight : The Christmas message.
And we must never forget that in the cross God’s wrath and mercy kiss each other!
As we consider now in particular v.6 we see there the announcement of a unique child - a unique Son in history : The Messiah - the child - the Son with 4 names!
1. WONDERFUL COUNSELOR:
…literally translated "counselor full of wonders" ! Wonders were needed to clear Israel of its present spiritual and political problems. Israel never lacked counselors. Likewise , there is never a lack of "counsel" in our world today. The question always is: What kind of counsel? Is it effective counsel? Is it counsel that takes us forward? Does it really free us, or does it enslave us?
We know from the Bible that the kings and the nation was often "misled" by bad counsellors. (see Isa 8:19 by way of illustration!)
This world desperately need God's age old wonderful Counselor! We are living in a world that seeks counsel from everybody, but God! Our generation is in love with the wisdom of man! Isaiah's troubled generation , and our generation need the same solution : we need the wonderful Counselor!
2. MIGHTY GOD:
The second name of the child is literally "God - hero". The God of the Bible is a Sovereign King . He is mighty and free from any manipulation ( and least of all by mankind). He is so mighty, that He doesn’t need to make any noise to assert Himself. Has it ever struck you , that the greatest power in the entire universe is silent? Has it ever struck you , how essentially noiseless Jesus was? When you are in charge you are in charge – you don’t need to announce it . It is a fact . Our Lord Jesus is a mighty God ! He is "weighty". The Hebrew word for 'glory' implies "weightiness". David Wells in his very insightful book "God in the Wasteland" says: "It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. The God of our age has become a God that we can use rather than a God we must obey ; The God of our age is a God who will fullfil our needs rather than a God before whom we must surrender our rights. We have transformed the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy. We imagine that He is benign, that He will approve as we toy with His reality and co-opt Him in the promotion of our ventures and careers."
He is a God whom we have created in our own minds, but He is not the God, He is not the Jesus of the Bible!
3. EVERLASTING FATHER:
The third and most unusual name for this child literally reads: "Father forever". We must not confuse this title with God the Father - the designated title of the first person of the Holy Trinity. It is nevertheless true that our Lord Jesus shares the attributes of his Father. For instance in the gospel of John, Jesus calls Himself the "Good shepherd". A shepherd is a "father to His sheep". Jesus' ministry to us is in many ways a "fatherly ministry".
Kings in Israel were known as " fathers". Here is the real King of Israel - the true Father! Israel in king Ahaz day and Isaiah's day were literally "like sheep without a shepherd". The King of Israel did not exercise a fatherly role. He neglected the household of Israel. But here we have One whose fatherly care is undisputed - and that forever -"everlasting Father!"
How Israel and our modern generation need that "Father figure" - this calm , steady , firm , loving leadership!
4. PRINCE OF PEACE:
This title almost needs no qualification.
The historic situation in Israel , in Isaiah's time and in Jesus time when the Romas occupied Palestine, and indeed our own times, desperately needs a prince of peace.
It seems as if the politicians of this world are chronically inept to secure peace for the people that they govern. But this Prince of Peace secures peace, FIRSTLY between God and man , and then between man and man . All true peace on earth must begin in the heart . People whose hearts have beeen settled by Christ will be the best, and most useful citizens of the world!
The gospel of Jesus is the only message on earth that brings true peace to the hearts of sinful men ! In fact, it is Jesus Himself who is our peace. When the government is on His shoulder, there is true and effective governance, because:
- He is a truly wise Counselor
- He is a true Ruler - a Sovereign King and God
- He is a true Father Figure
- He is a true Peace Bringer
What more do you want? Who can be more reliable or trustworthy?